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June 1999

Preparing for Gene DiscoveryA Further Agenda for Psychiatry

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999;56(6):554-555. doi:10-1001/pubs.Arch Gen Psychiatry-ISSN-0003-990x-56-6-ycm8411

IT IS GRATIFYING to see the increased recognition of genetics as a central research strategy for psychiatry in Barondes' article1 and the report of the Genetics Workgroup of the National Institute of Mental Health.2 However, I must disagree with 2 points made in the article. In many historical periods (eg, mid– 19th-century France and the Degeneration School, and late 19th- to early 20th-century Germany under the influence of Emil Kraepelin), the field of psychiatry was far more focused on endogenous causes of illness, among which genetic factors were paramount, than on environmental causes, such as stressful life events.3,4 Barondes implies that the "molecular revolution" is responsible for the increased awareness of the importance of genetic risk factors for psychiatric illness. I disagree. This increased awareness results largely from a series of compelling findings obtained from family, twin, and adoption studies of psychiatric illness conducted over the last 25 years.5