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Here at the Behavioral Genetics of Addiction Laboratory, we conduct studies that identify genetic and environmental factors related to substance addiction. The primary goals are to identify differences in our DNA that influence our relationship with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other illicit drugs. Another goal of the laboratory is to understand additional traits and behaviors that may predate the onset of substance use/addiction or co-occur with substance use/addiction, such as major depression, conduct problems, and novelty seeking.


A genome. Courtesy of Illumina, Inc.
A genome. Courtesy of Illumina, Inc.


Our studies use large databases that contain information from participants who provide their DNA to help identify and understand the biological mechanism(s) of these behaviors. We analyze the genomewide differences between all of these individuals to identify elements that co-segregate with the behavior/trait under study.


Our research also uses samples of twins and families to conduct quasi-experimental studies of human behavior. Twin, adoption, and family designs are useful because they allow for proxy control over genetic effects that may be shared by offspring, thus allowing for less biased assessments of the role of environmental experiences on behaviors/traits. Moreover, using the classical twin design, we can approximate the contribution of genes and environment to behavior.


Last but not least, we explore novel risk prediction methods of these phenotypes using supervised and unsupervised statistical methods.


Please take the time to tour the rest of our pages or contact Dr. Rohan Palmer for details.