Athens, Ga. – University of Georgia researchers have been awarded a five-year, $5.9 million Core Center of Excellence grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to address the ways genetic predispositions combine with family and community environments to forecast drug use, drug abuse and risky sexual behavior among children, adolescents and young adults.
The principal investigator is Gene H. Brody, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Child and Family Development in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences and director of the Center for Family Research. Co-principal investigators are Steven R.H. Beach, director of the UGA Institute for Behavioral Research and Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology, and Steven M. Kogan, assistant professor of child and family development.
The CCOE will bring together a team of molecular and statistical geneticists, genetic epidemiologists and scientists specializing in prevention, public health and human development. Participating researchers are at the University of Georgia, Emory University, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Iowa.
The grant will allow Brody and his fellow researchers to build on longitudinal, epidemiological research that dates back more than two decades. In that original research, Brody and his colleagues identified young people who were at risk for engaging in drug use, drug abuse, and risky sexual behavior. They also identified specific parenting practices and community characteristics that served to minimize the incidence of young people’s engagement in risky behavior.
Recently, Brody and his colleagues have begun to study the role genes play in the development of these risky behaviors. This research has begun to identify candidate genes that forecast increases in substance use and behavior problems among youth, as well as ways in which participation in prevention programs can override genetic risks.
The ultimate goal of the Center of Excellence, Brody said, “is to increase the efficacy of prevention programs by developing a better understanding of how genes and social environments interact to influence youths’ initiation and escalation of substance use and risky behaviors.”
More information on the UGA Center for Family Research is available at http://www.cfr.uga.edu/.