Leveraging Genetics and Genomics to Define the Causes of Mental Illness

  • Matthew W. State
    Department of Psychiatry and Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco.
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  • Daniel H. Geschwind
    Address correspondence to Daniel H. Geschwind, M.D., Ph.D., UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment, 2506 Gonda, 695 Charles E. Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1761.
    UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California.
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      Psychiatric genetics is in the midst of a profound transformation. For decades, the primary challenge for the field was simply the reliable identification of risk genes. Now, for multiple disorders, the path to systematic discovery is clear. Recent findings in studies of schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse have demonstrated that a comprehensive elucidation of genetic risk factors is now within reach—dependent only on sufficient sample sizes and the resources to pursue these studies. The findings so far have already laid the groundwork to begin the next epoch in unraveling the complexity of brain-based behavioral and emotional syndromes: from the illumination of pathophysiologic mechanisms, to a clarification of the relative contribution of genetics and environment, to a reappraisal and likely revision of the categorical psychiatric diagnostic nosology based on etiology.
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