Scientific Mission

To learn more about how our genes affect vulnerability to alcoholism, NIAAA has funded the Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) since 1989. Our goal is to identify the specific genes that can influence a person’s likelihood of developing alcoholism.

About COGA

COGA investigators have collected data on more than 300 extended families in which many members are affected by alcoholism. The researchers collected extensive clinical, neuropsychological, electrophysiological, biochemical, and genetic data on the more than 3,000 individuals who are represented in the database. The researchers also have established a repository of cell lines from these individuals to serve as a permanent source of DNA for genetic studies.

NIAAA distributes COGA’s data and biomaterials to qualified investigators to help promote rapid progress in identifying genes that influence vulnerability to alcoholism. See Access to Data and Biomaterials to learn more about accessing these materials.

Database Contents

Since 1989, COGA researchers have followed families densely affected with alcoholism at six sites (SUNY Downstate Health Sciences Center, University of Connecticut, Indiana University, Washington University, University of Iowa, and The University of California at San Diego). Diagnoses of alcohol dependence according to several diagnostic systems ( e.g., DSM-III-R, Feighner, ICD-10) are made based on examination of medical records and direct assessment using the Semi-Structured Assessment for Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA).

The different types of COGA data are managed by the participating sites, as follows:

  • Washington University stores, maintains, and distributes:
    • clinical study data, made up of anonymous information on family structure, age, sex, vital status, psychopathology, diagnosis, and other clinically relevant information;
    • research data, which consist of information on blood biochemistry and psychological test performance;
    • genetic analysis data, consisting of marker genotypes, along with results of previous genetic analyses of COGA data.
  • SUNY stores, maintains, and distributes brain electrophysiological data.
  • Rutgers University stores, maintains, and distributes biomaterials consisting of lymphoblastoid cell lines and DNA from participating subjects.
  • For important descriptive information on currently available alcoholic pedigrees, see the Pedigree Descriptive Table.

Access to Data and Biomaterials

Researchers may gain access to clinical data, research data, genetic analysis data, and biomaterials, subject to NIAAA approval, by completing an application consisting of an original and one copy of the following documents:

  • A cover letter containing the name, mailing address, e-mail address, fax number, and telephone number of the principal investigator. This letter should be written on the letterhead of the sponsoring institution at which the research will be conducted.
  • Curriculum vitae of the principal investigator and all co-investigators.
  • A 1-2 page description of the proposed study.
  • A completed distribution agreement, including specification of the research project to be conducted, and signatures of the principal investigator and an authorized representative of the recipient institution.

The above materials should be sent to:

Antonio Noronha, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Neuroscience and Behavior
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
5635 Fishers Lane, Room 2061, MSC 9304
Bethesda, MD 20892-9304 (for USPS mail)
Rockville, MD 20852 (for courier/overnight mail service)
Telephone: 301-443-7722
Fax: 301-443-1650
Email: anoronha@mail.nih.gov

After certification, the principal investigator will receive access to electronic data files and other documentation. Requests for biomaterials should be made within 4 months of notification of certification (unless the principal investigator requests an extension of this time limit in writing from NIAAA), and should clearly specify (by COGA ID number) each subject for which a DNA sample or cell line is desired. Request for biomaterials should be sent to:

Jay A. Tischfield, Ph.D.
Department of Genetics
Nelson Biological Laboratories
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
604 Allison Road, Room B211
Piscataway, NJ 08854-8082
Phone: (732) 445-1027
FAX: (732) 445-1147
Email: jay@biology.rutgers.edu

Copies of each request should also be sent to Dr. Antonio Noronha at NIAAA (above) and to:

Carlene Haynes
COGA Financial/Administrative Coordinator
Henri Begleiter Neurodynamics Laboratory
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
450 Clarkson Avenue
Room B5-315, Box 1203
Brooklyn, New York 11203
Phone: 718-270-2024
Fax: 718-270-4081
Email: carlene@hbnl.downstate.edu or carlene.haynes@downstate.edu

Rutgers University will then contact the Principal Investigator regarding shipping and payment.