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Lead Exposure Shown to Trigger Schizophrenia
June 11, 2013 8:54 AM   Subscribe

The relationship between lead and crime has been well-documented. Now, researches show that there may be a link between lead exposure and schizophrenia.
posted by MisantropicPainforest (14 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Abstract. Looks like the entire piece may be paywalled.
posted by rtha at 8:58 AM on June 11, 2013


“Chronic Exposure of Mutant DISC1 Mice to Lead Produces Sex-Dependent Abnormalities Consistent With Schizophrenia and Related Mental Disorders: A Gene-Environment Interaction Study.”

Anybody with access to the full article? That "Sex-Dependent Abnormalities" seems ominous, in a "I'm not really sure what is causing what" sort of way.
posted by francesca too at 9:10 AM on June 11, 2013


If anyone would like access to the paper itself, for the purposes of this academic discussion that we are currently having, please feel free to memail be with an email address I can send a PDF to and a promise not to distribute it further.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:18 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I knew you'd show up! And I would memail for a pdf, but I can already tell from the abstract that I would be lucky to understand one word in five.
posted by rtha at 9:51 AM on June 11, 2013


Aside from the little bit of murine molecular biology its pretty ecologist friendly, and its pretty layman friendly absent that and the statistics. The molecular biology can be glazed over with the understanding that NMDAR is a protein encoded by a gene associated with schizophrenia, bipolar, and other stuff when mutated. Also that mNMDAR refers to the mouse mutant strain they made with a copy of that gene that they fucked with to make it like the fucked up copy some people have, as well as that they tested their strain to see if the mice responded to MK-801 (a drug that makes mice seem to have schizophrenia) like they would expect mice that have something actually like schizophrenia to.

Also, at least for a lay audience, the statistical reportings in the results can be pretty effectively glazed over in favor of the pretty graphs - but its certainly not light reading.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:48 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sex-dependent means genetics related to gender in that instance.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 10:50 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Anybody with access to the full article? That "Sex-Dependent Abnormalities" seems ominous, in a "I'm not really sure what is causing what" sort of way."

They're just being hyper-specific about what they actually mean in a way that is more what scientists should always be careful to do than really genuinely ominous in an overly clinical way. For example schizophrenia happens 1.4 times more often in men than women and typically appears earlier in men, making it, in the logically formal sense that the authors are using the phrase, a sex-dependent abnormality. A big feature of the paper is the difference between how male mice and female mice respond to their mutations and experimental conditions, which is consistent with their model being valid, and they're just highlighting that in the title.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:58 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm really not a fan of behavioral phenotyping, but at least they used mouse-friendly tests for this one. I was also trying to figure out why they made Disc1 KO mice when so many of the regular inbreds are already mutants at that locus, but oh! Tet inducible and only expressed in the forebrain. I also wonder what environmental enrichment they were using, if any--couldn't find it in the supplementary materials. That could have a huge influence on how the mice behave in later testing.
posted by marmot at 12:05 PM on June 11, 2013


Hmmm... I suspect that if this was an important cause, we would have seen a drop in schizophrenia rates similar to the crime drop associated with taking the lead out of gasoline and paint. We did not, so I am skeptical. Especially since schizophrenia rates seem to have been pretty stable worldwide for decades at around 1%. (Anti-marijuana campaigners were hoping for a link between SZ prevalence and the massive rise in marijuana smoking from the 50s onwards but this has never been seen either).

There seems to be some increase in prevalence in immigrants and some increases due to infectious disease during pregnancy or starvation in pregnancy, but if lead were a major factor, I suspect it would have been discovered by now.
posted by Maias at 3:20 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect that if this was an important cause, we would have seen a drop in schizophrenia rates similar to the crime drop associated with taking the lead out of gasoline and paint.

I think the difference here is that the way we measure and track violent crime is more or less consistent over the time periods we are looking at, while the way we measure (meaning, diagnose) schizophrenia is not constant, ergo you can't meaningfully compare the two rates.

but if lead were a major factor, I suspect it would have been discovered by now.

?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:43 AM on June 12, 2013


Don't raise your kids near airports folks :
- FAA wants all aircraft flying on unleaded fuel by 2018
- FAA Requests Proposals for Options to Help General Aviation Transition to Unleaded Fuels
In fact, avoid flying with small children all together, that'll make everyone's air travel experiences life more pleasant. ;)
posted by jeffburdges at 6:47 AM on June 12, 2013


I don't know, sounds a little paranoid to me.
posted by dogbusonline at 7:05 AM on June 12, 2013


I'm being facetious about keeping kids on planes. Also, they already use low-ish lead fuels and the lead gets distributed by weather. It's still an awful lot of lead though overall.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:16 AM on June 12, 2013


Schizophrenia, in my clinical experience, is prone to being, but is not always used as, a sort of a grab bag diagnosis for inpatient psychiatry and there are definitely several scientific studies out there that I'm too lazy to link to that indicate non-urban, non-ethnic Americans are far more likely to get labeled with schizophrenia as opposed to major depressive disorder with psychotic features, or PTSD, or even borderline personality disorder.

This has roots in the fact that any diagnosis in psychiatry is nearly entirely self-reported, and your ability to self report your symptoms after an ivy league education and with the accompanying testimony of a loving supportive family is markedly better than being brought in by ambulance for screaming obscenities at the Con Ed building.

In summary, inter-operator consistency in psychiatric diagnosis is definitely less than 1.0, so any kind of meta-analysis on the rate and prevalence of schizophrenia in the United States is going to have a million study design problems from day one.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 11:02 AM on June 13, 2013


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