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Biol Psychiatry. 2000 Feb 1;47(3):231-9.

Familial transmission of risk factors in the first-degree relatives of schizophrenic people.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver 80262, USA.


Schizophrenia is a complex illness with multiple pathophysiologic factors that contribute to its psychopathology. One strategy to identify these factors is to observe them in isolation from each other, by characterizing their expression in the relatives of schizophrenic probands. By Mendel's second law, each genetic factor should be independently distributed in a sibship, so that each can be observed by itself, uncomplicated by the general problems of the illness. Such independently distributed phenotypes are obviously useful for genetic analyses; however, they can also be considered together, to model how various brain dysfunctions may combine to produce psychoses. In addition to a sensory gating deficit linked to the alpha 7-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor locus, schizophrenics and their families have a number of other deficits, including decreased hippocampal volume on magnetic resonance images and increased plasma levels of the dopamine metabolite homovanillic acid. Although such research is far from complete, a heuristic model combining a sensory gating deficit, decreased hippocampal neuron capacity, and increased dopaminergic neurotransmission is consonant with current understanding of the neuropsychology of schizophrenia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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