Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Study reveals genetic clue to causes of depression

Jan 2017: CCBS researchers have published their findings that a type of depression could be genetically linked to schizophrenia.

CCBS researcher Dr Heather Whalley and colleagues have published a study suggesting that a type of depression may affect people who are genetically at risk of schizophrenia.

The researchers used samples provided by Generation Scotland - a bank of human tissue from volunteers – to look for genetic causes of depression. They examined whether people known to have genes putting them at risk of schizophrenia shared a genetic make-up with those who had depression. Schizophrenia is known to share some factors, such as low mood and neuroticism, with depression.

The research, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, indicates that there may be a distinct group of people with depression who have increased genetic risk for schizophrenia.

The research is part of an initiative called STRADL – Stratifying Resilience and Depression Longitudinally, that is led by Professor Andrew McIntosh and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The findings help shed light on the causes of depression – which affects one in five people – and could pave the way to better diagnosis and treatments for individuals.

Depression is a serious and disabling condition, yet we know very little about what causes it. There appears to be a distinct form of depression based on the risk of schizophrenia.

The more we know about the causes of different forms of depression, the more likely it is that we can develop better ways of diagnosing and treating what is a major cause of disability and trauma for so many people.

Dr Heather WhalleySenior Research Fellow, Psychiatry, CCBS

Related links

Dissection of major depressive disorder using polygenic risk scores for schizophrenia in two independent cohorts. doi:10.1038/tp.2016.207: publication in Translational Psychiatry.

Dr Heather Whalley Principal Investigator profile

STRADL project description on Generation Scotland website (May 2016)

Causes of depression funding boost: STRADL project announcement on CCBS website (2014)

Scientists find link between depression and schizophrenia: coverage in The Independent Monday 9th January 2017