Dr. Judith Homberg, Associate Professor. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour
Gene x environment interactions: for better and for worse
Our behavior is shaped by complex nature (genes) x nurture (environment) interactions.
A major challenge in the present molecular era is to uncover genetic factors that influence disease risk in interaction with adverse environmental stimuli.
As such, mainstream research in the field of psychiatry concentrates on the negative effects of genetic polymorphisms. However, such polymorphisms wouldn’t be maintained throughout evolution when they would only exert negative effects. Rather, it is now commonly accepted that certain common gene polymorphisms increase the sensitivity to environmental stimuli, both adverse and beneficial ones. One well-known common polymorphism that increases sensitivity to environmental stimuli is the short(s)-allelic variant of the serotonin transporter polymorphism.
The traditional view is that the s-allele is associated with trait anxiety, and increases risk for depression after a history of early-life adversity. Our data obtained using the serotonin transporter
Dr. Homberg obtained her PhD in 2004 at the VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam on the topic “ individual differences in vulnerability to addiction”. Thereafter as a postdoc at the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, she generated and characterized the First knockout rats available world-wide, specifically the serotonin transporter knockout rats. After she obtained a VENI grant from the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) she moved to the Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen to start up her own research group focussing on (serotonin) gene x environment interaction studies. After obtaining a VIDI grant from NWO she became Associate Professor and now also is Principal Investigator. She is (co)-author of over 115 publications, published in, amongst others, Nature Genetics, Journal of Neuroscience, Molecular Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, and Translational Psychiatry