Principal Investigator

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is one of the most pronounced public health concerns in the U.S. and cause an enormous burden to the society. In 2019, 14.5 million people of age 12 and older have AUD but only 7.2% of them had received treatment in the past year. Moreover, AUD may be correlated with cognitive decline and dementia could be a onerous burden to Individuals, family members, and the society. Both alcohol consumption and cognitive decline are often correlated to many unoberved factors such as genetics, personality traits, and risk perception therefore resulting in endogneity concerns. To tackle the endogeneity concerns, this project proposes to study the alcohol consumption of individuals of age 50 and older from the genetic perspective, which is pre-determined, and its association with cognitive decline. The development in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in past decades provide a straightforward method to summarize the genetic tendency of a certain trait (e.g., alcohol consumption) by calculating a Polygenic score (PGS). A higher PGS refers to a higher genetic tendency of a trait. We first aim to establish the association between alcohol consumption PGS and the rate of cognitive decline to alleviate the endogeneity of drinking behaviors. To further characterize the effects of alcohol consumption on cognitive decline, we identify stressful events (e.g., unemployment, divorce) and investigate how individuals respond to stressful events by changing their alcohol consumption. The frequencies and spacingof stressful events can facilitate dose response analyses. We then explore the genetic correlations between alcohol consumption and other traits (e.g., depression, bipolar, smoking behaviors, and personality traits) that often co-exist with AUD to obtain a clear picture of AUD, common comorbidities of AUD, and cognitive decline. Alcohol consumption, as a risk factor of many diseases, is modifiable via behavior modifications. Thus, we next investigate how education and social interactions may interact with alcohol consumption, which may shed light on behavior modification targets.

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