'Carving psychosis at its biological joints: genetic traction or academic friction?'

Learning Centre UG06
Life and Environmental Sciences, Research
Monday 18th May 2015 (13:00-14:00)
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Part of the School Seminar Series

Speaker: Professor Melissa Green, UNSW

Host: Stephen Wood

The use of clinical diagnostic categories as targets for genetic investigation arguably represents the Achilles’ heel of modern psychiatric research. Despite continuing advances in genomics, and the cooperation of global consortia providing ever-larger discovery samples, the “missing heritability” problem remains. That is, while heritability for schizophreniaand bipolar disorder is estimated at 70-80% (and an estimated 60% of genetic risk shared by these conditions), large-scale genome-wide studies of samples comprising both disorders have so far implicated many common alleles of small effect, accounting for only 23% of variance in risk. Other studies that implicate rare genetic variants (of larger effect) are limited in the capacity to generalize to the broader population of psychosis sufferers. Strategies for delineating biologically homogenous sub-phenotypes of these disorders are therefore critical to advance knowledge of the genetic contributions to psychosis. My researchaddresses these issues with the application of well-established statistical methods to large samples of patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, in an effort to establish genetic contributions to cognitive and brain abnormalities associated with these conditions . This presentation will describe my recent and ongoing work in this area, including novel findings to date, and the pervasive barriers to progress that the field of psychiatric genetics has yet to overcome.