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Schizophr Bull. 2007 Jan;33(1):95-104. Epub 2006 Oct 11.

Statistical genetics concepts and approaches in schizophrenia and related neuropsychiatric research.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0603, USA.


Statistical genetics is a research field that focuses on mathematical models and statistical inference methodologies that relate genetic variations (ie, naturally occurring human DNA sequence variations or "polymorphisms") to particular traits or diseases (phenotypes) usually from data collected on large samples of families or individuals. The ultimate goal of such analysis is the identification of genes and genetic variations that influence disease susceptibility. Although of extreme interest and importance, the fact that many genes and environmental factors contribute to neuropsychiatric diseases of public health importance (eg, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression) complicates relevant studies and suggests that very sophisticated mathematical and statistical modeling may be required. In addition, large-scale contemporary human DNA sequencing and related projects, such as the Human Genome Project and the International HapMap Project, as well as the development of high-throughput DNA sequencing and genotyping technologies have provided statistical geneticists with a great deal of very relevant and appropriate information and resources. Unfortunately, the use of these resources and their interpretation are not straightforward when applied to complex, multifactorial diseases such as schizophrenia. In this brief and largely nonmathematical review of the field of statistical genetics, we describe many of the main concepts, definitions, and issues that motivate contemporary research. We also provide a discussion of the most pressing contemporary problems that demand further research if progress is to be made in the identification of genes and genetic variations that predispose to complex neuropsychiatric diseases.

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