The objective of this independent postdoctoral fellowship award (F32) is to support the applicant's training goals of improving understanding of the genetics of alcohol involvement and its comorbidity with self-harm and other forms of psychopathology (e.g., borderline personality disorder), while facilitating expertise in statistica genetic methods, both complex twin modeling and molecular genetic approaches. Previous research has demonstrated that adolescents and adults reporting problematic alcohol involvement are much more likely to engage in self-harm, both suicidal attempt (SA) and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Relatively little is known, however, about putative genetic factors tht may contribute to the comorbidity between self-harm and various stages of alcohol involvement, such as early onset alcohol use and alcohol use disorder (AUD).
The aim of this investigation is to utilize genetically informative twin and genomewide association study (GWAS) datasets to examine the genetic overlap between alcohol involvement, NSSI and SA, and to also examine the influence of borderline personality features (BPF) on this comorbidity.
The specific aims are (1) to examine the relationship between self-harm and early onset alcohol use, more specifically, whether individuals reporting early onset alcohol use are more likely to report self-harm and the degree to which genetic and individual-specific environmental influences link early alcohol exposure to self-harm, (2) to examine the relationship between self- harm and AUD, specifically the extent to which genetic and environmental factors link self-harm and AUD and the influence of BPF on this genetic and environmental overlap, and finally, (3) to identify genomic influences on self-harm and investigate whether they contribute to its relationship with AUD. Accomplishing these aims will be accompanied by the following training objectives: (a) improve understanding of the genetics of alcohol involvement and its comorbidity with self-harm, (b) enhance skills related to twin methodology, including multivariate twin modeling and the discordant twin approach, (c) acquire skills for genomic studies, including GWAS, (d) obtain responsible conduct of research training, and (e) prepare a career development grant. The applicant has assembled a mentoring team with expertise in the genetics of alcohol-related measures and consultants with considerable expertise in NSSI and BPF and proposed a training plan that combines didactics (e.g. formal coursework in addiction genetics and genomics) and one-on-one discussions with her mentoring team. The short term goal of this proposal is to produce publications that will serve as preliminary data for the development of future proposals. The long term goal of this training and research is to establish the applicant as an independent investigator with expertise in biologically informed studies of alcohol involvement and psychopathology.
Both alcohol use and self-harm are substantial contributors to the global burden of disease. The objective of this research is to examine the extent to which various stages of alcohol involvement and self-harm share genetic and environmental etiologies, a critical step in understanding this comorbid psychopathology and informing future intervention.