Genes, Environment, and Psychopathology

Understanding the Causes of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders

Kenneth S. Kendler and Carol A. Prescott

Paperback
Paperback
November 7, 2007
ISBN 9781593856458
Price: $41.00 $30.75
412 Pages
Size: 6⅛" x 9¼"
Copyright Date: 2006
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This groundbreaking volume synthesizes the results of the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders, which yielded longitudinal data on more than 9,000 individuals. The authors trace how risk for depression, anxiety, eating disorders, antisocial behavior, alcoholism, and substance abuse emerges from the interplay of a variety of genetic and environmental influences. Major questions addressed include whether risk is disorder-specific, how to distinguish between correlational and causal genetic and environmental factors, sex differences in risk, and how risk and protective factors interact over time.

“A good general introduction to twin-family research on psychopathology....This book is a valuable reference for those working in the field of psychiatric genetics, whether experienced researchers or students. Even for genetic epidemiologists with little interest in psychopathology, this book provides an excellent case study of a large-scale twin-family research project and the type of hypotheses that can be explored with the data such studies provide. Thanks to the well-structured and easily understandable writing style that Kendler and Prescott use, this book will also have relevance for those with no knowledge of behavioral genetics but an interest in psychiatry or substance abuse.”

Drug and Alcohol Review


“This book is a gem. It takes the reader on a behind-the-scenes excursion into the rationale, methodology, and findings of one of the most ambitious and influential genetic-epidemiological studies in recent history....Kendler and Prescott clearly aim to make their reasoning and methods accessible, and they succeed. They also go to considerable effort to make the book reader-friendly....Rarely does a reader have such an opportunity to be exposed to the kind of thoughtful, deliberative planning that goes into every aspect of the design and implementation of a study. Equally compelling is the way the reader is guided through how to distinguish between various causal explanations and how specific features of the study design make it possible to answer certain questions....The book presents a dazzling array of findings that both clinicians and researchers will be eager to know.”

American Journal of Psychiatry


“Clear, thoughtful, and timely....This book is a gift to all those willing to embrace the underlying complexity of psychiatric disorders and substance abuse.”

Twin Research and Human Genetics


“The only thing I disagree with in this book is the authors' statement that there is no such thing as a definitive study—this is a definitive study! The authors present impressive findings about mental illness and drug use from research on a very large sample of adult twins studied over time. The book provides convincing evidence for the importance of genetics in psychopathology, but goes far beyond 'nature versus nurture.' Most interestingly, it is about the interplay between nature and nurture. It offers a nuanced perspective that should be required reading for anyone interested in the causes of mental illness.”

—Robert Plomin, PhD, Institute of Psychiatry, London, United Kingdom


“This very readable and most engaging book by world leaders in psychiatric genetics is an essential read. The book is based on one of the best twin studies of common adult psychopathology that has been done. It is really good to have the findings brought together in such an interesting way. But the book is much, much more than that. It provides an exceptionally clear understanding of the rationale and logic involved in multivariate genetic statistical modeling, and an equally lucid understanding of how this may be used to tackle vitally important questions about mental disorder. Most of all, it provides a lively, balanced, informative conceptual understanding of how genes and environment work together in causal pathways as they operate over time.”

—Michael Rutter, MD, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, United Kingdom


“Written in an informal, readable style, this unique text offers insight into the process of the world-renowned Virginia Adult Twin Study, and provides the opportunity to review the many important results that have emerged from this work. Readers will gain a better understanding of how genetic and environmental factors operate in complex psychiatric disorders, while also observing how hypotheses can be developed and tested. For students, the straightforward and highly informative details of the methods used to test major and ancillary questions will be particularly valuable. Scientists, for their part, will benefit from having a single, well-referenced source on this excellent study.”

—Marc A. Schuckit, MD, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego; Alcohol Research Center, VA San Diego Healthcare System


“Over the last 20 years, it is likely that no other single study has had a greater impact on academic psychiatry than the Virginia Adult Twin Study, which has been instrumental in ushering in the current genomics era in biological psychiatry. Kendler and Prescott have done the field an immeasurable service by placing the major findings from the study under a single cover. But this book is much more than a summary of their voluminous research record: it provides a methodological primer, discusses the challenges of observational science, and speculates on the future of psychiatric genetics. As such, it should be equally useful for the seasoned researcher interested in a concise summary of this important project and for the student who seeks an accessible introduction to the field.”

—Matt McGue, PhD, University of Minnesota

Table of Contents

Introduction

I. Background

1. The Scientific and Social Context of the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders

2. Methodology Used in the VATSPSUD

3. Twinning and Twin Models

II. Genetic Risk

4. Internalizing Disorders

5. Externalizing and Substance Use Disorders

6. Twin Model Assumptions

III. Environmental Risk

7. Childhood Experiences and Risk for Psychopathology

8. Adult Experiences and Risk for Psychopathology

IV. A Closer Look at Genetic and Environmental Influences

9. Sex Differences

10. Genetic and Environmental Influences on Stability and Change

11. The Genetics of What?: Comorbidity, General versus Specific Effects, and Risk Indicators

12. Three Extensions of the Twin Model

V. Bringing it All Together

13. The Genetics of the Environment

14. Mechanisms for Genetic Control of Exposure to the Environment

15. Is the Relation between Environmental Risk Factors and Psychiatric Disorders Causal?

16. Genetic Control of Sensitivity to the Environment

17. Integrative Models

18. Conclusions


About the Authors

Kenneth S. Kendler, MD, is the Banks Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Human Genetics at the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University. Since 1983, he has been engaged in studies of the genetics of psychiatric and substance use disorders, and he has been the director of the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders since its inception. Dr. Kendler's work has utilized the methods of both large-scale population-based twin studies and molecular genetics. He has published over 430 peer-reviewed articles, has received a number of national and international awards, is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, serves on several editorial boards, and is Editor of Psychological Medicine. Since 1996, Dr. Kendler has served as Director of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics.

Carol A. Prescott, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at the University of Southern California. From 1992 to 2005, she was on the faculty of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics of Virginia Commonwealth University, where she served as Co-Director of the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders. Dr. Prescott has published extensively on genetic influences on alcoholism and other forms of psychopathology. She serves as Associate Editor for Behavior Genetics and Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Her honors include election to membership in the Society for Multivariate Experimental Psychology and the Theodore Reich Prize from the International Society on Psychiatric Genetics.

Course Use

May serve as a supplemental text in courses in abnormal psychology, psychiatric genetics, and psychopathology.