What is addiction? Why do some people become dependent on alcohol and drugs and others not? Is it truly something that is “in our genes?” And if addiction is genetic, what should we do about it? Dr. Danielle Dick, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Human and Molecular Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University will orient an audience of curious citizens at this month’s Science Pub RVA on Tuesday, April 2nd.
Science Pub RVA invites the public to come listen to a brief, informal science talk delivered in plain language and then discuss the research and its implications in the casual environment of The Camel at 1621 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA. Come as early as 6:00 p.m, and grab a seat, drink, eats, etc. Dr. Dick has the floor at 7:00 p.m. and an open discussion will follow.
Dr. Danielle Dick’s research focuses on how genetic and environmental influences contribute to the development of patterns of substance use and related behaviors, such as antisocial behavior and depression. She and her colleagues have studied samples of 10,000 twins from early in adolescence until young adulthood, collecting longitudinal data on health behaviors and personality traits at multiple assessments from age 12 to 25.
Currently, she is studying questions such as:
- How important are genetic and environmental influences on various aspects of substance use and related disorders?
- Does the importance of genetic and environmental influences change across development?
- How do environmental risk factors, such as parental monitoring and home atmosphere, peers, and neighborhood influences, interact with genetic predispositions?
Dr. Dick is involved in projects aimed at identifying specific genes contributing to these disorders and characterizing the risk associated with those genes (e.g., do they impact multiple related phenotypes, such as both drinking and conduct problems; is the gene more or less important in particular environments; does the influence of the gene change across developmental stages).
In addition, she heads the genotyping component of several longitudinal, developmental studies, including the Child Development Project, a sample of 500 children followed with intensive annual assessments from kindergarten through age 25; the Mobile Youth Study, an on-going community-based sample of children ages 10-18 from high-risk, impoverished neighborhoods in Mobile, Alabama; and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, an epidemiological cohort of 10,000 children enrolled when their mothers were pregnant and assessed yearly. In these projects Dr. Dick is studying how identified genes contribute to trajectories of risk across development, and how different environmental factors exacerbate or mitigate risk.
Science Pub RVA is part of the NOVA Science Cafe's network promoted by the iconic, lonog-running PBS program NOVA. To learn more about Science Pub RVA send an email to Cynthia J. Gibbs at SciencePubRVA@gmail.com.