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Genetics of Vulnerability to Antisocial Behavior

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The candidate is applying for a mentored scientist development (K01) award to gain training and experience in the measurement and analysis of neurophysiological and neuropsychological traits that may be related to vulnerability to antisocial behavior. Kenneth Kendler, M.D., at the multidisciplinary Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University, will be her primary mentor. Laura Baker, Ph.D., at the University of Southern California, is a co-sponsor of the proposal and will provide the majority of the off-site training in the collection of neurophysiological and neuropsychological measures. Research using twin and adoption studies has revealed the importance of both genetic and environmental factors in the development of antisocial behavior. To date, however, efforts to uncover the specific risk factors that are related to vulnerability to antisocial behavior using genetically informative data are rare. Using data from three extant twin studies, the candidate will explore the role of arousal, personality, executive functioning, and impulsivity in the development of antisocial behavior, paying particular attention to the impact of sex and age, the heterogeneity of antisocial behavior, and potential biological risk x environment interactions. She will also receive formal training in both theoretical and practical issues of using neurophysiological and neuropsychological traits as endophenotypes for antisocial behavior. The candidate will then apply this knowledge and experience to the pilot data collection of neurophysiological and neuropsychological traits and antisocial behavior from a sample of 25 adult, male-male sibling pairs, under the guidance of Scott Vrana, Ph.D., a co-sponsor of the application at Virginia Commonwealth University. Of particular interest is the feasibility of measuring neurophysiological and neuropsychological traits in non-laboratory settings. Ultimately, the candidate would like to apply the knowledge and experience gained from the mentored scientist award to a large-scale study of biological and environmental risk factors for the development of antisocial behavior among adult twin pairs.

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