Refining phenotype characterization in genetic linkage studies of schizophrenia.
A definitive replicable genetic linkage for a major locus underlying the susceptibility to schizophrenia has not been identified to date. Although there are several possible explanations for the failure to find linkage in schizophrenia, one major problem is that the range of phenotypic expressions of the genes for schizophrenia has not been clarified. A more refined understanding of the various phenotypic expressions of a gene related to schizophrenia would enhance the power of studies designed to detect a genetic linkage with a major chromosomal locus and would benefit other strategies for understanding the etiology of schizophrenia. The genes for schizophrenia may be frequently expressed in relatives of schizophrenic patients, although with less severe symptoms than those of chronic schizophrenia. Two series of findings support this notion. Nonschizophrenic relatives of schizophrenic patients demonstrate an increased incidence of nonpsychotic schizophrenia-like symptoms and traits, and they manifest deficit performances on several different laboratory tests of neurocognitive functioning. A more refined phenotypic expression of a schizophrenia-related gene may thus be indicated by personality traits and subclinical neurocognitive deficits. These personality traits and neurocognitive deficits are considered here as possible aids in the identification of affected cases in genetic linkage studies of schizophrenia. Terminology for different indicators of neurocognitive deficits is introduced, and the relative utility of personality traits and indicators of neurocognitive deficit for genetic linkage studies is discussed. As specific examples, schizophrenia-related personality traits that are unrelated to affective symptoms and performance deficits on tasks of eye tracking and continuous attention are considered for strategies for broadening phenotype characterization without reducing the specificity of affected case identification.
Keefe, RS; Silverman, JM; Siever, LJ; Cornblatt, BA
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