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Health Center Today, February 23, 2011

Researchers Closing in on Link Between Genetics, Alcoholism

By Chris DeFrancesco

Photo of Dr. Jonathan Covault

Dr. Jonathan Covault is lead author of an article to be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research on the link between neuroactive steroids and alcohol dependence.

One of the risk factors for alcohol dependence may be genetic variations in certain enzymes that impact the production of neuroactive steroids, according to UConn Health Center researchers.

Dr. Jonathan Covault, associate professor and director of Adult Psychiatry Residency Training Program in the UConn School of Medicine Department of Psychology, is the lead author of a study to be published in the May 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. The article is available through the journal’s “Early View” at

“Results indicate that naturally occurring common genetic variations in two key enzymes required for the production of neuroactive steroids may influence the risk of developing alcohol dependence,” Covault says. “This finding is among the first evidence that some behavioral effects of alcohol are related to the production of neuroactive steroids.”

Co-authors include Verica Milivojevic, a neuroscience graduate student in Covault’s lab, Linda Burian, lab manager, Dr. Henry Kranzler, who recently left the UConn School of Medicine for the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Joel Gelernter of the Yale University School of Medicine.