Genetic Approaches to Mental Disorders

Article excerpt

ELLIOT S. GERSHON AND C. ROBERT CLONINGER, EDS.: Genetic Approaches to Mental Disorders. American Psychiatric Press, Washington, 1994, 376 pp., $43.50.

This is a specialized book that can bring the reader up to date on the state of the art in psychiatric genetics. The reader should take the title seriously; the book lays out current approaches, while making it clear that these have thus far yielded few if any replicable findings.

The American Psychopathological Society, at whose 1992 Annual Meeting these papers and discussions were presented, has in past years published the classical papers of Kallmann on twin and family studies and of Kety and his group on adoption techniques. No less now than at those times, the difficulties in doing genetic studies in psychiatry stem from diagnostic uncertainty (definition of the clinical phenotype), probable genetic heterogeneity, uncertainty about modes of inheritance, and the role of the environment in all its aspects-prenatal, postnatal, physical, social. Representing almost all of the major investigators in the field today, the current chapters make clear what the pitfalls are and how the researchers attempt to deal with them by diagnostic strategies, statistical techniques, and biological approaches.

The disorders considered are schizophrenia, bipolar disease, alcoholism and panic disorder; the techniques are largely variations of the search in pedigrees for linkage to molecular markers-random sections of chromosomes delineated by restriction enzymes-or association to "candidate genes" that code for receptors or transmitters believed to be involved in the etiology of the disease. …

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