My research concerns biological factors associated with child and adolescent mental health. Specifically, I lead the Biological Psychopathology research group within the Generation R Study, which has three key aims.
First, to identify both ‘risk’ and ‘protective’ genetic influences on mental health we want to understand the genetic structure of common child psychiatric problems.
Second, we examine interactions between children’s genetic makeup and their environment. This can help us understand why children with a similar genetic profile can differ in their mental health, and conversely, how children who experience similar stressful life events can react in very different ways to them. Our third aim is to identify the biological mechanisms through which genetic and environmental factors jointly shape children’s brain development and mental health.
To address this, we investigate a wide range of biological factors, including epigenetic regulation, the immune system and inflammation, the gut microbiome, and hormonal function. Together, a better understanding of genetic and biological influences can help us devise better strategies for the assessment, prevention and treatment of child and adolescent psychiatric problems.