Price E. Dickson

Price E. Dickson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor 

Research Interest

Systems approach for discovery of genetic and genomic mechanisms driving drug use and addiction-like behavior in experimental mouse populations. The overarching goal driving my research is to identify the genetic, genomic, and environmental mechanisms underlying drug addiction, a heritable disease with devastating effects on individuals and society. To this end, I use a multidisciplinary approach which includes systems genetics, cutting-edge mouse populations, and gold-standard behavioral techniques for addiction phenotyping, most notably intravenous drug self-administration.

Systems genetics using experimental mouse populations is a powerful approach that enables discovery of novel genetic and genomic mechanisms influencing disease by associating natural genotypic and phenotypic variation. The systems approach requires no a priori hypotheses about the genetic mechanisms driving a disease; the only requirement is a well-defined, construct-valid assay through which to index a disease phenotype. Using complementary methodology that includes disease phenotyping in mice, quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping, expression QTL mapping, and gene expression to phenotype correlation, systems genetics enables identification of novel and possibly unexpected disease-associated genes. These candidates can then be validated using a CRISPR-Cas9 knockout approach. Once the effect of these genes on the disease phenotype is established, knockout mice and a range of in vivo and other neuroscience techniques can be used to uncover the mechanisms through which these genes influence the disease..