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Study: Some Disorders Linked To Genetics, Not Preterm Birth

A recent IU study shows some mental disorders are linked to preterm birth, but others seem to be more tied to genetics.

premature baby

Photo: Joshua Smith (flickr)

Some mental disorders can be linked to premature birth, because of a lack of development in the womb.

A new study from the Indiana University Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences has found that some mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are connected with pre-term birth.

Lead researcher Brian D’Onofrio says the study also shows that siblings display similar behavior, as far as suicide attempts, educational and social behaviors, whether they were the sibling born pre-term or regular-term.

“This is quite controversial and it is not consistent with what other people have found,” D’Onofrio says. “Everyone assumes that everything associated with pre-term birth is caused by pre-term birth. Our study suggests that some of the outcomes actually aren’t due to pre-term birth, rather they’re due to something that siblings share.”

D’Onofrio explains that the exact causes of these outcomes are currently unknown. He says that it could be genetic or environmental factors that both siblings share, and this is what their next line of research will focus on.

Neuro-anatomist Jill Bolte Taylor says that symptoms of schizophrenia, for example, can be caused by interference in brain development, which occurs in the womb.

“Development in the womb is a pre-programmed method of development and if at any time that methodology gets interrupted then you’re going to have an alteration in the normal wiring, or what would become normal wiring for that individual,” she says.

D’Onofrio says pre-term births are a major public health problem that researchers need to work on reducing.

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