My work is focused on understanding causal factors contributing to substance use disorders, comorbid disorders and related traits, including impulsivity. In the past, I used behavioral and molecular analysis to address this question, with special emphasis on translational validity to human studies. I identified that high impulsivity, which is a maladaptive trait that is associated with substance use disorders, was both a cause and a consequence of human and mouse alcohol binge drinking. Over the past three years, my research has focused on the quantitative analysis of substance use disorders and externalizing traits in humans using genome-wide association methods (GWAS). This work was based on a collaboration with Dr. Palmer and the genetics company 23andMe, Inc. and used a cohort of ~25,000 individuals. We are currently expanding this work to include over 125,000 research participants.
More recently, I have been recently appointed as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego (UCSD). My newly formed lab uses genetic tools to unravel the biology of substance use disorders and comorbid psychopathology. Precisely, I use high-throughput phenotyping to identify individuals with substance use disorders phenotyped by using electronic health records, leveraging access to one of the largest biobanks in the US, BioVU, which contains data from over 2.8 million individuals. This represents a major paradigm shift in the field of psychiatric genetics, which could lead to major advances in gene discovery.