Neurophysiology Research

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Short Communication - Neurophysiology Research (2021) Volume 3, Issue 2

Challenges and opportunities for genomic developmentals neuropsychology

 

 
Genomics has been revolutionizing medicine over the past decade by offering mechanistic insights into
disease processes and harbouring the age of “individualized medicine.” Because of the sheer number
of measures generated by gene sequencing methods, genomics requires “Big Science” where large
datasets on genes are analyzed in reference to electronic medical record data. This revolution has largely
bypassed the behavioural neurosciences, mainly because of the paucity of behavioural data in medical
records and the labour intensity of available neuropsychological assessment methods. We describe the
development and implementation of an efficient neuroscience-based computerized battery, coupled with
a computerized clinical assessment procedure. This assessment package has been applied to a genomic
study of 10,000 children aged 8-21, of whom 1000 also undergo neuroimaging. Results from the first
3000 participants indicate sensitivity to neurodevelopmental trajectories. Sex differences were evident,
with females outperforming males in memory and social cognition domains, while for spatial processing
males were more accurate and faster, and they were faster on simple motor tasks. The study illustrates
what will hopefully become a major component of the work of clinical and research neuropsychologists
as invaluable participants in the dawning age of Big Science neuropsychological genomics. At the turn
of the previous century, a series of annual seminars in Niels Bohr's Institute in Copenhagen brought
together leading physicists from around the world. The young physicists soon realized that the new
“Knaben physick” will require a paradigm shift away from working in small isolated laboratories
testing esoteric theories that few people understood, to large-scale collaborative work that could
elucidate complex phenomena. Such work required engaging governments to support very expensive
equipment and multiple investigators that collaborate intensely sharing plans, data and conclusions.
The whole field required adjustment at almost every level, from training to modes of communications
to ways of giving credit to the many investigators participating in the research efforts. The era of “Big
Science” had begun, and physicists never looked back. The genomics revolution, unfortunately, has
largely bypassed psychiatry, behavioural neurology and clinical neuropsychology, the bio-behavioural
disciplines. The main reason is that genomics of disease has advanced by crossing large databases
of genotypes with medical information available on electronic medical records, which is detailed on
biomarkers such as blood pressure, blood chemistry, heart rate, height and weight, but woefully lacking
information pertinent to behaviour. We submit that unless we are resigned to staying on the side-lines of
the genomics revolution, the field of neuropsychology has to undergo a paradigm shift. The complexity
of physics is matched, at the least, with the complexity of behaviour, brain, and the genetic, epigenetic
and environmental mechanisms affecting the brain and thereby the processes through which it regulates
behaviour.
Author(s): CHAYOUNG KIM,

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