American Statistical Association
New York City
Metropolitan Area Chapter

New York State Psychiatric Institute
at Columbia University Medical Center
Biostatistics Seminar



LARGE-SCALE GENETIC ASSOCIATION STUDIES OF SUICIDAL BEHAVIOR:
STATISTICAL PROBLEMS INVOLVING MANY VARIABLES AND (TOO) FEW SUBJECTS

by

Hanga Galfalvy, Ph.D.
Division of Molecular Imaging & Neuropathology
New York State Psychiatric Institute


Abstract

Suicide is associated with a psychiatric disorder in 90% or more of cases but most patients with these disorders never attempt suicide. Thus, suicide is considered to require a predisposition to suicidal acts (diathesis) as well as an acute trigger (stress) that has been conceptualized in a stress-diathesis model of suicidal behavior. Both major psychiatric diagnoses such as mood disorders, alcoholism, and schizophrenia and the diathesis for suicide have a strongly heritable component. There is scientific evidence that genetic factors contribute to the risk of suicidal behavior, however, the specific genes that contribute to vulnerability for suicidal behavior are mostly unknown despite numerous studies seeking associations with candidate genes. Microarray studies of gene expression or genotype association with suicidal behavior could in theory identify associations that can indicate new candidate regions of the genome involving previously unsuspected pathogenic genes. However, the low sample size, a diagnostically mixed case sample, and the use of multi-purpose control samples that are a hallmark of recent association studies cause some severe statistical problems that hinder this effort and lead to unreliable or counterintuitive results.

Biographical Note

Hanga Galfalvy, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurobiology at Columbia University, and Core Scientist of the Statistics and Computing Core of the Silvio O. Conte Center for the Neurobiology of Mental Disorders, in the Division of Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology (MIND) at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Her areas of expertise include the statistical methodology of psychiatric research, with a special focus on the study of depression and suicidal behavior, and statistical genetics.

Dr. Galfalvy received her Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2000. She spent a year as a Visiting Research Scientist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois, working on the development of new data mining software. She has completed three years as a postdoctoral research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute before her appointment in the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Galfalvy is the recipient of an NIMH-funded Mentored Quantitative Research Scientist Career Development Award (K-25 award) Statistical Methods in Suicide Research. While her primary appointment is in the Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology Division, she is also a member of the Division of Biostatistics at the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University.


Date: Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Time: 3:00 - 4:00 P.M.
Location: New York State Psychiatric Institute
1051 Riverside Drive
6th Floor Multipurpose Room (6602)
New York, New York
(Directions)

RESERVATIONS ARE NOT REQUIRED

Coffee: 2:45 to 3:00 P.M.
Reception: 4:00 to 4:30 P.M.


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