Principal Investigator: Dr Jacob Michaelson
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USATags: 46053, Brain, communication, featured, gene expression, language, network, polygenic risk
Advanced language, both spoken and written, is a uniquely human trait that has allowed us to form complex societies and distinct cultures. 1 in 15 children have trouble producing and understanding written and spoken language, through, often harming self-esteem and the ability to succeed in school. Identifying children at risk for these difficulties and getting them help would greatly improve their futures.
Many people with psychiatric conditions, like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, also have unusual communication patterns. While treatments for many of these conditions are available, none of them are effective in everyone. Getting people the correct treatment the first time is the best way to reduce the impact of their illness. Understanding the sources of the strange language patterns in some patients could help us group them by which treatment is most likely to be effective.
To help with both of these problems, we can estimate how common genetic differences between people effects their ability to communicate. By looking at how these changes impact people’s brain development and activity, we can find patterns that may help us diagnose and treat psychiatric conditions.
More generally, we can also see how these changes affect how everyone’s lives progress (if they complete primary school or what kind of jobs they get). This can help us identify the kinds of children who will most benefit from special help in developing their communication skills.