06:24pm Wednesday 18 October 2017

Nijmegen researchers from the Cognomics Initiative identify new genes for brain structure

Prof. Barbara FrankeProf. Barbara Franke is one of the senior authors of the paper, which appeared in Nature on January 22, Dr. Alejandro Arias Vasquez was part of the core analysis team. Both are from Radboudumc. An additional 19 Nijmegen researchers are listed on the paper, in which 193 different institutes from around the world took part.

Over 30,000 participants

The published study is unique, as brain scans of over 30.000 participants were analysed. ‘We have identified genetic factors that help us to better understand the differences in brain development that exist between people’ says Franke, who is a co-founder of the ENIGMA Consortium, the initiator of the published study. ‘We founded ENIGMA in 2009, with the idea of creating an environment, in which researchers across the entire world could easily work together on the genetics of brain structure. This worked excellently, as we use a ‘crowd-sourcing’ approach, in which we develop protocols for analysis centrally, then send them out to all participating groups, which thus can perform their analysis themselves. So rather than collecting original data from the participating groups, we only ask them to send us their results, which we subsequently combine. In this way, all groups can stay closely involved in a project’.


In Nijmegen, the Cognomics Initiative is responsible for the research on the genetics of brain structure and function. Cognomics, which is part of the Donders Institute, is chaired by Prof. Franke and Prof. Simon Fisher from the Max Planck Institute. Cognomics is one of the biggest contributor to the ENIGMA efforts.

The Cognomics and ENIGMA studies can be expected to provide more insight into the causes and mechanisms underlying different brain disorders. ENIGMA is currently comparing their results to those of genetics research of brain disorders. In this way, data of more than 70.000 research participants is being studied. Results of this research can be expected later this year.

Derrek P. Hibar et al., Common genetic variants influence human subcortical brain structures, Nature, 22 januari 2015, DOI: 10.1038/nature14101

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