A critique of genetic research on schizophrenia – expensive castles in the air

Thank you Joanna Moncrieff!

“To me, the fact that genetics contributes little to our risk of disease, or our likelihood of developing behavioural and mental disturbance, seems a matter of celebration. The idea that we are doomed by our genetic make-up to develop life-threating or disabling conditions is surely a profoundly depressing one.”

Yes, exactly.

Joanna Moncrieff

In the light of the much trumpeted claims that recent research has identified genes for schizophrenia, it is important to review the track record of this type of endeavour (1). Despite thousands of studies costing millions of dollars, and endless predictions that the genetics of schizophrenia would shortly be revealed, the field has so far failed to identify any genes that substantially increase the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Following the advent of molecular genetics, some studies started to find weak associations between this or that gene and being diagnosed with schizophrenia, but attempts to replicate the findings generally failed. A large genome wide association study published in 2008, for example, analysed the distribution of 833 single nuclear polymorphisms (SNPs) in 14 genes that were thought to be the most likely ‘candidates’ for being associated with schizophrenia in a sample of 1,870 people with schizophrenia and 2002 controls. The study found…

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