Study links genes with function across the human brain


A new study, that utilized machine learning tools, provides a new map that links genetic signatures to functions across the human brain!

Interestingly, they found a clear genetic signal that separated cognitive processes, like attention, from more affective processes, like fear. This separation can be traced to gene expression in specific cell types and molecular pathways, offering key insights for future research into psychiatric disorders.

Cognition, for example, was linked more to the gene signatures of inhibitory or excitatory neurons. Affective processes, however, were linked to support cells such as microglia and astrocytes, supporting a theory that inflammation of these cells is a risk factor in mental illness. The genetic signature related to affect was centred on a brain region called the anterior cingulate cortex, which has been shown to be vulnerable in mental illness.

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Published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour on March 25, 2021
(this study draws a direct link between gene expression and higher brain function, by mapping gene signatures to functional processes across the human brain.)