Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Report on Gene for Depression Is Now Faulted

One of the most celebrated findings in modern psychiatry — that a single gene helps determine one’s risk of depression in response to a divorce, a lost job or another serious reversal — has not held up to scientific scrutiny, researchers reported Tuesday.

The original finding, published in 2003, created a sensation among scientists and the public because it offered the first specific, plausible explanation of why some people bounce back after a stressful life event while others plunge into lasting despair.

The new report, by several of the most prominent researchers in the field, does not imply that interactions between genes and life experience are trivial; they are almost certainly fundamental, experts agree.

But it does suggest that nailing down those factors in a precise way is far more difficult than scientists believed even a few years ago, and that the original finding could have been due to chance. The new report is likely to inflame a debate over the direction of the field itself, which has found that the genetics of illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder remain elusive.


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