Traumatic experiences are common, and often followed by emotional disorders (anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)). Nonetheless, most people who experience trauma do not develop an emotional disorder. These individual differences in developing disorders partly reflect genetic differences. Studies of psychiatric disorders show that they are complex (affected by multiple genetic and environmental factors), and polygenic (genetic influences result from many genetic variants, each of very small individual effect). Recent studies have begun to identify genetic variants associated with PTSD and anxiety, and have identified hundreds of variants associated with depression.
In this project, the student will investigate separate and combined effects of genetic and environmental factors on emotional disorders, using data from cohorts including the Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression study and the Twins Early Development Study. The student will learn to manage and analyse large-scale data, including genome-wide genotypes and detailed phenotype data. During the PhD, the student will:
Examine associations between specific traumas and emotional disorders, and how these are affected by known genetic associations (year 1)
Replicate published associations between common genetic variants and emotional disorders by conducting genome-wide association studies, and examine how these genetic associations change in the context of social factors and psychiatric comorbidities (year 2)
Use hospital records data to identify healthcare concerns more common in people at high genetic risk for developing emotional disorders (year 3)
Combine genetic and environmental data to predict diagnoses of emotional disorders, and compare prediction performance between individuals from different genetic ancestries (year 4)