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Scientific Lectures //

Title: Cognomics – how genes influence cognition and psychiatric disease

Barbara Franke, Ph.D. - Departments of Human Genetics and Psychiatry, Donders Institute for Brain Behaviour, Radbound University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Presented: April 19, 2013

ABSTRACT: Most of the psychiatric disorders and cognitive traits are highly heritable. However, the genetic basis is complex and genes and genetic variants underlying these (dys)functions have been hard to find. Through large-scale international collaborations like the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) and ENIGMA as well as technological and methodological advances, we are finally moving forward in gene-discovery. However, the next bottleneck in understanding interindividual differences in cognition and psychiatric disease is already looming – how do the genetic risk variants actually contribute to disease? For such research, we need relevant model systems. In Nijmegen, we have started the Cognomics Initiative, which forms an umbrella for research directed at identifying the pathways leading from gene to behaviour and disease. One of the models we are using is neuroimaging genetics. For this research, we have already collected data on more than 3600 individuals. Part of this data is from the Cognomics Resource BIG, which currently includes brain imaging data and genetic material of 2500 healthy individuals. Results from BIG show that brain structure is linked to behaviour on the one hand, and to genetic risk factors for disease on the other hand. In some cases, we have been able to show that this latter effect is dependent on environmental adversity (GxE interaction). In addition to BIG, we have established large integrated DNA-MRI-neuropsychology-disease databases for research on ADHD in children (NeuroIMAGE) and adults (IMpACT). Using these databases, we have the opportunity to identify novel promising brain (neuroimaging-based) endophenotypes and/or biomarkers of disease and their genetic underpinnings. In her presentation, Dr. Franke will show examples of the work of the Cognomics Initiative as well as the international ENIGMA consortium.

BIOGRAPHY: Barbara Franke is a full Professor of Molecular Psychiatry and is based at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour of the Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands. A molecular biologist and geneticist by training, she leads the Researchlab for Multifactorial Diseases at the departments of Human Genetics and Psychiatry. In addition, she is the official speaker of the Plasticity and Memory theme of the Donders Institute (http://www.ru.nl/donders/research/theme-3-plasticity/). She is an internationally renowned expert in the genetics of psychiatric disorders and has published more than 200 papers in international journals. Her work is dedicated to the identification of genetic risk factors for psychiatric disorders, especially ADHD, autism and depression, through phenotype and endophenotype approaches, and the characterization of their effects at the molecular, cell and brain level. She is the coordinator of the Cognomics Initiative of the Donders Institute (http://www.cognomics.nl), aiming at unraveling the links between genes, brain and cognition/behaviour. She is the founder and coordinator of the IMpACT consortium on adult ADHD (http://www.cognomics.nl/impact-project.html) as well as a co-founder and member of the management team of the large international ENIGMA consortium on MRI-based brain imaging genetics studies (enigma.loni.ucla.edu). In addition, she is a PI in the IMAGE and NeuroIMAGE consortia on childhood ADHD (http://www.neuroimage.nl/) and an active member of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (https://pgc.unc.edu), participating in ADHD and cross-disorder meta-analyses.

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