Abstracts - Speakers

First Annual Waggoner Center Advance - March 22, 2013



Paige Harden, PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Candidate Gene Associations with Alcohol Use Phenotypes: A Developmental Perspective

Efforts to uncover specific genes associated with alcohol use in humans are beset with methodological challenges, including how to best define the behavioral phenotypes of interest. In this talk, I propose that phenotypic measures can be substantially improved - and research on the genetic underpinnings of alcohol use can thus be enriched - by considering behavioral development over time. A developmental perspective emphasizes longitudinal continuities and discontinuities in how an individual deviates from age-graded norms, rather than narrowly focusing on a discrete diagnosis at a single time-point. This perspective guides our NIAAA-funded project, the "Genes and New Experiences Study" (GENES), which will genotype a large cohort of young adults who have provided 10 waves of behavioral data over the transition from adolescence to adulthood, focusing on 5 candidate genes with replicated associations with alcohol response and/or alcohol use. In particular, our hypotheses are informed by three developmental principles: (1) there are continuities between clinical disorder and "normal" variation in behavior; (2) heterogeneous etiological processes may produce homogeneous behavioral outcomes (equifinality); and (3) genetic influences on complex phenotypes emerge, in part, via reciprocal transactions between person and environment.