Skip to main content

Social and Behavioral Research Branch

The Social and Behavioral Research Branch (SBRB) conducts a broad array of research in applying new genomic discovery to improve health and clinical care aligned with the four themes below. The branch was founded just over 10 years ago.

Branch infogramCommunity Translation Clinical Translation Health Disparities Methods and Measures

Themes of Research

Community Translation

We aim to untangle genomic factors that impact brain development and behavior, and the potential clinical use of these discoveries. We evaluate approaches for communicating genomic information to patients and clients that optimize health outcomes. Further, we study factors that influence a variety of health-related decision-making in the context of genomic testing and support services, and patient responses to receipt of genomic information.

Clinical Translation

We evaluate community-based educational approaches that leverage social influence to improve knowledge of genomic information and engagement in risk-reducing behaviors. Our work also considers how genomic information flows through family systems, and how families respond to shared disease risk. Research in the SBRB further explores how genomics shapes social systems, and how the social environment, including social stigma, impacts health.

Health Disparities

We conduct research to evaluate the use of genomic knowledge and technologies to decrease health disparities and enable access to these technologies among underserved populations. For example, our work considers how genomic discoveries intersect with racial, ethnic and social identities. This research considers health disparities both within the clinical setting, with a focus on patient-provider interactions, and community settings. Additionally, we evaluate health promotion interventions that include genomic information with under-resourced, stigmatized and marginalized groups.

Methods and Measures

We develop novel methodologies for integrating complex data relating to genomics, social processes, behavior and the brain. For example, we are examining how common and rare genetic variations impact the development of the brain and behavior. We are developing novel methods to quantify how genomic information impacts the flow of information and support across complex social systems. Finally, we apply innovative technologies such as virtual reality and state of the art neuroimaging to common clinical problems.


Chief and Senior Investigator

Laura M. Koehly, Ph.D.
Head, Social Network Methods Section

Senior Investigators

Lawrence C. Brody, Ph.D.
Social and Behaviroal Research Branch
Head, Gene and Environment Interaction Section
Director, Division of Genomics and Society

Philip Shaw, B.M. B.Ch., Ph.D.
Social and Behavioral Research Branch
Head, Neurobehavioral Clinical Research Section

Associate Investigators

Vence L Bonham, Jr., J.D.
Health Disparities Unit
Senior Advisor to the Director for Genomics and Health Disparities

Donald W. Hadley, M.S., C.G.C.
Public Health Genomics Section
Associate Director, Office of Clinical Liaison, Office of the Clinical Director

Susan J. Persky, Ph.D.
Public Health Genomics Section

Senior Scientist

Sharon Davis, M.Ed., M.P.A., Ph.D.
Senior Scientist, Social and Behavioral Research Branch 
Social Epidemiology Research Unit (SERU)

Training and Career Development Resources

Technology Transfer Office

The Technology Transfer Office (TTO) is responsible for the evaluation, patenting, and licensing of novel technologies, biological materials and animal models invented by NHGRI investigators. Read more


Last Updated: January 15, 2019