A study conducted by researchers at Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University suggests that a gene variant passed down from interbreeding with Denisovans, an extinct subspecies, may be a factor in predisposing individuals to mental health issues.
This genetic heritage, originating in Asia, influences zinc regulation, affecting brain activity, mood, and behavior, with potential implications for mental health disorders.
Denisovan Genetic Contribution
Archaic Denisovan Genetic Influence The study reveals that the SLC30A9 gene, an archaic Denisovan genetic heritage, is associated with zinc regulation.
This gene variant, believed to have evolved in Asia, has made its way into European and Native American populations. Elena Bosch, an IBE principal investigator, and her team identified this variant and its impact on zinc transport within cells.
Zinc’s Role in Mental Health
Zinc’s Influence on Mental Health Zinc plays a vital role in modulating brain activity, which, in turn, affects mood and behavior. Individuals with mental health disorders have shown deficiencies in zinc levels.
The mutation in the SLC30A9 gene observed in Denisovan heritage influences zinc transport within cells, which may be linked to mental health disorders.
Evolutionary Advantage in Cold Climates
Denisovan Adaptation to Hostile Climates The research team uncovered that the Denisovan gene variant helped these ancient humans adapt to the cold, harsh climate in Asia
. This genetic change in zinc balance within cells aided Denisovans in surviving their challenging environment.
This adaptation may have influenced nervous system excitability and contributed to mental equilibrium and overall health.
Mental Health Implications
Predisposition to Psychiatric Diseases The variant found in the zinc transporter, expressed in all tissues of the body, is associated with a greater predisposition to psychiatric diseases.
This includes conditions such as anorexia nervosa, hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia.
The study highlights the potential link between this genetic heritage and a range of mental health issues.
Connecting the Past to Mental Health The study sheds light on how interbreeding with Denisovans in Asia over 60,000 years ago left a genetic legacy that may impact mental health in modern humans. Understanding this connection between ancient genes and mental health disorders can provide valuable insights for future research and treatment options.