Schizophrenia and plasticity/neurogenisis: a case for positive selection?
A recent study has unearthed the normal function of a gene involved in Schizophrenia susceptibility. This gene called DISC 1(Disrupted in Schizophrenia 1) is now though to orchestrate the neuronal migration process of new neurons that are created in the adult human brain.
It turns out that this gene, called disc1, makes a protein that serves as a sort of musical conductor for newly made nerve cells in the adult brain, guiding them to their proper locations at the appropriate tempo so they can seamlessly integrate into our complex and intertwined nervous system. If the DISC1 protein doesn’t operate properly, the new nerves go hyper.
It is believed that the allele that raise susceptibility to Schizophrenia , also speed up the neuronal migration process. Thus, the fact, that as we progress towards more and more neoteny , and towards a brain that is plastic and undergoes neurogeneisis, even in adulthood, so too the burden of this trait- some of us who are the forerunner for this increased neurogeneisis and speedy neural migration, also have to pay the cost for that behavior.
While it may not be obvious why high-speed integration would be detrimental, Song notes that because of the complexity of the brain, timing is critical to ensure that new nerves are prepared to plug into the neural network.
Another related article , brings to light the fact that some of the genes most strongly implicated in schizophrenia susceptibility, have also been under positive selection recently. Thus, it is evident that Schizophrenia is a cost we have to play for the creativity that might result from increased learning potential vis-a-vis more and faster neurogenesis and speedy neural migration.
Several genes with strong associations to schizophrenia have evolved rapidly due to selection during human evolution, according to new research in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Wednesday 5 September 2007).
To me, this is further evidence for the fact that Schizophrenia is just an extreme end of a particular creative thinking style and which has as a basis differential connectivity patterns in the brain.
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