News, literature, and events in the ethical, social, and legal implications of psychiatric, neurologic, and behavioral genetics. 
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   No.2            March 2014


In the News

NIH Rethinks Psychiatry Trials
Mental-health division of the NIH will no longer fund research aiming to relieve symptoms without probing underlying causes.

Scientists Believe They Have Found Key Gene that Determines Obesity
Geneticists believe they have pinpointed the most important obesity gene that possibly affects the hypothalamus, throwing up a target for drugs to tackle a dangerous and growing epidemic.

Genome-Wide Schizophrenia Studies Reveal the Complexity of “A Beautiful Mind”
Disappointing clinical trial results and genetic studies reinforce need for better schizophrenia treatments.
Genes Maintain Stability of Autism Traits Over Time
Traits that typically accompany autism, such as social impairments and communication difficulties, remain largely consistent as children age, and this stability is primarily due to genetic factors, a new study concludes.

After Death, Twins’ Brains Reveal Similar Damage
Despite widespread use of a single term, Alzheimer’s disease is actually a diverse collection of diseases, symptoms, and pathological changes. What’s happening in the brain often varies widely from patient to patient, and a trigger for one person may be harmless in another.

Whole-Genome Growing Pains
Small study suggests that whole-genome sequencing faces several hurdles before it can be used routinely in the clinic.
To contribute a news item, academic article, or event on the ethical, legal, and social implications of psychiatric, neurological, and behavioral genetics research please email us

Braingenethics CEER Conference
Genetic Testing in Neurologic Disorders 2014: Developments & Dilemmas

Full conference schedule.  
In the swiftly changing world of genetic testing, neurological disorders pose their own specific risks and dilemmas. This conference brings together the latest developments in genetic testing for neurologic disorders, viewed through the perspectives of physicians, researchers, people at risk, ethicists, and community-based groups. 

June 6, 2014 2:00PM-6:00PM
Columbia University Faculty House
64 Morningside Drive NY, NY
Seminar locations:
PH10-405 at CUMC

Register by emailing here

In the Literature 

Convergence of Advances in Genomics, Team Science, and Repositories as Drivers of Progress in Psychiatric Genomics
Thomas Lehner, Geetha Senthil, & Anjene M. Addington
This paper hypothesizes that psychiatric genetics has reached an inflection point through a confluence of four key developments. 

Revitalizing Psychiatric Therapeutics
Steven E Hyman
Here is described major obstacles to drug discovery and development including a lack of new molecular targets, shortcomings of current animal models, and the lack of biomarkers for clinical trials. 

Neuropathologic Assessment of Dementia Markers in Identical and Fraternal Twins
Diego Iacono, Inga Volkman, Inger Nennesmo et al. 
Clinicopathologic correlations of older identical and fraternal twins support the relevance of genetic factors in Alzheimer's Disease, but not their sufficiency to determine the pathology, and consequently the disease, even in monozygotic twins. 

Genome-Wide Significant Localization for Working and Spatial Memory: Identifying Genes for Psychosis Using Models of Cognition
Emma E.M. Knowles, Melanie A. Carless, Marcio A.A. de Almeida et al. 
This work aimed to characterize the genetic architecture of cognition using phenotypically detailed models as opposed to relying on general IQ or individual neuropsychological measures. In so doing the authors hoped to identify genes that mediate cognitive ability, which might also contribute to psychosis risk. 

Public Understandings of Addiction: Where do Neurobiological Explanations Fit?
Carla Meurk, Adrian Carter, Wayne Hall, Jayne Lucke 
Drawing on 55 qualitative interviews conducted with members of the Australian public residing in the Greater Brisbane area, this paper challenges both the 'expectational discourses' of neuroscientists and the criticisms of its detractors.

Increased L1 Retrotransposition in the Neuronal Genome in Schizophrenia
Miki Bundo, Manabu Toyoshima, Yohei Okada et al. 
Whether aberrant L1 retrotransposition occurs in mental disorders is unknown. This paper reports high L1 copy number in schizophrenia.

The Documentation of Consent and Disclosure of Neurogenetic Testing Outside Clinical Genetics
C. Lo, J. Martindale, M. Hadjivassiliou, P. Martin et al. 
This study assesses the documentation of consent and disclosure of genetic test results in a large
regional clinical neuroscience center.. 


Braingenethics Seminar:
Columbia University
March 31, 2014 4PM

Schahram Akbarian, MD
Departments of Psychiatry & Neuroscience
Mt. Sinai School of Medicine 

Columbia University
April 8, 2014 4PM

Muin Khoury, MD, PhD
Office of Public Health Genomics
Centers for Disease Control 
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