Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A researcher examines brain scans at Carnegie Mellon University. Photo: Keith Srakocic / AP

Scientists are beginning to utilize human genome databases to examine the biological and evolutionary roots of mental illnesses, according to Nature.

The big question: How did mental illness arise and develop — and what causes it to persist? Psychiatric disorders can involve hundreds or thousands of genes and mutations, writes Sara Reardon. Vast repositories of human genetic information are now allowing researchers to make inferences about the development and spread of mental illness throughout history.

Some of the most interesting findings so far:

  • Schizophrenia, which often manifests with hallucinations and jumbled speech, is tied to parts of the brain used for speech — so "the ability to speak could have outweighed the small, but unavoidable risk that the genes involved in language could malfunction and result in schizophrenia in a small percentage of the population."
  • People who live in colder European regions are a bit more likely to develop schizophrenia, making it possible that cold-weather adaptability and schizophrenia are linked genetically. "If genes that helped people tolerate cold were located close to variants that promote schizophrenia in the genome, then the latter could have been inadvertently carried along during evolution as a "fellow traveller".
  • Researchers also looked at the regulation of genes in early humans and Neanderthals. For example, early humans may have expressed a gene associated with language ability more than Neanderthals even though both had the gene. The extent of mental illness amongst Neanderthals — if it even existed at all — is unknown, but this difference in gene expression could be vital to understanding its origins.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
54 mins ago - Podcasts

Net neutrality on the line under Biden

Federal net neutrality rules are back on the table in the Biden administration, after being nixed by Trump, but now might be complicated by the debate over social media companies' behavior.

Axios Re:Cap digs into why net neutrality matters and what comes next with Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge and host of the Decoder podcast.

House grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted 326-78 on Thursday to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the way for the Senate to confirm President Biden's nominee for defense secretary as early as this week.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.

Amanda Gorman steals the show on Inauguration Day

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Axios Visuals

Poet Amanda Gorman by far generated the most average interactions on social media on Inauguration Day, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!