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Perspectives on Improving Patient Care: Genetics, Personalized Medicine, and Behavioral Intervention

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Personalized medicine—improving the fit between patient and treatment—has become a major focus of research in fields from cancer treatment to the psychopharmacology of mental disorders. Genetic studies have suggested that an individual’s genetic makeup renders him either more or less sensitive to stressful social environments—but can an individual’s unique genotype also determine the effectiveness of preventative or therapeutic behavioral interventions?

The current issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, combines nine stimulating articles in the first systematic effort to survey the possibilities of genetics research, personalized medicine, and behavioral intervention.

“Personalized medicine is being seen by many as the future of clinical treatment,” says Alan G. Kraut, Executive Director of the Association for Psychological Science. “The articles in this special issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science identify several important areas of focus that must be considered by researchers, patients, and clinicians as the field advances.”

Initiated by the Division of Behavioral and Social Research of the National Institute on Aging (NIA), this special issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science addresses the current opinion about the importance of genetically informed research designs in determining the precise targets, timing, and mechanisms of behavioral interventions.

“The intersection of behavior and genetics provides exciting research possibilities,” said Richard Suzman, Ph.D., director of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research. “If we can determine the extent to which we can tailor treatments to the unique genetic characteristics of an individual, then we will be on our way to the era of personalized interventions to change behavioral risk factors for a variety of conditions.”

Articles in this issue include:

Development, Social Relationships and Genetics: Appraising Apposition and Integration

Genetic Thinking in the Study of Social Relationships: Five Points of EntryDavid Reiss

Refining Intervention Targets in Family-Based ResearchLeslie D. Leve, Gordon T. Harold, Xiaojia Ge, Jenae M. Neiderhiser, and Gerald Patterson


Genetic Tools for Causal Inference in Social Theory and Behavioral Intervention

Mendelian Randomization for Strengthening Causal Inference in Observational Studies: Application to Gene × Environment InteractionsGeorge Davey Smith

Causal Inference and Observational Research: The Utility of TwinsMatt McGue, Merete Osler, and Kaare Christensen

Genetics and Intervention ResearchRobert Plomin and Claire M.A. Haworth


Targeting Behavioral Intervention and Understanding its Impact: Econometric and Genetic Models

Early Adversity and Developmental Outcomes: Interaction Between Genetics, Epigenetics, and Social Experiences Across the LifespanFrances A. Champagne

Heterogeneity of Physical Function Responses to Exercise in Older Adults: Possible Contribution of Variation in the Angiotensin-1 Converting Enzyme (ACE) Gene?Barbara J. Nicklas

Understanding the Early Origins of the Education–Health Gradient: A Framework That Can Also Be Applied to Analyze Gene–Environment InteractionGabriella Conti and James J. Heckman

Contemporary Modeling of Gene × Environment Effects in Randomized Multivariate Longitudinal StudiesJohn J. McArdle and Carol A. Prescott


The NIA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It leads the Federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the health and well-being of older people. For more information on research and aging, go to
www.nia.nih.gov.