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June 1999

Big Mountain

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999;56(6):553. doi:10-1001/pubs.Arch Gen Psychiatry-ISSN-0003-990x-56-6-ycm9025

GETTING experts to agree on how to find the genes for mental disorders should become a lot easier after the process has begun to work. Preceding that, the task of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Genetics Workgroup was unenviable. The group addressed, in a global way, the structure of genetic research in psychiatry, including training, creation of large DNA and phenotype resources, industry collaborations, and prioritization of diseases. Today, we are somewhere in the foothills of a very difficult climb and there are many potential pathways. Several can actually be taken to the same summit. The first moments of success in identifying specific genes have actually been experienced for certain behavioral and neurodegenerative disorders, including alcoholism and Alzheimer disease. It is therefore critical that the NIMH Genetics Workgroup report1 emphasized the attainability of the goal of finding genes for other genetically influenced psychiatric disorders, even when they have so far been resistant to analysis. These illnesses, including autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and Tourette syndrome, are central to our concern and to many families. Therefore, as Steve Hyman remarked in the report's preface: "we can and must succeed."

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