In a new scientific study, researchers detail the discovery of a new series of genes and associated pathways that appear to exert considerable influence on the brain wave patterns individuals' cortices exhibit. The new finding could be used as a surrogate marker, the team behind the study says, such as for instance in figuring out more complex genetic traits and diseases. They say that one of the genes found to be associated with the brain wave patterns has also been related with alcoholism in previous studies, PhysOrg reports.
“This important advance sustains our hope for the potential of genome-wide association techniques to further the study of complex genetic disorders such as alcoholism,” explains Kenneth R. Warren, PhD, who is the acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The organization is a division of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Details of the recent investigations appear in the latest issue of the esteemed publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to study the brains of participants, as each set of electrical wave patterns is unique to a single individual.
“One of the challenges in identifying the genes that underlie alcoholism is the large degree of genetic and environmental variability associated with the disease. Such variability has impeded even GWAS [genome-wide association studies] efforts to identify alcoholism genes. To overcome those difficulties, we used GWAS techniques to search for genetic variants related to EEG, or brain wave, patterns in a comparatively small sample of several hundred Native American individuals,” adds NIAAA Laboratory of Neurogenetics geneticist Colin A. Hodgkinson, PhD, who is also the first author of the PNAS paper. The study was carried entirely on Native Americans.
Of the genes found in the new study, one was found to be responsible for nearly 9 percent of all theta waves that the brain produces. Overall, two of the four most important frequencies were found to have their amplitude controlled by the genes the team identified. “While our main findings are for genes that influence EEG wave patterns, this study represents an important step toward the use of EEG as a surrogate marker for alcoholism. It also reveals new molecular pathways involved in addiction processes,” explains the chief of the NIAAA Laboratory of Neurogenetics, David Goldman, MD.