University College London
Thursday 12th June 2014, 11:50am
TWITTER | @oligotweet
TITLE | Computational Behavioural Genetics
ABSTRACT | Genetic and environmental variation affect all complex human traits and disorders. Recent large-scale genome-wide association studies have been successful in identifying some of the specific genetic variants associated with human behaviour, and we often assume these associations will hold true within the same population irrespective of age or environmental context. However, twin and family studies tell us that for some traits heritability increases throughout childhood and adolescence, a finding reflected at the molecular level by the changing effect sizes of individual genetic variants. In a similar way, exposure to different environments can change how our genetic variants express themselves. One of the major challenges of coming years will be understanding how we can engineer our environment to mitigate genetic risk of disease. But with ever-larger population samples, vast and increasing quantities of genetic data and the need for more detailed environmental exposure information, how can we hope to unravel the complex influences and interactions? I will give two examples of how our lab is addressing that challenge: the spACE project, which is using data from tens of thousands of twins to map the world’s genetic and environmental hotspots (http://sgdp.iop.kcl.ac.uk/davis/teds/geocoding/), and a new collaboration with Claire Haworth’s lab at Warwick (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/psych/people/chaworth/) that is analysing millions of tweets to track genetic and environmental influences on wellbeing in emerging adulthood.
BIOGRAPHY | Oliver read biological Natural Sciences at Cambridge, specialising in Experimental Psychology. He went on to study for an MRC-funded MSc and PhD in Statistical Behavioural Genetics at the MRC Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King’s College London. Following his PhD he was awarded a Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowship to identify patterns of genome-wide association in the development of cognitive, behavioural and psychiatric disorders, spending time at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, and at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge. In January 2013 he moved to UCL Genetics Institute, where he leads the London half of the Dynamic Genetics lab, developing new computational, statistical and visual analysis techniques, and applying them to datasets from large genetically informative population samples. The lab’s aim is to use big genetic and social data to unweave the nature and nurture of complex traits and common disorders throughout development.