VCU Home Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics Faculty

Danielle M. Dick

Associate Professor
Department of Psychiatry, Psychology and Human and Molecular Genetics

Tel: 804 828 8756
Fax: 804 828 1471
P.O. Box:
Biotech 1-115

My 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. To this end, I work across twin studies, gene identification projects, and longitudinal, community samples of individuals. We have on-going studies 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. We are currently 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? In addition, I am 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). Research opportunities involve working on the population-based Finnish Twin studies (described above); the Collaborative Study of the Genetics of Alcoholism and/or the Irish Alcohol Dependence Sample, two projects with the goal of identifying genes involved in alcohol dependence and related disorders. In addition, I head the genotyping component of several longitudinal, developmental studies, with extensive phenotypic assessments spanning from early childhood to mid-adulthood, and genotyping being conducted at our molecular genetics laboratory at VCU. These include the Child Development Project, a sample of ~500 children followed with intensive annual assessments from kindergarten through age 25; and the Mobile Youth Study, an on-going community-based sample of children ages 10-18 from high-risk, impoverished neighborhoods in Mobile, Alabama. In addition, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children is an epidemiological cohort of ~10,000 children enrolled when their mothers were pregnant and assessed yearly, prenatally through young adulthood, for a wealth of psychiatric and other health related outcomes and environmental factors. In these projects we are studying how identified genes contribute to trajectories of risk across development, and how different environmental factors exacerbate or mitigate risk.


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