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Ann Clin Psychiatry. 2006 Oct-Dec;18(4):223-31.

The next challenge for psychiatric genetics: characterizing the risk associated with identified genes.

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  • 1Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Psychology, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA. dickd@psychiatry.wustl.edu



As advances in genetics further our ability to identify genes influencing psychiatric disorders, the next challenge facing psychiatric genetics is to characterize the risk associated with specific genetic variants in order to better understand how these susceptibility genes are involved in the pathways leading to illness.


To further this goal, findings from behavior genetic analyses about how genetic influences act can be used to guide hypothesis testing about the effects associated with specific genes.


Using the phenotype of alcohol dependence as an example, this paper provides an overview of how the integration of behavioral and statistical genetics can advance our knowledge about the genetics of psychiatric disorders. Areas currently being investigated in behavior genetics include careful delineation of phenotypes, to examine the heritability of various aspects of normal and abnormal behavior; developmental changes in the nature and magnitude of genetic and environmental effects; the extent to which different behaviors are influenced by common genes; and different forms of gene-environment correlation and interaction.


Understanding how specific genes are involved in these processes has the potential to significantly enhance our understanding of the development of psychiatric disorders.

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