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Genetic contribution to OCD may have been identified

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. was Director of Mental Help Net from 1999 to 2011. Dr. Dombeck received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1995 ...Read More

I’ve written about Temperament before, the genetically based inherited componant of personality. I find that many people resist the idea that people are born with temperamental dispositions. It seems to bother some people that we aren’t 100% free to become who we will; that important componants of who we are are sometimes essentially not things we get to choose, but that is indeed how it seems to be in reality. Take this recent article describing the research of Dr. David Goldman of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Dr. Goldman’s lab has apparently identified a gene involved in “serotonin transport”, a system which appears to be too active in the brains of many obsessive-compulsive individuals. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter substance found naturally in the brain, and vital to its functioning. Too much or too little serotonergic activity, however, is thought to impact mood and brain function – you need only know that popular anti-depressant medications such as Prozac and Zoloft are classifed as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SNRIs (Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) to know this much. The current research suggests that people with obsessive-compulsive disorder may be prone to have a biologically based ‘fast idle’ setting on their serotonin systems so that the stuff is too available – this due to a variation in their genetic inheritance. This type of research offers hope I think; the more than is known about how biological systems specifically contribute to suffering, the more that treatments can be contemplated and created that have a realistic chance of successfully modifying those specific biological causes to create a more targeted relief than is currently available. Nothing will come fast, however. Science proceeds at a steady snail’s pace, its major virtue that it doesn’t rest too much.

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