Genetic Testing for Psychiatric Disorders

Research Overview:

Genome-wide association studies and examination of genomic structural variation have led to an increased interest in developing genetic tests for psychiatric disorders. Although currently genetic testing for mental illness is still too premature to be clinically valid, this could rapidly change as technology continues to advance and more data are collected. The possibility of using genetic testing for mental illness brings up a list of concerns including a reminder of the not-so-distant legacy of eugenics and the potential use of tests outside an appropriate clinical sphere.

As part of a larger project exploring ethical, legal, and social implications of psychiatric genetics testing, this study aims to: 1) understand the capabilities of existing technologies for psychiatric genetics testing and the direction of future research development and commercialization, 2) explore how those with a personal or family history of mood disorders are likely to respond to genetic testing for mood disorders, and 3) assess the stages of adoption of these tests among psychiatrists, a key stakeholder group in the utilization of these technologies. This ongoing project involves interviewing leading genetics researchers in the field who are actively working to identify genetic predictors of psychiatric disorders, early adopters of genetic testing with a personal or family history of mood disorders, and mental health care professionals.

By interviewing groups with a vested interest in genetic testing for psychiatric disorders, this study aims to identify and compare potential benefits, harms, usage recommendations and ethical concerns as identified by the primary stakeholders, with the goal of providing suggestions for the ethical application of this technology.


Erickson, J. The Missing Link: Genetic Researcher Perspectives on Psychiatric Genetic Testing, in ELSI Congress. 2011: Chapel Hill, NC.


Erickson, JA & Cho, MK.  (2011) Ethical Considerations and Risks in Psychiatric Genetics:  Preliminary Findings of a Study on Psychiatric Genetic Researchers.  American Journal of Bioethics Primary Research 2:52-60.

Research Personnel

Jessica Erickson, CIRGE Post-Baccalaureate Fellow (Former)
Dr. Laura Roberts, Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford Hospital & Clinics
Dr. Douglas Levinson, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford Hospital & Clinics