Science Samuel H. Barondes Mood Genes

ISBN 13: 9780716729433

Mood Genes

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9780716729433: Mood Genes

We know that the likelihood of developing many physical diseases, such as diabetes, is determined by genes. But can abnormalities in specific genes also play a part in the development of mental disorders? And, if so, can these genes actually be identified and their discovery put to use in prevention and treatment?
In Mood Genes, leading psychiatrist and biological researcher Samuel Barondes answers these questions in a way that renders a complex subject both exciting and understandable. Focusing on manic depressive illness, which affects about one percent of the population and has long been known to run in families, Barondes describes the fascinating hunt for genes--called mood genes--that influence the inherited vulnerability to severe mood disorders. He builds the compelling story of this hunt on the histories of two families riddled with manic-depression, explaining what it means to have an inherited predisposition to a severe mood disorder, how to find the mood genes that are responsible, and what will happen as mood genes are found.
Not long ago, saying that a behavioral tendency was genetic was generally taken to mean that it was unchangeable. Now we know that finding genes that influence particular behavioral variations may not just be used to foretell our destinies--but also to forestall them.

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Review:

It's official. Our tendencies to be happy or sad come in part from our genes. Samuel H. Barondes is a neurobiologist and psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, and his direct involvement with the subject lends friendly authority to the book. Examining manic depression as a case study, Barondes shows how this strange condition--thought to have been instrumental in the ups and downs of Dickens, van Gogh, and Newton, among others--is definitely heritable. Although the specific gene or genes associated with the disorder haven't been identified, Barondes's account of the search is fascinating.

From the Publisher:

What is a mood gene?

A gene that influences the chances of developing the extreme mood swings--both flagrant euphoria and severe depression--that are characteristic of manic-depressive illness. As with all genes, there are variants of these--variations in their DNA structure--which it turn have different effects. People who inherit certain variants of mood genes have an increased likelihood of developing manic-depression. How do you hunt for mood genes?

By determining which gene variants are shared by people with manic-depression. A common starting point for this hunt is to study families with many members who have manic-depression. After a detailed examination of DNA samples from all members of such families, it is possible to find the gene variants that are shared by those with manic-depression but not by their unaffected relatives. Such gene variants are variants of mood genes. What is the practical value of finding mood genes?

Besides leading to the development of new treatments aimed at counteracting the effects of undesirable mood gene variants, it will also form the basis for a new classification and diagnosis of mood disorders which takes into account specific genetic predisposition. Will the discovery of mood genes make psychotherapy obsolete?

No. Studies of families with manic-depression indicate that its development is influenced by both genes and the environment. Even when mood genes are identified and the biological and psychological effects of particular variants are understood, people with an inherited predisposition to develop manic-depression will need counseling along with the new medications that become available.

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