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Brain Res. 2008 Oct 15;1235:153-71. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2008.06.053. Epub 2008 Jun 24.

Uncovering genes for cognitive (dys)function and predisposition for alcoholism spectrum disorders: a review of human brain oscillations as effective endophenotypes.

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Henri Begleiter Neurodynamics Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Box 1203, 450 Clarkson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11203, USA.


Brain oscillations provide a rich source of potentially useful endophenotypes (intermediate phenotypes) for psychiatric genetics, as they represent important correlates of human information processing and are associated with fundamental processes from perception to cognition. These oscillations are highly heritable, are modulated by genes controlling neurotransmitters in the brain, and provide links to associative and integrative brain functions. These endophenotypes represent traits that are less complex and more proximal to gene function than either diagnostic labels or traditional cognitive measures, providing a powerful strategy in searching for genes in psychiatric disorders. These intermediate phenotypes identify both affected and unaffected members of an affected family, including offspring at risk, providing a more direct connection with underlying biological vulnerability. Our group has utilized heritable neurophysiological features (i.e., brain oscillations) as endophenotypes, making it possible to identify susceptibility genes that may be difficult to detect with diagnosis alone. We have discussed our findings of significant linkage and association between brain oscillations and genes in GABAergic, cholinergic and glutamatergic systems (GABRA2, CHRM2, and GRM8). We have also shown that some oscillatory indices from both resting and active cognitive states have revealed a common subset of genetic foci that are shared with the diagnosis of alcoholism and related disorders. Implications of our findings have been discussed in the context of physiological and pharmacological studies on receptor function. These findings underscore the utility of quantitative neurophysiological endophenotypes in the study of the genetics of brain function and the genetic diathesis underlying complex psychiatric disorders.

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