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If genomics is the answer, what's the question? A commentary on PsychENCODE

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There was much excitement in the press and in the psychiatric research community recently as a flurry of papers was published, presenting the work of the PsychENCODE project. This project, involving the work of many labs, aimed to deploy the powerful tools of genomics to dissect the landscape of gene regulation in the human brain, with the ultimate goal of revealing the molecular underpinnings of psychiatric disease.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have revealed hundreds of common genetic variants that are statistically associated with increased risk of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and, to a lesser extent, autism. What they have not revealed is how such variants increase risk of disease. The PsychENCODE project aimed to generate a set of data that would allow researchers to answer that question.
There are a number of challenges in going from identification of an associated risk variant to elucidation of its biological effects. First, the…