We used a novel approach to identify candidate alternative phenotypes for investigating genetic influence underlying substance use disorders (SUDs) in adolescents. The existing literature suggests that P300 amplitude reduction (P3-AR) observed in brain event-related potentials is associated with risk for SUDs generally, not just alcoholism. Using data from a community-based sample of 17-year-old male and female twins, we fit biometric models to P3 amplitude data to show that it is strongly heritable, especially in boys. The extant evidence coupled with our findings strongly supports treating P3-AR as an endophenotype indexing SUD risk. We then examined a set of 15 potential alternative phenotypes (e.g., frequent use of cannabis) to determine whether they were associated with P3-AR. The results indicated that almost all of these alternative phenotypes were associated with P3-AR, with larger effect sizes observed for boys. Given the strong association of these use phenotypes with P3-AR, which is itself an index of genetic risk for SUDs, we conclude that these use phenotypes may provide tools for finding vulnerability genes in adolescents who have yet to pass through the age of risk for SUDs.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Supported in part by the National Institute of Health grants DA 05147, DA 13420, AA 09367, and MH 65137.
- Alternative phenotypes
- Substance abuse risk