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Do No Harm: Psychological Costs and Benefits of Genetic Testing


Tammy English
  • Professor, Psychology

Indeed there may be genetic differences in temperament that influence the processing of risk information.  Recent evidence from one CADMA supported project (Gotlib/Chen) suggests that individuals with two short alleles in promoter region of the serotonin transporter gene are more biologically reactive to stress, as indexed by higher secretion of cortisol, while making difficult decisions.  Evidence from two other CADMA supported projects (Mikels/Garber/Goldstein/Carstensen and Samanez-Larkin/Knutson/Nielsen/Carstensen) suggests that there are likely age differences in processing information about potential risks and benefits. Namely, older people tend to avoid negative information and attend disproportionately to positive information. Whether individualized risk information would eliminate or heighten such processing biases remains to be evaluated.  Thus, a project on the risks and benefits of genomic testing is a natural outgrowth of previous CADMA research.  In an initial pilot project the researchers propose to evaluate immediate and delayed cognitive consequences of receiving results of comprehensive genetic screening.