Advances in genome analysis, accompanied by the assembly of large patient cohorts, are making possible successful genetic analyses of polygenic brain disorders. If the resulting molecular clues, previously hidden in the genomes of affected individuals, are to yield useful information about pathogenesis and inform the discovery of new treatments, neurobiology will have to rise to many difficult challenges. Here we review the underlying logic of the genetic investigations, describe in more detail progress in schizophrenia and autism, and outline the challenges for neurobiology that lie ahead. We argue that technologies at the disposal of neuroscience are adequately advanced to begin to study the biology of common and devastating polygenic disorders.
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