You are here

Areas of Study

The following are major areas of study at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics:

Drug Abuse & Adolescent Psychopathology

Studies:

Faculty:

  • John K. Hewitt
  • Thomas J. Crowley
  • Michael C. Stallings
  • Robin Corley
  • Ken Krauter
  • Susan Mikulich-Gilbertson
  • Soo H. Rhee
  • Gregory Carey
  • Stacey Cherny
  • Andrew Smolen
  • Susan Young
  • Marissa A. Ehringer

Publication Highlights:

Hopfer, C.J., Lessem, J.M., Hartman, C.A., Stallings, M.C., Cherny, S.S., Corley, R.P., Hewitt, J.K., Krauter, K.S., Mikulich-Gilbertson, S.K., Rhee, S.H., Smolen, A., Young, S.E., Crowley, T.J. (2006). A genome-wide scan for loci influencing adolescent cannabis dependence symptoms: Evidence for linkage on chromosomes 3 and 9. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 89, 34-41. PUBMED abstract

Ehringer, M.A., Rhee, S.H., Young, S.E., Corley, R.P., Hewitt, J.K. (2006). Genetic and environmental contributions to common psychopathologies of childhood and adolescence: A study of twins and their siblings. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34, 1-17. PUBMED abstract

Stallings, M.C., Corley, R.P., Dennehey, B., Hewitt, J.K., Krauter, K.S., Lessem, J.M., Mikulich-Gilbertson, S.K., Rhee, S.H., Smolen, A., Young, S.E., & Crowley, T.J. (2005). A genome-wide search for quantitative trait loci influencing antisocial drug dependence in adolescence. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 1042-1051. PUBMED abstract

Video:

Learning, Memory & Reading

Studies:

Colorado Learning Disabilities Research Center

Faculty:

  • Sally Wadsworth
  • Richard Olson
  • Eric Willcutt
  • Bruce Pennington

 

Publication Highlights:

Willcutt, E.G., Pennington, B.F., Duncan, L.E., Smith, S.S., Keenan, J.M., Wadsworth, S., DeFries, J.C., & Olson, R.K. (2010). Understanding the complex etiologies of developmental disorders: Behavioral and molecular genetic approaches. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 31(7), 533-544. PUBMED abstract

Friend, A., DeFries, J.C., & Olson, R.K. (2008). Parental Education Moderates Genetic Influences on Reading Disability. Psychological Science,19, 1124-1130.>PUBMED abstract

Christopher, M. E., Miyake, A., Keenan, J. M., Pennington, B. F., DeFries, J. C., Wadsworth, S. J., Willcutt, E. G., & Olson, R. K. (2012). Predicting word reading and comprehension with executive function and speed measures: A latent variable analysis. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(3), 470–488. PUBMED abstract

 

Video:

Aging

Studies:

Faculty:

  • Tom Johnson
  • Chris Link

Publication Highlights:

Liao, C.-Y., Rikke, B.A., Johnson, T. E., Diaz, V. and Nelson, J.F., 2010 No evidence that competition for food underlies lifespan shortening by dietary restriction in multiply housed mice: Response to commentary. Aging Cell in press.

Liao, C.-Y., Rikke, B.A., Johnson, T. E., Diaz, V. and Nelson, J.F., 2009 Genetic variation in the murine lifespan response to dietary restriction: from life extension to life shortening. Aging Cell 9:92-95. PMCID 19878144.

Video:

Evolution

Evolutionary genetics is a sub-branch of population genetics that studies (a) the evolutionary processes that account for changes in gene frequency over time and (b) the causes and consequences of existing genetic variation. Behavioral genetics is the study of genetic variation underlying human psychological traits. Evolutionary behavioral genetics combines these two fields. At IBG, we recognize the importance of taking an evolutionary perspective in understanding the genetic variation that underlies human disorders and other psychological traits. This approach is the flip side of the coin to the standard evolutionary psychology approach, which typically focuses on human universals and adaptations.

We are using whole genome SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) data to understand the patterns of genetic variation, which in turn provides information on the roles of directional selection, balancing selection, mutation, and genetic drift on the genes that affect mental health traits. These studies overlap considerably with those using statistical genetics techniques, although we are open to using any method that can substantively increase knowledge in this area. We are also comparing human SNP data to SNP data from non-human primates to pinpoint genes that may underlie human-specific traits. In the future, sequencing data (data on every nucleotide in an individual's genome) will be available, which will dramatically expand our ability to answer fundamental questions about human genetic variation.

Studies:

  • SNP homozygosity study: Using SNP data, Keller and McQueen are assessing individuals' degree of homozygosity to understand the role of directional dominance and purifying selection on various mental health traits.
  • Recent selection on genes underlying mental health: Keller and McQueen are scanning the genome to assess for areas that have been under recent positive selection, and noting which of these areas influence mental health traits.
  • Evolutionary genomics of human cognition: To gain insights into the evolutionary genomics of human and great ape lineages, Sikela and colleagues are using cDNA aCGH to identify lineage-specific gene duplications or losses that have occurred between these lineages. Of particular interest are those human lineage-specific genes that underlie the cognitive abilities unique to the human brain, and how such genes, when defective, lead to cognitive disability.

Faculty:

  • Matthew Keller
  • Matthew B. McQueen
  • James Sikela

Video: