Tricia A. Thornton-Wells, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Center for Human Genetics Research, Vanderbilt Institute of Imaging Science Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development
Is DNA a blueprint for the brain? Progress in understanding how our DNA can make us more or less likely to develop certain brain-based disorders has been hampered by variability in clinical features and severity of symptoms across people who have the same disorder. Increasingly, genetics researchers are doing a better job of collecting rich, quantitative data on disease-related features, and clinical testing is evolving to emphasize etiology rather than just symptomology. There are now multiple neuroimaging technologies that give us a window into brain structure and function, and an even wider variety of biomarkers of disease can be measured from blood or cerebrospinal fluid. Studies involving such quantitative data offer great potential for increasing our understanding of the underlying biology of brain diseases. Dr. Thornton-Wells will illustrate this quantitative approach to genetics research using examples from the field of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Thornton-Wells is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Human Genomics and the Departments of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University. She is an Investigator in the Center for Human Genetics Research, a Member of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, and a Member of the Vanderbilt Institute of Imaging Science. Dr. Thornton-Wells’ interests include neuroscience, statistical genetics, bioinformatics and neuroimaging. She has participated in genetic studies of Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, and depression and in neuroimaging studies of Williams syndrome and anxiety. Her current research focuses on investigating and incorporating MRI results in neuroimaging genetic association studies of Alzheimer’s disease.