New research shows that schizophrenia is not a single disease, but a group of eight distinct disorders, each caused by changes in clusters of genes that lead to different sets of symptoms.
The finding sets the stage for scientists to develop better ways to diagnose and treat schizophrenia, a mental illness that can be devastating when not adequately managed, says C. Robert Cloninger, co-author of the study published Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
“We are really opening a new era of psychiatric diagnosis,” says Cloninger, professor of psychiatry and genetics at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Cloninger says he hopes his work will “allow for the development of a personalized diagnosis, opening the door to treating the cause, rather than just the symptoms, of schizophrenia.”
Clonginger and colleagues found that certain genetic profiles matched particular symptoms. While people with one genetic cluster have odd and disorganized speech – what is sometimes called “word salad” – people with another genetic profile hear voices, according to the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health.