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Mental Health

Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetic Epidemiology

Family, twin and adoption studies show that genetic factors play an important role in the etiology of the major mental and behavioral health disturbances and responses to treatment for these disturbances. Faculty in the Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetic Epidemiology research area are engaged in research to identify the genetic factors and explain how they interact with the physical and social environment to increase (or decrease) the risk for these disturbances. The goal of this research is to establish better predictive models of who is at risk for illness and establish the foundation for developing more rational treatment and preventative strategies.   

The faculty in this program collaborate extensively with investigators from around the school, including the Department of Epidemiology and the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health; the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Institute of Genetic Medicine in the School of Medicine; and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. The departmental and affiliated faculty are involved in population and family based studies of a wide range of psychiatric disorders and related phenotypes including: Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Alzheimer’s Disease, Schizophrenia, Autism, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Substance Abuse and Dependence, Suicide, and Stress-related cortisol response. The latest tools and techniques are utilized from genome-wide linkage, genome-wide association, next-generation sequencing, gene expression and epigenetic studies.

There are a number of outstanding didactic and practical training opportunities for students in the Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetic Epidemiology research area. Students may pursue advanced coursework in genetic epidemiology, behavioral genetics, statistical genetics, and bioinformatics. Students may also gain practical research experience by collaborating on different projects lead by the departmental and affiliated faculty around the school.