With its hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder, and cognitive deficits, schizophrenia affects the most basic human processes of perception, emotion, and judgment. Evidence increasingly suggests that schizophrenia is a subtle disorder of brain development and plasticity. Genetic studies are beginning to identify proteins of candidate genetic risk factors for schizophrenia, including dysbindin, neuregulin 1, DAOA, COMT, and DISC1, and neurobiological studies of the normal and variant forms of these genes are now well justified. We suggest that DISC1 may offer especially valuable insights. Mechanistic studies of the properties of these candidate genes and their protein products should clarify the molecular, cellular, and systems-level pathogenesis of schizophrenia. This can help redefine the schizophrenia phenotype and shed light on the relationship between schizophrenia and other major psychiatric disorders. Understanding these basic pathologic processes may yield novel targets for the development of more effective treatments.
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