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Differential susceptibility to plasticity: a 'missing link' between gene-culture co-evolution and neuropsychiatric spectrum disorders?

Rachel Wurzman12 and James Giordano234*

Author Affiliations

1 Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program, Georgetown University Medical Center, 4000 Reservoir Rd, Washington, DC, 20007, USA

2 Center for Neurotechnology Studies, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 901 N. Stuart St, Arlington, VA, 22203, USA

3 Department of Electrical and Computational Engineering, University of New Mexico, ECE Bldg 46, 1 University of New Mexico Dr., Albuquerque, NM, 87141-0001, USA

4 Human Science Center, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Goethestraβe 31, D-80336, Munich/Professor Max-Lange Platz 11 83646, Bad Tölz, Germany

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BMC Medicine 2012, 10:37  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-37

Published: 17 April 2012


Brüne's proposal that erstwhile 'vulnerability' genes need to be reconsidered as 'plasticity' genes, given the potential for certain environments to yield increased positive function in the same domain as potential dysfunction, has implications for psychiatric nosology as well as a more dynamic understanding of the relationship between genes and culture. In addition to validating neuropsychiatric spectrum disorder nosologies by calling for similar methodological shifts in gene-environment-interaction studies, Brüne's position elevates the importance of environmental contexts - inclusive of socio-cultural variables - as mechanisms that contribute to clinical presentation. We assert that when models of susceptibility to plasticity and neuropsychiatric spectrum disorders are concomitantly considered, a new line of inquiry emerges into the co-evolution and co-determination of socio-cultural contexts and endophenotypes. This presents potentially unique opportunities, benefits, challenges, and responsibilities for research and practice in psychiatry.

Please see related manuscript: webcite