Claudia Haase Co-Chairs International Symposium on Nature-Nurture Research

Claudia Haase Co-Chairs International Symposium on Nature-Nurture Research

Claudia Haase

How do nature and nurture interact in shaping emotional, social and mental health? To highlight important new research directions in the area, assistant professor Claudia Haase co-chaired a conference on “New Frontiers in Gene-Environment Research” on March 14 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Haase’s visit was supported by an Award for Global Research from the SESP Office of Global Initiatives.

The “New Frontiers in Gene-Environment Research” symposium was part of the inaugural International Convention of Psychological Science, held under the auspices of the Association for Psychological Science.

The symposium featured contributions from four investigators from around the world who pursue new approaches in gene-environment research. Nina Alexander of Technical University of Dresden co-chaired the symposium with Haase.

As one of the presenters, Haase focused on her research that showed the impact of a certain gene variant on emotional responses. A recent study by Haase and her fellow researchers found a genetic link to marital happiness — since a gene involved in the regulation of serotonin can predict how much emotions affect marital satisfaction.

Presenters on new conceptual and empirical directions in gene-environment research represented universities in the Netherlands, Germany, United States and United Kingdom:

  • Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg of Leiden University highlighted “differential susceptibility,” or individual differences in response to positive and negative environments, as a conceptual framework for interpreting gene-environment findings.
  • Nina Alexander of Technical University of Dresden presented findings from experimental studies with young adults that examined systemic and molecular pathways for the interaction of genes and environment on disease susceptibility.
  • Claudia Haase presented findings from experimental and longitudinal studies with people of different age groups showing that a specific genetic variant, the short allele of 5-HTTLPR, increases negative, self-conscious and positive emotional reactivity.
  • Michael Pluess of Queen Mary University of London highlighted “vantage sensitivity” as a new concept for individual differences in response to positive experiences. Examples focused on how certain genes lessen the positive impact of a school-based resilience program and a couples’ relationship education program.

For a summary analysis, Jay Belsky of the University of California-Davis served as a discussant for these four contributions.

As a faculty member in the SESP Human Development and Social Policy Program, Haase is interested in successful development across the life span. A central assumption guiding her work is that the range of motivational, emotional, behavioral and genetic factors that promote successful development may be wider than we think, and what is harmful in one context can be beneficial in another. Her research program examines diverse outcomes of successful development in people from adolescence to late life using multiple methods and diverse study designs.

The SESP Office of Global Initiatives opened in 2013 to facilitate global connections for faculty and students as they pursue international efforts in education and social policy and conduct research across countries. As a strategic goal, the School of Education and Social Policy is prioritizing the development of a global perspective. Global ties can spark innovation, increase understanding of critical issues, and magnify the School's effectiveness through extended collaboration.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 3/27/15