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Approved Research

Investigating the Molecular Basis of Neurodevelopmental and Neuropsychiatric Conditions and the Interplay between Mental and Physical Health

Principal Investigator: Dr Lorna Lopez
Approved Research ID: 71469
Approval date: October 18th 2021

Lay summary

Research Aims

Our research focuses on understanding more about the biology of neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric conditions and how they come about.  We will do this by investigating genetic differences in people with these conditions in UK Biobank. We are interested in the role of genetic differences - from small changes in DNA to large structural changes - in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric conditions in the UK Biobank. Neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric conditions such as autism, psychosis and schizophrenia are often seen in the same person or within the same family. These conditions are difficult to diagnose and treat and are costly to manage. It is increasingly recognised that these conditions share aspects of their biology, specifically mental and physical health indicators and specific genetic changes.  

Scientific Rationale

This project aims to find the genetic basis of neurodevelopmental conditions by investigating genetic and protein variation in people with these conditions in UK Biobank.  There is strong evidence that genetic variation has an important role in determining whether a person develops a neurodevelopmental condition. We will use the genomic data in UK Biobank and link this to the data available for physical and mental health, and indicators of neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric conditions for each participant, using statistical techniques that are established in our research group.  This will allow us to identify genetic variation that is linked to neurodevelopmental conditions and related physical and mental health traits. 

Project Duration

We propose to undertake this work over a period of three years. In this time, we will prepare, organise and undertake quality control of the data; we will undertake rigorous statistical analysis; we will evaluate our findings by international scientific standards; and we will report as required to UK Biobank and publish in peer-review scientific journals on the large-scale UK Biobank genetic, and other biological information (such as a measure of the proteins in our blood) and health data.

Public Health Impact

This research in UK Biobank will further understanding of the biology of neurodevelopmental conditions, and help guide the development of diagnostic testing, genetic counselling, and personalised early intervention plans.  Indeed, it will help research findings from Irish cohorts to be put in the context of our neighbouring population. Understanding the biology of neurodevelopmental conditions might reveal novel targets for drug therapies, validate existing therapeutics and open new strategies for diagnosis.