Genetics of behavioral traits and psychiatric illnesses

Human behavior shows a large variation within the human population as a result of the interplay between environment and the genetic background of individuals. The section of Medical Genomics performs genetic studies both on normal variation as well as pathological variation in human behavioral traits.

Psychiatric disorders often show a considerable genetic component, a high co-morbidity and symptom overlap and might in fact form a continuous spectrum of disorders. The lifetime prevalence of these psychiatric disorders ranges from ~1% for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, up to 20% for anxiety and depression, together affecting more than 25% of the global population. According to the WHO, depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020 and costs of over $43 billion/year in the US alone. In collaboration with the Department of Psychiatry we perform genetic linkage and association studies on extensively phenotyped cohorts of patients and families with psychiatric traits such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder and Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome.

Besides this “disease” focused research we also investigate the normal variation in behavioral phenotypes in the general population. In close collaboration with the Department of Biological Psychiatry we perform genetic studies on attention and cognitive traits on samples from the Netherlands Twin Register.

Research projects

  • Genetics of Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive compulsive disease, Contact: Danielle Posthuma
  • Genetics of anxiety and depression, Contact: Zoltán Bochdanovits
  • Genetics of attention and cognitive traits, Contact: Danielle Posthuma