The study performed by the researchers from Cardiff University has revealed that the gene involved in causing schizophrenia in people in their adulthood is active as early as they are few weeks old.
The gene is known as 'disrupted in schizophrenia-1' (DISC-1). Past studies have shown that when mutated, the gene is a high risk factor for mental illness including schizophrenia, major clinical depression and bipolar disorder.
Kevin Fox, the lead researcher of the study and professor at Cardiff University in Britain said, "We believe that DISC-1 is schizophrenia's Rosetta Stone gene and could hold the master key to help us unlock our understanding of the role played by all risk genes involved in the disease."
"We have identified a critical period during brain development that directs us to test whether other schizophrenia risk genes affecting different regions of the brain create their malfunction during their own critical period,” Fox noted.
"The challenge ahead lies in finding a way of treating people during this critical period or in finding ways of reversing the problem during adulthood by returning plasticity to the brain. This, we hope, could one day help to prevent the manifestation or recurrence of schizophrenia symptoms altogether," he added.
The findings were reported in the journal Science.