Lab of Alicia Smith, PhD
The development of psychiatric disorders is influenced by specific environmental risk factors, but the mechanism through which this occurs is unclear. The relationship may be direct, or it may occur only in those with a particular genetic susceptibility. Research in this lab focuses on the role of genetic and epigenetic variation in predicting behavioral and psychiatric traits. In particular, we are interested in the prenatal environment and early childhood because evidence suggests that adversity during these critical developmental periods increases the risk of developing childhood behavioral problems and adult psychiatric disorders. Thus, we evaluate 1) prenatal 2) child and 3) adult cohorts to determine how risk factors such as diet, stress or medication exposure interact with sequence variants or with DNA methylation patterns to promote risk. Through collaborations, we are also developing analytical strategies for genome-wide DNA methylation data and working with translational animal models.