A while ago the UCL institute of Cognitive Neuroscience ran an ‘ask a neuroscientist’ section via twitter. So i duly posted a question that was on my mind for a long time.
“what are the fetal white matter correlates of schizophrenia and autism?” Actually i wanted to ask “what are the fetal white matter correlates between many psychiatric disorders” but i guessed that that question was to broad so it’d be ignored for sure. To my surprise it did get an answer, which made me happy, but it also didn’t answer the question which had the opposite effect. It’s the first question (un)answered in this vid:
Why i asked this is because to me (after reading untold papers for decades) it’s crystal clear that a large part of psychiatric disorders stem from a different layout of the basic structure that later directs the composition of the brain. At the stage that white matter starts to get formed it lays down the endresult, as a in a building the foundation determines the final internal structure of the building.
When white matter strands start their work and the whole complex growth of neural pathways commences, it’s that layout which shapes the structure by giving less or more prevalence to certain information transmissions thereby regulating the forming of pathways. In doing so the white matter also influences the forming of grey matter due to the regulation of signal since more grey matter will form at places where signals are abundant and vice versa.
This complex feedback system then causes a brain to form.
So when the basic white matter has some slightly differing structure logically the endproduct will be reflecting those differences. When learning that the famous Rain Man instead of being an autist was actually suffering from agenesis of the corpus callosum things fell into place.
Since the fetal white matter directly influences the structure of the CC and that in turn influences how the hemispheres develop it’s a short jump to thinking that many a psychiatric disorder is in fact a variation on a theme: white matter influenced brain formation.
Looking at Schizophrenia and Aspergers one thing is clear, they are very much alike in certain aspects. Alike enough that in the DSM IV Schizophrenia had to be excluded in order to diagnose Aspergers. Looking further down the list actually quite a few disorders could be said to have those aspects in common, the problems with social functioning. ASPD for example comes to mind.
Since this part of mammals is such an integral part of their being, any lasting variation in it must have evolutionary origin. With a malfunctioning social brain a mammal isn’t likely to reproduce. Since the malfunctions seem to increase rather than diminish there should be a environmental feedback which keeps it going.
Going way out on limb here, how about what we (well, they not me) see as psychiatric disorders are actually evolutionary paths to get rid of the archaic primary control of the limbic system? This system is completely out of it’s depth in a complex society, which we now know exists for 10s of 1000’s of years, long enough to have started an evolutionary reaction since that system is contraproductive. It lays at the root of 99% of conflicts,wars,misery known to man.
It is just not feasible that the feedback of the rationale doesn’t get to influence in the long run behavior, which in turn over time influences genetic variations.