From (epi)genetics to cognition

Chair(s): Philippe Jawinski (Berlin), Miriam Schiele (Freiburg)

Presenter(s): Philippe Jawinski (Berlin), Lea Sirignano (Mannheim), Miriam Schiele (Freiburg), Martin Reuter (Bonn)

Over the past decade, molecular genetic research has seen rapid advances in the identification of replicable variations associated with mental disorders. Although genetic predispositions impact human behavior throughout the lifespan, the development and course of diseases also crucially relies on environmental conditions. This symposium presents four studies using state-of-the-art imaging genomic, epigenetic and gene-by-environment methods to unravel the mechanisms through which genes increase the risk for psychopathology. The first talk focuses on how genetics affect the speed of biological ageing as one of the greatest ubiquitous risk factors for disease vulnerability: Philippe Jawinski (HU Berlin) presents results from N = 42,000 participants of the UK Biobank imaging cohort, suggesting that the biological age of the brain (‘brain age’) genetically overlaps with various physical and mental health phenotypes. Following this, Lea Sirignano (ZI Mannheim) reports on a longitudinal study that examines genetic response predictors and gene expression changes after therapeutic sleep deprivation in depression. The next talk is held by Miriam Schiele (UKL Freiburg), who reports on gene-by-environment interactions in anxiety and how protective coping abilities may exert a buffering effect on the interplay of genetic disposition and environmental adversity. Finally, Martin Reuter (Uni Bonn) presents on the relation between social cognitive functioning and genetic and epigenetic serotonergic markers, which have been associated with affective processes in the normal and psychopathological range. This symposium seeks to demonstrate, discuss, and disseminate the rapidly growing opportunities to elucidate the liability for mental disorders by applying molecular genetic techniques in our field.