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Progress in Gene Environment Studies

  • Marco P. Boks
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to Marco Boks, M.D., PhD., Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Centre, b01.206, PO Box 85500, Utrecht 3508 GA, The Netherlands
    Affiliations
    Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Centre, Utrecht, The Netherlands
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      After a wave of candidate gene studies claiming positive associations with psychiatric disorders, a period of disappointing negative findings and meta-analysis followed (
      • Sanders A.R.
      • Duan J.
      • Levinson D.F.
      • Shi J.
      • He D.
      • Hou C.
      • et al.
      No significant association of 14 candidate genes with schizophrenia in a large European ancestry sample: implications for psychiatric genetics.
      ). This led to fierce debate as to how the field as a whole could have condoned the publication of so many false-positive findings. Genome-wide studies were subsequently favored because these unbiased approaches were expected to have a higher probability of producing true-positive, replicable results. Because of the need for extremely large studies, the genome-wide studies have led to unprecedented global collaborations that have yielded true progress, identifying several genes and pathways that can illuminate the etiology of psychiatric disorders. However, the identified genes explain only a very limited proportion of disease risk (
      • Manolio T.A.
      • Collins F.S.
      • Cox N.J.
      • Goldstein D.B.
      • Hindorff L.A.
      • Hunter D.J.
      • et al.
      Finding the missing heritability of complex diseases.
      ), a finding that has fueled several new developments, of which closer studies of gene-environment interactions are among the most promising. This growing field is reflected in a strong increase of publications in PubMed with search terms ‘gene AND environment AND psychiatry’ since 2004 (Figure 1); the number of publications in 2012 exceeds that of 2011 with one more trimester to go.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1The number of publications in PubMed with search terms, gene AND environment AND psychiatry.
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