In the paper, published November 22 as an online-first publication in the journal Genes, Brain and Behavior, the researchers identified the hierarchical tree of CGG–TF networks that determine the patterns of genes expressed during brain development and found that some "master transcription factors" at the top level of the hierarchy regulated the expression of a significant number of gene groups.

Instead of a taking the approach that a single gene creates a single response, researchers used contemporary methods of data analysis, along with the Gordon supercomputer at the university's San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), to identify CGGs responsible for brain development which can be affected for treatment of mental disorders. The team found that these groups of genes act in concert to send signals at various levels of the hierarchy to other groups of genes, which control the general and more specific (depending of the level) events in brain structure development.

"We have proposed a novel, though still hypothetical, strategy of drug design based on this hierarchical network of TFs that could pave the way for a new category of pharmacological agents that could be used to block a pathway at a critical time during brain development as an effective way to treat and even prevent mental disorders such as ASD and schizophrenia," said lead author Igor Tsigelny, a research scientist with SDSC, as well as the university's Moores Cancer Center and Department of Neurosciences. "On a broader scale, these findings have the potential to change the paradigm of drug design."