Gene–Environment Interaction in the Behavioral Sciences: Findings, Challenges, and Prospects

Part of the Advances in Development and Psychopathology: Brain Research Foundation Symposium Series book series (AIDP, volume 2)


We review gene × environment interaction (G×E) research in behavioral and psychiatric genetics. Two approaches to G×E are contrasted: a latent-variable approach that seeks to determine whether the heritability of a behavioral outcome varies by environmental exposure, and a candidate-gene × environment approach that seeks to determine whether genotypes are differentially sensitive to environmental conditions. Three major challenges to current G×E research are identified: (1) most published G×E findings are based on small samples and thus a high proportion are likely to be false-positive reports; (2) imprecision in the assessment of the phenotype, environment, and the genotype can significantly attenuate the power of a G×E study; and (3) a G×E is not an inherent property of the organism but rather a feature of a statistical model and so its identification depends on the structure of that model. The promise of genomic medicine is that interventions can be tailored to individual treatments, a form of G×E. Nonetheless, there is currently limited evidence of gene × intervention interactions in behavioral and psychiatric genetics. Future gene × intervention research will benefit from what we have learned from earlier G×E research and especially the need for large samples and the standardization of assessments to enable pooling of data across multiple studies.


Gene × environment interaction Candidate-gene studies Genome-wide Association Studies (GWAS) False-positive findings Diathesis–stress model Social control model 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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