Mapping the UK's genetic and environmental hotspots
Dr Oliver Davis - Post-doctoral Fellow at the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King's College London
Oliver read biological Natural Sciences at Cambridge before studying for a PhD in Statistical Genetics at King's College London (KCL). After his PhD, he was awarded a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust, spending time at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford and the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, before returning to the MRC Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at KCL's Institute of Psychiatry, where he is currently Lecturer in Statistical Genetics. His research develops new methods to untangle genetic and environmental influences on the emergence of psychiatric disorders in early adulthood. One particular focus is exploring how we can apply the science of visual perception to inform the representation of large and complex data. This visual analysis approach combines statistics and visualisation, integrating genetic and environmental information from large population samples to build and test developmental hypotheses of mental health and disorder.
By studying identical and fraternal twins, we can estimate the relative contributions of nature and nurture to human phenotypes. Variation in complex traits is a balance of genetic and environmental influences; these influences are typically estimated at a population level. However, what if the balance of nature and nurture varies depending on where we grow up? We use statistical and visual analysis of geocoded data from over 6700 families to show that genetic and environmental contributions to 45 childhood cognitive and behavioural phenotypes vary geographically in the United Kingdom. This has implications for detecting environmental exposures that may interact with the genetic influences on complex traits, and for the statistical power of genetic association studies. More broadly, our experience demonstrates the potential for collaborative exploratory visualization to act as a common language for large-scale interdisciplinary research.
Please contact Val Williamson for further information.