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A “Scoping Review” Out of Africa Highlights Need for More Studies of Neuropsychiatric Disease in Diverse Populations

New York, NY  ·  June 8, 2021

Thomas Lehner, PhD, MPH, Scientific Director of Neuropsychiatric Disease Genomics at the New York Genome Center (NYGC), is among the co-authors of “The Epidemiology of Psychiatric Disorders in Africa: A Scoping Review,” a multi-institutional paper published today in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The paper provides insight and support for a key focus of Dr. Lehner’s work at the NYGC: the study of neuropsychiatric disease genetics in diverse populations.

“Most genomics studies today have been focused on European populations, yet there is an urgent need to diversify research into the genetic architecture of neuropsychiatric disorders,” said Dr. Lehner. “This paper set out to review the available information to answer these questions: ‘What is known about the distribution of major neuropsychiatric disorders on the African continent? How can this information be compared with other regions on the globe?’”

While the researchers found that the occurrence of neuropsychiatric disorders in Africa appears to follow a similar pattern as the rest of the world, their study revealed limited available information into the causes of these disorders, including environmental and genetic risk. This deficit is one of global consequence, the authors note. “Studies that are methodologically comparable but diverse in geographical context are needed to advance psychiatric epidemiology and provide a foundation for understanding environmental risk in genetic studies of diverse populations globally,” the authors conclude in their abstract summary of paper findings.

Such studies are what Dr. Lehner is fostering through his role at the NYGC. “We are exploring and forming collaborations with our institutional members to leverage the diversity of New York City and globally to diversify research in the genetic architecture of neuropsychiatric disorders,” he said.

Read more about NYGC’s neuropsychiatric disease genomics research here.

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