By Jason Shepherd | SFARI
Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are often characterized by symptoms linked to changes in the central nervous system. Historically, understanding the cellular hallmarks of these disorders has been a major driving force of research within this field and has led to novel therapeutic targets.
By contrast, psychiatric disorders such as autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disability and schizophrenia are characterized based on behavior and are much more difficult to characterize, both in terms of their genetics and physiology. As a result, diagnosis of these disorders is still largely dependent on clinical symptoms alone.
The lack of understanding of the underlying neurobiology of these disorders has made identifying effective long-term treatments difficult. Despite these difficulties, emerging evidence from large-scale genomic analyses has revealed potential overlaps in the genetics of autism, schizophrenia and intellectual disability. Interestingly, but in retrospect perhaps unsurprisingly, these disorders each have mutations that disrupt the sites of neuronal communication, or synapses.