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Br J Psychiatry Suppl. 2001 Apr;40:s18-24.

Genes, environment and schizophrenia.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts Mental Health Center, 74 Fenwood Road, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Data from family, twin and adoption studies show overwhelming evidence of a substantial genetic component in schizophrenia and although molecular genetic studies have been more difficult to replicate, recent improvements in technology have resulted in the implication of genes at several chromosomal loci. Nevertheless, it remains clear that environmental factors both add to and interact with genetic factors to produce the disorder.


To incorporate genetic and environmental risk factors into a neurodevelopmental model in order to conceptualise the liability to schizophrenia.


A representative selection of the literature related to this issue is reviewed, together with a reformulation of Meehl's term 'schizotaxia' to describe the liability to the disorder.


The literature supports a multi-factorial view of the liability to schizophrenia, which includes both genetic and environmental components.


Schizotaxia provides a useful way to conceptualise both the liability for schizophrenia, and also the development of treatment strategies aimed at the eventual prevention of the illness.

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