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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Meta-Analytic Proof for a Timeless Insight

      The last decade has seen an explosion in the number of studies relating polymorphisms in candidate genes to various behavioral and neural phenotypes. Reviews of the literature often report a plethora of questionable associations that could not be replicated or were even in the opposite direction in independent studies (
      • Green A.E.
      • Munafo M.R.
      • DeYoung C.G.
      • Fossella J.A.
      • Fan J.
      • Gray J.R.
      Using genetic data in cognitive neuroscience: From growing pains to genuine insights.
      ,
      • Chanock S.J.
      • Manolio T.
      • Boehnke M.
      • Boerwinkle E.
      • Hunter D.J.
      • Thomas G.
      • et al.
      Replicating genotype-phenotype associations.
      ). Because of the high publication rate and the equally high rate of false positive findings and despite their inherent limitations, meta-analyses—like the one by Barnett et al. (
      • Barnett J.H.
      • Scoriels L.
      • Munafó M.R.
      Meta-analysis of the cognitive effects of the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene Val158/108Met polymorphism.
      ), “Meta-Analysis of the Cognitive Effects of the Catechol-O-Methyltransferase Gene Val158/108Met Polymorphism”—are essential for investigators in search for a firm basis on which to build further research. The importance of meta-analysis in this area is strongly attested to by the large number of citations they attract. In fact, editors caring about the impact factor of their journals are well-advised to publish as many genotype-phenotype meta-analyses as possible. Today, approximately 2 years after publication, Scopus lists the meta-analysis cited in the preceding text (52 citations, rank 12) along with two additional meta-analyses by Munafó et al. (
      • Munafó M.R.
      • Brown S.M.
      • Hariri A.R.
      Serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) genotype and amygdala activation: A meta-analysis.
      ,
      • Munafó M.R.
      • Yalcin B.
      • Willis-Owen S.A.
      • Flint J.
      Association of the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) gene and approach-related personality traits: Meta-analysis and new data.
      ) (115 and 46 citations, ranks 1 and 18) among the top 6% of the most frequently cited articles published in Biological Psychiatry in 2008 (324 articles altogether). The importance the field ascribes to the Barnett et al. meta-analysis is further emphasized by a previous correspondence (
      • Goldman D.
      • Weinberger D.R.
      • Malhotra A.K.
      • Goldberg T.E.
      The role of COMT Val158Met in cognition.
      ) concerning the proper interpretation of their results (notably, not the results themselves!).
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