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Are Border collies really psychotic?


PennyT
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I was in the vet's office yesterday and happened on the Nov/Dec issue of Bark which had an article called "Form, Function, & Behavior". In it was the information a location on a chromosome that is connected to human schizophrenia is associated with herding behavior in dogs. That was intriguing, so I read several scholarly articles (make that skimmed) to get the low down, most of which sailed over my head like a flighty ewe jumping the pen rope. Below is a citation to one of the articles.

 

Will someone on the health committee please explain?

 

I gathered, very vaguely I might add, from a different article that C18orf1 is also associated in people with ADD and later addiction, but I haven't read the human schizophrenia references. In fact, I didn't know the word was even much in use anymore.

 

The article in Bark was in Journal of Heredity. Here is another one.

 

Genetics, Vol. 179, 1033-1044, June 2008, Copyright © 2008

doi:10.1534/genetics.108.087866

 

Single-Nucleotide-Polymorphism-Based Association Mapping of Dog Stereotypes

Paul Jones*, Kevin Chase, Alan Martin*, Pluis Davern, Elaine A. Ostrander and Karl G. Lark,1

 

* The WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, Waltham on the Wolds, Leicsestershire LE14 4RT, United Kingdom, Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, Sundowners Kennels, Gilroy, California 95020 and National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892

 

1 Corresponding author: Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 S. 1400 East, Room 201, Salt Lake City, UT 84102.

E-mail: lark@bioscience.utah.edu Manuscript received February 5, 2008. Accepted for publication March 12, 2008.

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I haven't read the articles yet, (I will, just haven't had time today) but I'd take these "associations" with a grain of salt.

 

I recall another similar study done a few years ago that compared some genetic markers in humans looking for genes associated with "high risk" behaviour. The highest correlations were between incarcerated criminals and successful entrepreneurs. The take home message is that there aren't many thing for which there is a "gene" for. Complex traits are probably the sum of many genes and are dependent on those genes being expressed in the correct order, at the correct level, for the correct duration of time, under the correct environmental conditions.

 

Trip the balance at any one of those stages, and instead of "focus" you get "ADD", or instead of "intense stockdog" you get "neurotic Border Collie". Take two cloned Border Collies. Put one in the hands of a good handler and raise it in a working environment and you get a dog that works stock beautifully and wins trials. Put a genetically identical dog in the hands of a clueless owner and give it nothing to do, and it may end up as a neurotic, house destroying, fear biting, basket case. Same genes, but the programming gets messed up during critical developmental stages, and the results are very different.

 

We now know that phenotype (what you can see and measure) is not a direct result of genotype (the sum of all genes). There's a lot more to DNA than just genes. Some of the DNA responds to environmental cues to turn on or shut down genes at specific times. Especially in the brain, if those genes don't turn on in the right place at the right time, some connections may never be made. The "hard-wiring" for some behaviours might never get laid down.

 

So every time you see someone say "gene for this" or "gene for that", especially in the popular press (as opposed to peer-reviewed journals, although even they are not immune from hyperbole), rewrite it in your head as "a gene that may contribute something to this", or a "gene that may be one important factor in that".

 

Pearse

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I resent the use of the word crazy to describe those of us with mental illnesses. It is as offensive to me as if someone called a mentally handicapped person (and I have a brother who is) a retard. I would appreciate it if you used more care when choosing your words, thank you.

 

Autumn

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I resent the use of the word crazy to describe those of us with mental illnesses. It is as offensive to me as if someone called a mentally handicapped person (and I have a brother who is) a retard. I would appreciate it if you used more care when choosing your words, thank you.

 

Autumn

 

I am guessing here, but I have read and re-read the first three replies and see nothing that indicates they used any offensive terms, so I either missed something or someone deleted their post that Flamincomet found offensive. ETA: Oh, I see the "reference" in the title now.

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For starters, I wanted to find out which livestock working breeds went into the sample or if that correlation just applied to Border collies and maybe Aussies. I could not find that information in the articles. I'm surprised no one else is interested. The various articles say the connection makes sense. I don't understand how myself.

 

Flamincomet, I was quoting a phrase that is often used regarding Border collies as a breed and intended no offense to any person.

 

Penny

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Here's the link to the full-text of the Genetics article. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not Border Collies exhibit behaviors similar to schizophrenia in humans. It is mostly an examination of a method for evaluating "stereotypical" morphology or behavior (herding, pointing, biddability) to determine the number of genes that may be involved and whether or not one can identify candidate regions of the genome, or specific genes.

 

It's not groundbreaking or unusually informative, and the estimates are guesses that have yet to be validated.

 

Some of the data suggest it is a useful method though. They found a linear correlation between size and longevity associated with, among other things, the gene for Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). The role of IGF-1 in determining body size in dogs has been described in other work (cited in this article), so the method shows promise.

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Pretty close to what I thought on reading the various articles on single nucleotide polymorphisms.

 

Now go read the Bark article, then do a search on C18orf1(27572327) or just C18orf1.

 

You will find also an article with two of the main authors (maybe some of the others, I didn't check) noting the connections to herding dogs and C18orf1, then saying the connection makes sense.

 

What the authors of the Genetics article do not disclose includes which breeds were included in the sample, which showed which associated possible herding genes (I guess that's the term), which for pointers, and what the rating system actually was for the various characteristics. I thought perhaps the authors didn't mention the information because it was available elsewhere. I have not found it, which is why the topic line of the thread is a question.

 

I was hoping someone might have or know how to find the unreferenced background on the 147 breeds (apparently that was the number, not 148) and the numbers of individuals from each breed and what results went with which breeds or whether found in all of the associated breeds or was testing limited to AKC clumps of types. In short, could someone who knew how to interpret the material find less generalized results. Surely the authors have the results by breed.

 

I've emailed Melanie Chang. Maybe she will know.

 

Penny

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Just because it's a commonly used phrase doesn't make it any less offensive. If I used a well known bigoted/racist statement, I'm sure people still wouldn't stand for it.

 

Autumn

 

Autumn, if we were talking about people, you might be right. But the topic is dogs. Don't look for offense where quite obviously none was intended.

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By asking if border collies are really crazy because they possibly have the same gene that people who have schizophrenia have, is saying (not implying) that people with schizophrenia are crazy. Whether it was intended or not it was still extremely rude, and my point of posting is to educate, because I know a lot of people don't look at it this way due to the huge stigma still attached to mental illness today.

 

Would you expect people to lie down and say nothing if the title was "Are border collies really unintelligent" because they share a gene with African Americans that turns skin black? (Which is a "common" thought among racist people)

 

Autumn

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Thanks, Eileen, so much more politically correct. Crazy is too derogatory. If anyone is curious about Flamin-something's use of the word "crazy", search "Flamincomet crazy" for two gems, one combining crazy and spastic. No, make that spaztic.

 

Her outrage is ill considered and distracts from the question I posed regarding the research and which breeds have which genes. No one thinks it odd the claim is made without a specific reference? Maybe it isn't. I don't know. For that matter, maybe the gene is mostly found elsewhere in the ACK herding group.

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Thanks, Eileen, so much more politically correct. Crazy is too derogatory. If anyone is curious about Flamin-something's use of the word "crazy", search "Flamincomet crazy" for two gems, one combining crazy and spastic. No, make that spaztic.

 

Her outrage is ill considered and distracts from the question I posed regarding the research and which breeds have which genes. No one thinks it odd the claim is made without a specific reference? Maybe it isn't. I don't know. For that matter, maybe the gene is mostly found elsewhere in the ACK herding group.

 

Apparently personal attacks are now allowed on the boards. And so too are bigoted statements.

 

Crazy is derogatory when used in this manner, just as any other racial/bigoted slur would be. Psychotic can and is used still in a derogatory way, but it's true definition is: a person afflicted with psychosis, which is a huge difference when you look at the definitions of crazy some of which are: brainsick: affected with madness or insanity; "a man who had gone mad"

foolish; totally unsound; "a crazy scheme"; "half-baked ideas"; "a screwball proposal without a prayer of working"

someone deranged and possibly dangerous

 

In regards to old posts, they are just that, old. A lot of things change in 6+ months. I know where I stand now. NAMI's objection to the use of the word crazy, under use of language: We do not protest usage of single words like "crazy" "psycho" "wacko" or "loony" unless they refer directly to individuals struggling with mental illnesses or to the illness itself.

http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=about_stigmabusters

 

This board's sad lack of understanding to those of us that struggle with mental illness, or have family members that are mentally ill is a disgrace, and truly sickening.

 

http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Inform_Yourself/About_Mental_Illness/About_Mental_Illness.htm

 

Autumn

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Autumn, personal attacks are not allowed on the Boards. I guess I should have stepped in when you first called Penny "extremely rude." Then we wouldn't have progressed to "politically correct" (not a personal attack) and "bigoted statements."

 

If one of the definitions of "crazy" is "affected with madness or insanity" then I suppose it would be an accurate description of someone affected with schizophrenia, though Penny used it in connection with border collie dogs. Nevertheless, after assuring you that she meant no offense, Penny changed the word "crazy" to one that is more scientific and indisputably accurate.

 

No more posturing, please. Let's move back on topic. If you have anything further to say on this subject, you can say it to me privately.

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I could not find that information in the articles. I'm surprised no one else is interested. The various articles say the connection makes sense. I don't understand how myself.

 

Actually I do find this interesting.

 

My husband, who has been diagnosed with Adult ADD, always says that he thinks the Border Collies have ADD. And he's not saying that to be insulting or flip and he's not joking. He takes his ADD very seriously.

 

I've always laughed that off (the thing about the Border Collies, not his ADD), but maybe there is something to it. I'd be interested to know if more info is found.

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Figure 1 of "Single-Nucleotide-Polymorphism-Based Association Mapping of Dog Stereotypes" tells you that the stereotypes these authors were looking at were physical dimensions not behavior.

 

This article discusses the difficulties in catagorizing dogs based upon behavior (Behavioral Phenotyping).

Canine Behavioral Genetics: Pointing Out the Phenotypes and Herding up the Genes

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Following Penny's suggested search I found:

 

Genetic Mapping of Fixed Phenotypes: Disease Frequency as a Breed Characteristic (full article)

 

Abstract

 

Traits that have been stringently selected to conform to specific criteria in a closed population are phenotypic stereotypes. In dogs, Canis familiaris, such stereotypes have been produced by breeding for conformation, performance (behaviors), etc. We measured phenotypes on a representative sample to establish breed stereotypes. DNA samples from 147 dog breeds were used to characterize single nucleotide polymorphism allele frequencies for association mapping of breed stereotypes. We identified significant size loci (quantitative trait loci [QTLs]), implicating candidate genes appropriate to regulation of size (e.g., IGF1, IGF2BP2 SMAD2, etc.). Analysis of other morphological stereotypes, also under extreme selection, identified many additional significant loci. Behavioral loci for herding, pointing, and boldness implicated candidate genes appropriate to behavior (e.g., MC2R, DRD1, and PCDH9). Significant loci for longevity, a breed characteristic inversely correlated with breed size, were identified. The power of this approach to identify loci regulating the incidence of specific polygenic diseases is demonstrated by the association of a specific IGF1 haplotype with hip dysplasia, patella luxation, and pacreatitis.

 

 

 

This article did associate 4 genes on a particular chromosome to "herding". But I don't see anywhere that details how "herding" was defined in the samples except for the AKC group designation. Since many of the "herding" breeds have a common ancestral source wouldn’t they automatically have common genetics?

 

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What the paper did not find, was any association with Schizophrenia. Even the hypothesized gene C18orf1 (orf = Open Reading frame which means a region of DNA that could encode a protein) is not associated with Schizophrenia by any solid evidence. The original article references this article (Two-step association analyses of the chromosome 18p11.2 region in schizophrenia detect a locus encompassing C18orf1. Kikuchi, M., Yamada, K., Toyota, T., Itokawa, M., Hattori, E., Yoshitsugu, K., Shimizu, H., Yoshikawa, T. Mol. Psychiatry (2003)) which merely concludes that among the several chromosomes thought to contain genes involved in schizophrenia, one region (18p11.2) contains a potential gene of unknown function. Kikuchi et al. make no claim that C18orf1 is involved in the pathiobiology of schizophrenia.

So, just because the authors of a subsequent article do a very preliminary analysis looking for genes regulating breed-specific behaviour and morphology, and during that analysis up pops a gene of unknown function that happens to reside in a fairly large region of DNA which may, or may not, be involved in a predisposition towards schizophrenia in humans (along with at least ten other regions), tells you absolutely nothing about a supposed relationship between schizophrenia in humans and any behaviour in Border Collies.

The lay press commonly overstates the importance of scientific discoveries. It's not all their fault. Scientists do it routinely in the last two or three paragraphs of any article, as a way of pointing towards what could be significant about their results. Other scientists read this with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, many people only read the abstract and the conclusion and skip all the "boring" Materials and Methods and Results sections which is what tells you if the study is any good or the conclusions over stated.

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Actually I do find this interesting.

 

My husband, who has been diagnosed with Adult ADD, always says that he thinks the Border Collies have ADD. And he's not saying that to be insulting or flip and he's not joking. He takes his ADD very seriously.

 

I've always laughed that off (the thing about the Border Collies, not his ADD), but maybe there is something to it. I'd be interested to know if more info is found.

 

My border collies are anything but ADD! If they are interested in something, they are intense, and nothing will distract them. They will stick with it without stopping for a really l o n g time. Isn't that the opposite of ADD?

 

Gail

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"This article did associate 4 genes on a particular chromosome to "herding". But I don't see anywhere that details how "herding" was defined in the samples except for the AKC group designation."

 

The article also lauds the authors' AKC expert who did the ratings. But nowhere have I been able to find either the rating system or the breeds which showed which genes and in what numbers for the various breeds. Surely if the candidate genes were identified at all, the authors have a record of which breeds. That is what I'm looking for. I thought someone more conversant with the databases might know how to find the details.

 

As I recall (and I could be wrong), the lay press did not overstate what the article(s) said in terms of correlation. I'll check again.

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My border collies are anything but ADD! If they are interested in something, they are intense, and nothing will distract them. They will stick with it without stopping for a really l o n g time. Isn't that the opposite of ADD?

 

Actually hyperfocus can be a big part of ADD. At least for some people. Google "ADD" hyperfocus if you are interested in more info. There is quite a lot out there and I have to say that in reading some of it, I do see a parallel in that regard.

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