On February 28th, the New York Times reported the latest psychiatric disorder “gene finding” claim in an article entitled “5 Disorders Share Genetic Risk Factors, Study Shows,” The Times reporter described a study published online by the “Cross-Disorder Group of the Psychiatric Genomic Consortium” the same day in the high-impact British medical journal Lancet. The Cross-Disorder Group, led by psychiatric genetic investigator Jordan W. Smoller, claimed to have identified shared genes associated with five psychiatric disorders: autism spectrum disorder, attention/deﬁcit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia.
As readers of my February 15th MIA posting are aware, we have seen thousands of such claims in psychiatry since the 1960s, and we have also seen that these claims do not survive replication attempts. But in typical Times reporting style its readers are told nothing of this history, even as reported in the Times itself. To cite a few examples for only one diagnosis, the Times reported (subsequently non-replicated) schizophrenia gene findings by scientists in 1988, 1997, 2002, 2006, and 2008.
Like most of the previous articles, the Times reported the Cross-Disorder Group researchers’ claims and opinions favorably, without even a hint of justified healthy skepticism. The author provided her readers with no reason to doubt that genes both exist, and have been discovered. Once again, there is every reason to believe that the Cross-Disorder Group findings will suffer the same fate as thousands of previous gene discovery claims in psychiatry. Given the decades-long track record of similar highly publicized yet non-replicated claims, we should assume that all gene discovery claims in psychiatry are false-positive findings until proven otherwise.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.