The recent completion of a working draft of the human genome sequence promises to provide unprecedented opportunities to explore the genetic basis of individual differences in complex behaviours and vulnerability to neuropsychiatric illness. Functional neuroimaging, because of its unique ability to assay information processing at the level of brain within individuals, provides a powerful approach to such functional genomics. Recent fMRI studies have established important physiological links between functional genetic polymorphisms and robust differences in information processing within distinct brain regions and circuits that have been linked to the manifestation of various disease states such as Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. Importantly, all of these biological relationships have been revealed in relatively small samples of healthy volunteers and in the absence of observable differences at the level of behaviour, underscoring the power of a direct assay of brain physiology like fMRI in exploring the functional impact of genetic variation.
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