While many studies argue that a single gene helps to determine one’s risk of depression in response to a serious reversal in the person’s life – a lost job, divorce or other event – when the theory was tested through scientific scrutiny, it did not prove to be valid.
According to a piece in the New York Times, when the original finding emerged, it created a sensation as it provided a plausible explanation for why some people are able to bounce back from adversity while others never seem to recover.
The new report is not trying to suggest that the interactions between genes and life experiences have no meaning. It instead argues that nailing down those factors more precisely is much more difficult than scientists were led to believe just a few years ago.
The Times predicts that this new report is likely to incite a heated debate throughout the scientific field as to the direction of this specific segment of the field. With these findings, the genetics of illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder will remain even more elusive.
“This gene/life experience paradigm has been very influential in psychiatry, both in the studies people have done and the way data has been interpreted,” said Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, in the Times. Kendler is a professor of psychiatry and human genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University, “I think this paper really takes the wind out of its sails.”
Duke University neuroscientist Avshalom Caspi disagrees with this assessment and argues that more research into gene-environment interaction that is of higher quality is necessary to advance the field.
Like any quality scientific study, this area definitely needs further examination in order to better equip health professionals on the proper methods for treating patients. Any study that suggests a drastic deviation from common beliefs must be studied in depth to determine its validity.