The EDGE Lab focuses alcohol use and related outcomes, like conduct problems in kids, depression, and other drug use, and how these outcomes are a product of our genetic predispositions and our environments.
We work across multiple types of research projects, such as gene identification efforts, where we are trying to find the specific genes involved in why some people are more likely to develop problems than others.
We also work on twin studies, where we compare different types of twins who differ in how much of their genetic variation they share, in order to figure out how much of the variability in an outcomes is due to genetic influences or environmental influences. This was originally called the so-called nature-nurture debate. We now know that most everything is influenced by both our genes and our environments, and so we’re studying more complex questions like how the importance of genetic and environmental influences changes across time, or the extent to which certain environments can change the importance of genetic effects.
The last type of study we utilize is longitudinal studies of kids, where we are trying to understand how the risk associated with genes that we’re identifying unfolds across time. So, for example, what do kids who are carrying genetic predispositions associated with an increased risk for adult alcohol dependence look like as they grow up, and importantly, we know that genes aren’t destiny, so what environments can change the likelihood that an individual who is genetically at risk will actually go on to develop problems.