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Edited by M Leboyer and F Bellivier. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press, 2003, £82.50 (US$99.50), pp 268. ISBN 1588290379
This book is timely. Psychiatric genetics, which is one of the most challenging areas of medical genetics, currently offers enormous opportunities to improve the understanding of mental illness and the practice of clinical psychiatry. Phenotypic issues are, of course, important in all aspects of complex genetics, and within psychiatric genetics issues of phenotype definition and measurement are crucial. Major molecular genetic investigations using both positional and candidate approaches have been ongoing for several of the major psychiatric disorders over the last 10 or 15 years. Early successes, of course, occurred for Alzheimer’s disease and linkage regions are currently being followed up for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as well as several other common severe psychiatric disorders for which there is compelling evidence of the importance of genetic factors in contributing to pathogenesis. Robust findings are beginning to emerge and there is currently enormous interest from the pharmaceutical industry because the identification of susceptibility genes is likely to be a key stage in the development of novel targets and, subsequently, to lead on to the production of medications that are more effective and have fewer side effects than currently available treatments.
Psychiatric genetics: methods and reviews is an edited volume in the series on “Methods in molecular medicine” by Humana Press. It is a relatively compact volume that comprises 11 chapters with the main content divided into two sections: the first of these addresses methods currently used in psychiatric genetics and includes chapters on analytical methods, genetic markers, clinical assessment, and genetic association studies. The second section addresses new phenotypic approaches and includes chapters on alternative phenotypes, intermediate cognitive phenotypes associated with schizophrenia, biochemical endophenotypes in personality disorders, electrophysiological phenotypes, and imaging approaches to phenotype characterisation in genetic studies of schizophrenia. The chapter authors comprise an international line up of researchers most of whom are well known in the field of psychiatric genetics. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no coverage given to the current state of knowledge—either from classical genetic or molecular genetic studies—for any psychiatric or behavioural phenotypes.
The strength of this volume is that it provides a relatively succinct introduction to a range of issues relating to the field of psychiatric genetics. The section devoted to new phenotypic approaches is particularly useful in this regard. Undoubtedly this would be an excellent book for a young researcher about to enter the field of psychiatric genetics and would enable him or her to obtain a rapid overview of methodological issues. It will be of less interest to clinicians and researchers outside the field of psychiatric genetics. Such individuals would be likely to find it more useful either to read a book that addresses methodological issues more generally in complex genetics diseases—such as Analysis of multifactorial disease (Oxford: Bios Scientific Publishers Ltd, 2000), edited by Bishop and Sham, or alternatively to read a book which, in addition to dealing with basic methodological issues, also reviews the state of knowledge in a broad range of psychiatric disorders—such as Psychiatric genetics and genomics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) edited by McGuffin, Owen and Gottesman.