Why Genes?

On television shows like “Law and Order” and “CSI”, you hear a lot about DNA. On TV, the police use DNA samples to figure out who committed the crime. But, police officers aren’t the only ones interested in genes. In psychology, we’ve learned that a person’s genes can influence how likely they are to have certain personality traits or to behave in certain ways. Are you super extraverted – the life of the party? Can you drink way more than your friends, and still be sober at the end of the night? This is probably due – in part – to your unique genetic make-up.

Technology has improved so much that now we only need a tiny sample of saliva in order to “genotype” you. “Genotyping” means measuring which version of a gene that you have. (Most genes have two versions, called “alleles”.) There are hundreds of thousands of genes in the human genome, but we will be focusing on just a few. We’ve chosen these because other researchers have found that they may influence how your body responds to alcohol and how much you drink. These genes play a role in how the neurons in your brain communicate with each other.

You should know that information about your genetic make-up is totally and completely private and confidential. We won’t tell anyone – your doctor, your spouse, your insurance company – anything about your genes. So what do you have to do to give a DNA sample? It’s pretty easy. We will send you a “genotyping kit” in the mail. It will have a little tube, instructions on how to spit into the tube, and an envelope to mail it back to us. All you have to do is follow the instructions and spit into the tube. It usually takes about 5 minutes. That’s it! MORE…