An explosion in the family  pg. 2

“In a very personal way, (the suicide) has remained a motivation for me staying in the hunt for clues to mental illness,” Blakely says. “I certainly developed my own interest in science and brain independent of this … But I know my awakening to the horrors of brain disease in my own family reinforced that trajectory, and made me much more aware of what other families have to go through, and particularly children who have traumatic events happen to them.”

In collaboration with his Vanderbilt colleagues, including Richard Shelton, M.D., and Elaine Sanders-Bush, Ph.D., Blakely has found some genetic clues to depression. But it’s not as simple as genes determining behavior. “All the really complex disorders (especially those involving brain function) are a very rich mix of genes and environment, and the interaction of early childhood events,” Blakely says.

“The more we learn about how the brain works, the way the environment and the brain interact, hopefully … the events that happened to my family would be less likely to happen again,” he says. “Tragically, I know that they happen every day, still … (But) it’s getting better.”

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