David Cesarini, PhD
Assistant Professor of Economics, Center for Experimental Social Science, New York University
Talk Title: Education-associated SNPs, Brain Function and Psychiatric Disorders: A Progress Report from the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium.
Abstract: Educational attainment has important consequences for economic, social, and health outcomes. We report a large genome-wide association study of educational attainment in ~300,000 individuals. We identify 74 independent genome-wide-significant SNPs and show that they replicate better than expected statistically in an independent sample (N = 111,349). Education-increasing alleles are associated with increased cognitive performance and intracranial volume, increased risk of bipolar disorder, decreased risk of Alzheimer’s, and lower neuroticism. The genes in our analyses are preferentially expressed in neural tissue, especially during the prenatal period, and enriched for biological pathways involved in many stages of neural development, including progenitor proliferation, neuronal migration, and the growth of axons and dendrites.
About: Most of my current work is devoted to understanding the value (and limitations) of genetic marker data in economic analysis. With Dan Benjamin and Philipp Koellinger, I co-direct the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium (www.ssgac.org), a research group designed to stimulate dialogue and cooperation between medical geneticists and social scientists. The SSGAC facilitates collaborative research that seeks to identify associations between specific genetic markers and behavioral traits, such as preferences, personality and social-science outcomes. SSGAC papers have been published in venues such as Science, PNAS and Psychological Science. Currently, the SSGAC has two major gene discovery efforts underway, one on educational attainment (and its precursors) and one on life satisfaction.