Research project description

PhD will investigate mechanisms underlying the intergenerational transmission of risk for psychopathology and mental disorders (parental genotypes). 

There is evidence supporting that psychopathology is transmitted across generations. Children with parents with high rates of psychopathology are more likely to inherit both psychopathology-associated genetic factors and psychopathology-associated environments. However, it remains challenging to determine whether children resemble their parents due to the effects of genes shared between them (direct genetic transmission or genetic nature), via genetically influenced parenting environments (genetic nurture) or a mixture of both. 

Parents transmit genetic risk for psychopathology and mental disorders to their children not only directly (genetic nature), but also indirectly via genetically influenced parents’ phenotype (genetic nurture). 

To assess the mechanisms underlying the intergenerational transmission of parent psychopathology to offspring mental health outcomes by exploring the distinction between transmitted and non-transmitted genetic factors from parents to offspring. We will calculate polygenic risk scores (PRS), which aggregate the effects of thousands of genetic variants and provides a quantitative measure of the genetic burden for a particular disease or trait, separately for transmitted and non-transmitted genetic variants for multiple mental disorders (attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and anxiety, among others) in 1,500 general population family trios and will test their association with behavioral and emotional problems and mental disorders in the offspring.  

The impact of the proposal will be substantial in the fields of prevention and intervention. By identifying mechanisms underlying the intergenerational transmission of risk for psychopathology and mental disorders we will provide insights into the role of parents in shaping their children’s outcomes and may identify modifiable parental factors that are likely to be effective targets for intervention 

Academic background / Skills

Candidates must hold a degree that allows admission to the official doctoral programme at UAB.  

Additional requirements for a stronger application are:  

  • Degree in Biological, Health or Basic sciences (Biology, Genetics, Mathematics, etc). 
  • Master’s Degree in Bioinformatics or Biosciences. 
  • Desired experience in Statistical Genetics, Biostatistics, Computational Biology, Bioinformatics or similar field and programming skills (particularly R, Unix/ Linux). 
  • Responsibilities will include genetic association analyses of clinical features across mental disorders, application of the novel methods described, manuscript writing, and oral presentations at lab meetings, consortium calls, and scientific conferences.  
  • The candidate will also engage in regular collaborative meetings with teams of scientists locally and internationally, including the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. There will also be training opportunities for subject-specific and generic research skills, aiming to help the candidate to enhance his/her employability. 

Research group/s description

Our multidisciplinary Psychiatry, Mental Health and Addictions research Group team has skills and expertise in epidemiology, psychiatry, psychology, genetics, bioinformatics and biostatistics. 

Our main objective is to break the stigma associated with mental disorders and to show them as biological conditions by using -omics data and multiple approaches, that include GWAS and omics profiling. Our main contribution to the field has been to identify a) genes involved in mental disorders; b) shared and specific genetic background for comorbid conditions and c) biomarkers for disease, with the final aim to use genetic information to understand the disease mechanism, to predict risk and to improve patients’ classification and diagnostic procedures. 

Marta Ribasés, geneticist

María Soler-Artigas, Mathematician