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Editorial
January 2016

Deciphering the Genetic Complexity of Schizophrenia

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(1):5-6. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2111

Studies using genetic epidemiologic methods to probe the genetic architecture of schizophrenia are increasingly giving way to those using genome-wide association approaches. In this issue of JAMA Psychiatry, Bohlken et al1 report that genetic epidemiologic methods, in particular structural equation modeling of twin and family correlations on intermediate traits of interest, can yield important insights into the genetic underpinnings of the disorder, results that in turn could help to organize associations at the molecular level. Bohlken et al evaluated sets of twin pairs discordant for schizophrenia and healthy twin pairs with 2 neuroimaging techniques, diffusion-weighted and T1-weighted imaging, to determine the extent to which genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia overlaps with measures sensitive to the integrity of white matter and gray matter, respectively. Both white matter integrity (as indexed by fractional anisotropy [FA]) and cortical gray matter thickness were found to be heritable traits that were significantly reduced in people with schizophrenia. In both cases, genetic influences shared with schizophrenia were found to account for a high proportion of these phenotypic correlations. However, the genetic factors that influenced the correlation between schizophrenia and reduced FA were found to be independent of the genetic factors that influenced the correlation between schizophrenia and reduced cortical gray matter thickness.1

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