[PRC] A developmental approach to analysis of genetic data in population science: How DNA sequence variation shapes health, social, and economic outcomes across the human life course

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Date and Time: 
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Dan Belsky
Duke University School of Medicine and the Social Science Research Institute and Jacobs Foundation Research Fellow (2016-2018)

Genome-wide SNP genotyping in longitudinal cohort studies provides new opportunities for population science. This talk makes the case for using these new genetic data together with polygenic score methods to conduct developmental analyses that test pathways of genetic influence. Pathways in this context means the chain of events, behaviors, and phenotypes that connect DNA sequence variation with health, social, and economic endpoints. The goal of this developmental pathway approach is to identify targets for social policy and behavioral therapy interventions. The talk will review applications of the developmental pathway approach in research on smoking, obesity, and asthma, and present new findings based on results from GWAS of educational attainment. Data come from clinical exam, administrative, survey, and testing data that track a cohort of 1,037 children born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1972-73 through midlife. In brief, new findings trace a pattern of genetic influence on cognitive and social development that emerges in early language acquisition, continues through accelerated mental development, more successful educational careers, patterns of migration and mating, and ultimately social mobility and economic attainment. Cognitive and non-cognitive skills mediate links between DNA sequence and midlife socioeconomic success. Implications for population science, public policy, and public engagement with genomics will be discussed.