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O'Donovan figures most people have at least 20 to 30 genes that nudge them toward developing schizophrenia, probably many more, but don’t have the disorder itself. That’s because it may still take an environmental or emotional trigger to bring on the illness.

Insel was especially excited about one study finding, that people with the most genetic markers were 15 times more likely to have schizophrenia than those with the fewest markers. He said he hoped that scientists can eventually develop a genetic test to identify young people at high risk for the disease, so they can be offered early treatment.

But O'Donovan and McCarroll said the work is way too preliminary to even hint at that. Even the people with elevated risk of schizophrenia according to the test were far more likely to be free of the disorder than to have it.

As for developing treatments, “I don’t want to pretend than anybody’s going to make drugs easily,” Lander said.

But he said the study of schizophrenia genetics is now to the point that “we can actually turn the lights on and see what’s going on.”