The following are major areas of study and methodological approaches at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics:
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.
The Institute for Behavioral Genetics has both human and animal studies methodological approaches used by researchers. At the intersection of these broad classes of methodological approaches are the specific topics studied at IBG
Adams CA, Yonchek J, Schulz K, Graw S, Stitzel J, Teschke P, and Stevens K. 2012 Reduced Chrna7 expression in mice is associated with decreases in hippocampal markers of inhibitory function: implications for neuropsychiatric diseases. Neuroscience 207:274-82.
Brain imaging is used to investigate the neural substrates of cognitive control and decision making in various studies at IBG. With the arrival of a new 3T scanner in Boulder, several studies are underway to examine neural substrates of individual differences in executive functions in the CTS and LTS twin samples. The data will be used in both biometric twin studies and molecular genetic studies to examine brain correlates of the genetic variance in these phenotypes.
The following faculty specialize in fMRI Research:
The methodological approaches of genetic epidemiology and statistical genetics are primarily focused on the identification of genetic variation underlying complex disease. Here at IBG, there is a particular interest in the genetics of psychiatric, behavioral and neurologic disorders. IBG researchers make use of well-characterized longitudinal data arising from both family-based and population-based samples. Statistical and epidemiological approaches being used at IBG include linkage analysis, genome-wide association, candidate gene association and the analysis of sequence data.
All human studies utilize statistical genetics.
The following faculty specialize in Statistical Genetics Research: