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Psychiatric genetics: Back to the future
Introduction By
Barbara J. Culliton

In the Literature

Neuroscience and psychiatry are two related fields that appear most likely to benefit first from the genomics revolution. There is little doubt that behavior is influenced, in part, by genes.

In the September 22nd edition of the Genome News Network (GNN), we reported that another polymorphism in the dopamine D4 receptor gene has been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Many studies have reported associations between the dopamine D4 receptor and ADHD, making this one of the important success stories of psychiatric genetics. But the precise role of the gene remains unknown. Furthermore, if it really is a susceptibility gene for ADHD, it is one of many and much remains to be learned about how these genes interact with an individual's external and internal cellular environment to produce disease.

Where are psychiatry's other success stories? Associations between APOE 4 and Alzheimer's disease are intriguing, as are data suggesting an inherited component to manic depression or bipolar disorder. However, as is true in most areas in which genomics will be important, this is just the beginning. In a Millennium article in Molecular Psychiatry, Mike Owen et al. reviewed the state of psychiatric genetics and considered how the field might advance and address the problems ahead. Professor Owen is head of the Department of Psychological Medicine of the University of Wales College of Medicine in Cardiff, UK.

—Barbara J. Culliton

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See related GNN article
»The DRD4 Gene: Psychiatry's Repeat Offender

Owen, M.J. et al. Psychiatric genetics: Back to the future. Mol Psychiatry 5, 22-31 (January 2000).

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