Our scientists explore the influence of genes on brain function and how they contribute to neurological or psychiatric disorders. Ultimately, we aim to be able to provide early diagnosis of certain conditions as well as develop medications that prevent or treat them.
We focus on the causes of substance abuse at several levels—genetic, genomic, and environmental—and the interactions between them.
Some people, for example, carry variants of genes that make them more susceptible to stress in their environments. This can raise their risk of substance abuse.
Our work centers on a gene that compartmentalizes dopamine, a vital brain chemical. Problems involving dopamine are linked to a wide range of brain disorders, including substance use disorders, depression, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We investigate the role of this gene at a molecular (genetic) level. Potentially, we will develop medications that target certain stages in that process.