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Schachar Lab

Spit for Science

From May 2009 to September 2010, we collected over 16,000 genetic, behavioural and cognitive samples from children at the Ontario Science Centre. The data that we have collected is like a library of science that will pay dividends for years and advance our understanding of normal cognitive development and of several common, impairing and costly psychiatric disorders, primarily attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The premise of this study is that traits of ADHD and OCD are behaviours that are widely distributed in the general population. For example, many individuals are easily preoccupied and/or worried about things, perfectionistic, engage in repetitive and habitual behaviours, etc. These traits may be harmless or even helpful when present to a mild degree, but lead to impairment in daily living if they are extreme. By comparing individuals at both extremes of a trait distribution (e.g. the top and bottom 10 per cent), we maximize our chances of finding genetic risk factors because the differences between groups are so great. 

At the Ontario Science Centre, our aim was to collect a large sample so that we would have a sufficient number of individuals at both the high and low ends of the trait distribution, allowing us to compare to one another with regard to genomic variation. This comparison enables the identification of associations between specific genes and the traits we are studying. Identifying these gene-behaviour relationships will help us detect key biological pathways underlying common and debilitating childhood-onset psychiatric disorders. We hope this research will represent a first step towards determining alternative and effective strategies for treatment, early identification and prevention. 

For more information on Spit for Science, please see http://www.spitforscience.blogspot.ca/