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VCU Psychology Department

Can people have a "relationship" with the natural world?

Human behavior is at the root of the rapid pace of climate change. What leads people to perceive greater interdependence with the environment? How does their commitment to the environment predict pro-environmental behavior? read more...


What increases emergency visits in children with asthma?

How are family/culturally-based beliefs about asthma, caregiver quality of life, and emergency department use associated in pediatric asthma? read more...


Can we train students' brains to work more effectively?

Direct cognitive training in a school setting represents an important innovation for developing the underlying thinking skills needed for educational success. Can we make computers better "trainers"? read more...


Can you strengthen your character in six hours?

Religious and secular self-help experts have long helped people build character strengths. But can people achieve as much—or even more!—benefit by working through six-hour workbooks at home? read more...


Dr. Danielle Dick

Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Human and Molecular Genetics (tenured)

Affiliate of Clinical, Developmental, and Health Psychology

Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics


PhD (2001), Indiana University

Contact Information

Phone: 804-828-8756

Office: Biotech One, Suite 1, rm 115


Research Interests

My research focuses on how genetic and environmental influences contribute to the development of patterns of substance use and related behaviors, such as antisocial behavior and depression. We have studied samples of >10,000 twins from early in adolescence until young adulthood, collecting longitudinal data on health behaviors and personality traits at multiple assessments from age 12 to 25. We are currently studying questions such as: how important are genetic and environmental influences on various aspects of substance use and related disorders; does the importance of genetic and environmental influences change across development; how do environmental risk factors, such as parental monitoring and home atmosphere, peers, and neighborhood influences, interact with genetic predispositions? In addition, I am involved in projects aimed at identifying specific genes contributing to these disorders and characterizing the risk associated with those genes (e.g., do they impact multiple related phenotypes, such as both drinking and conduct problems; is the gene more or less important in particular environments; does the influence of the gene change across developmental stages). Research opportunities involve working on the population-based Finnish Twin studies (described above); the Collaborative Study of the Genetics of Alcoholism and/or the Irish Alcohol Dependence Sample, two projects with the goal of identifying genes involved in alcohol dependence and related disorders. In addition, I head the genotyping component of several longitudinal, developmental studies, with extensive phenotypic assessments spanning from early childhood to mid-adulthood, and genotyping being conducted at our molecular genetics laboratory at VCU. These include the Child Development Project, a sample of ~500 children followed with intensive annual assessments from kindergarten through age 25; the Mobile Youth Study, an on-going community-based sample of children ages 10-18 from high-risk, impoverished neighborhoods in Mobile, Alabama; and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, an epidemiological cohort of ~10,000 children enrolled when their mothers were pregnant and assessed yearly -- prenatally through young adulthood. In these projects we are studying how identified genes contribute to trajectories of risk across development, and how different environmental factors exacerbate or mitigate risk.

Selected Publications

Dick, D. M., Pagan, J. L., Viken, R. J., Purcell, S., Kaprio, J., Pulkkinen, L. & Rose, R. J. (2007). Changing environmental influences on substance use across development. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 10, 315-26.

Dick, D. M., Bierut, L., Hinrichs, A., Fox, L., Bucholz, K. K., Kramer, J., Kuperman, S., Hesselbrock, V., Schuckit, M., Almasy, L., Tischfield, J., Porjesz, B., Begleiter, H., Nurnberger, Jr., J., Xuei, X., Edenberg, H. J., & Foroud, T. (2006). The role of GABRA2 in risk for conduct disorder and alcohol and drug dependence across developmental stages. Behavior Genetics, 36(4), 577-590.

Dick, D. M., Purcell, S., Viken, R., Kaprio, J., Pulkkinen, L., & Rose, R. J. (2007). Parental monitoring moderates the importance of genetic and environmental influences on adolescent smoking. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116, 213-218.

Dick, D. M., Latendresse, S. J., Lansford, J. E., Budde, J. P., Goate, A., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. The Role of GABRA2 in Trajectories of Externalizing Behavior Across Development and Evidence of Moderation by Parental Monitoring. Archives of General Psychiatry, 2009 Jun;66(6):649-57.

Dick, D. M., Smith, G., Olausson, P., Mitchell, S. H., Leeman, R.F., O'Malley, S. S., & Sher, K. Understanding the Construct of Impulsivity and its Relationship to Alcohol Use Disorders. Addiction Biology, 2010 Apr;15(2):217-26.

Recent Courses Taught at VCU
Recent Grants

Principal Investigator. Gene-environment Interplay in Adolescent Alcohol Use. NIAAA. 1 R01 AA01541601. 8/31/2006-8/31/2010 (revision application funded through 8/31/2011) $206,550.

Principal Investigator VCU site (Brian Mustanski, University of Illinois, Chicago, Project PI). Gene-Environment Interaction Effects in HIV Risk. NIDA. 1 R01 MH77538-01. 3/1/08-2/28/13. $610,511

Principal Investigator. Identifying Genes Involved in Susceptibility to Suicide Attempts and Related Psychiatric Disorders. NARSAD Young Investigator Award. 1/1/08-12/31/09 (no cost extension). $30,000.

Principal Investigator VCU site. Development of Antisocial Behavior in Early Adulthood. NIMH. 3 R01 MH057024-07S1. 2/1/2006 – 1/31/2007 (currently in a no cost extension). Award Total $234,036.

Principal Investigator, VCU site. Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism. NIAAA. 5 U10 AA08403-15. 09/01/04 – 08/31/09.

Integrating twin molecular and developmental approaches to understanding alcohol misuse. NIAAA K02. Role: P.I. 12/1/09-11/30/14. $663,601

Dissecting the Alcohol Dependence Phenotype. Role: P.I. Pilot Project as part of the VCU Developmental Alcohol Research Center grant: Cross Species Characterization of Gene Networks in Acute Responses to Ethanol. NIAAA P20 AA017828-01 . 12/01/08 – 11/30/12. $72,804

Identification of human loci influencing alcohol dependence, alcohol tolerance and initial sensitivity to alcohol. Role: Co-Investigator. (Brien Riley, VCU, PI) Developmental Project 2 as part of the VCU Developmental Alcohol Research Center grant: Cross Species Characterization of Gene Networks in Acute Responses to Ethanol. (K. Kendler, M. Miles, MPI, VCU). NIAAA P20 AA017828-01 . 12/01/08 – 11/30/12

Developmental Genetic Epidemiology of Smoking. Role: Co-Investigator. (Maes, VCU, PI). NIDA R01 DA025109-01. 09/01/09-08/31/14. $250,000

Recent Awards