Schizophrenia: genes and environment

Biol Psychiatry. 2000 Feb 1;47(3):210-20. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(99)00289-9.


The historical and genetic foundations of our current understanding of schizophrenia are reviewed, as are the present and future directions for research. Genetic epidemiological investigations, including family, twin, and adoption studies have confirmed the contributions of genetic and environmental determinants of schizophrenia. For example, identical twins show average concordance rates of only 50%; rates of 100% would be expected on the basis of genetic equivalence alone. Genetic factors may cause errors in brain development and synaptic connections. A broad range of environmental components may further damage the brain. Biological components may include pregnancy and delivery complications, such as intrauterine fetal hypoxia, infections, and malnutrition. Primarily nonbiological components may include psychosocial stressors, such as residence in an urban area and dysfunctional family communication. It is likely that the environmental factors interact with the genetic liability in a negative manner to produce disorders in the schizophrenic spectrum. Genetic and environmental components of the disorder are examined, as well as their interactions in producing either neurodevelopmental syndromes or schizophrenia itself. The implication of these findings for prevention and treatment are considered.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / genetics
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / genetics*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Social Environment*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications