Is epigenetics all in the head? Childhood maltreatment within the genetic model Seminar

On Wednesday 18th July we are pleased to welcome Dr Sarah Cohen-Woods from Flinders University. She will be discussing epigentics and Childhood maltreatment within the genetic model.


It has been well established that both genes and non-shared environment contribute substantially to the underlying aetiology of psychosis, and major depressive disorder (MDD).  Specific risk gene variants have been identified for schizophrenia, and less so for MDD. Genetic studies applied to enable the establishment and elucidation of such genetic factors will be briefly described. With continued investment in resources aimed at understanding the genetics of depression, it is frustrating that we continue to find replication extremely difficult: numerous factors may account for variable results, including use of different diagnostic approaches resulting in phenotypic heterogeneity, small samples in early studies, population stratification, and epigenetics. In addition to this, conflicting results may be attributed to environmental factors that interact with genetic risk, and/or cause epigenetic changes that increase risk. Integrating environmental risk factors with genetic data has gained popularity in recent years; my recent research in the serotonin transporter gene and inflammatory pathways will be described as well as the potential role of biological phenomena such as epigenetics. Epigenetics may account for how it is the environment impacts on our genetics and could be a crucial building block to our understanding or interpretation of gene-environment interactions. This talk will be suitable for those not currently working directly in the field of psychiatric genetics.


Sarah graduated with a First Class degree in Psychology from Leeds in 2003, following which she was awarded an MRC (1+3) research studentship at the Institute of Psychiatry (KCL). Having obtained an MSc (with distinction) in 2004 and a PhD in 2008, she worked for several years at IoP as a postdoctoral research fellow and then lecturer before emigrating to Australia. Her initial appointment down under was as Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry at the University of Adelaide but, in early 2016, was recruited by the Dean of Psychology at Flinders University to head up her own research team on Behavioural Genomics and Environmental Mechanisms. Sarah has published widely (high-impact journals) on the genetics and epigenetics of major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anorexia. She has also won numerous grants/awards, and given talks at many national and international conferences. It will be a real pleasure to welcome Sarah back to Leeds!


Psychology Building, Room 1.33 / 1.34