Professor Murmann's Research Blog: The Power of a Good Meta-Analysis

The Power of a Good Meta-Analysis

Chinese scientists have carried out a powerful meta-analysis and created new knowledge about the chemical pathways that lead to addiction. Can social scientist imitate this model? I am not sure. But certainly we should strive to do so.

Dr Wei therefore ran her 396 genes through a database of all known pathways to see which involved several enzymes encoded by those genes. She found 18 that were involved in addiction to at least one type of drug. Five, however, were common to all four types, and these five pathways therefore look as though they are at the core of the process of addiction. Three of the five were already under suspicion. Dr Wei’s result provided strong statistical evidence to back up what had just been hunches. Two other pathways, however, had not previously been considered as being involved in addiction. The existence of these five central pathways helps explain a lot about addiction. First, it gives weight to the belief that some people are more susceptible to all sorts of addiction than others are. That contrasts with the thought that addictions are substance-by-substance phenomena, though the two ideas are not mutually exclusive since changes in the 13 substance-specific pathways clearly also result in addiction.

Full story is available at Economist.com.

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