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Gene-Environment Interactions in Developmental Psychopathology


Admission requirements

MSc Psychology (research) students


In some cases of psychopathology, genetic disturbances play a more significant role in explaining the disorder than environmental stressors, as is the case in single-gene neurodevelopmental disorders. In most psychopathologies, however, disorders are the result from a complex interplay between susceptibility genes (G) and environmental (E) stressors. A key objective in various scientific disciplines is to delineate these specific G x E factors in order to develop pharmacological and behavioural intervention programmes that aim at preventing the disorder or alleviate symptoms in individuals with the disorder.

In this research master course students will gain knowledge about current conceptions in developmental psychiatry. Students will be familiarized with important concepts such as epidemiology, epigenetics, gene linkage or association, allelic penetrance, endophenotypes and biomarkers, as well as systems neuroscience methods. In the lectures series, examples are provided of various models that can be used to investigate gene-environment interactions in psychopathology and appropriate research strategies will be discussed. Students will be trained to use this information in developing their own research proposal for studying gene-environment interactions in developmental psychopathology. In active workgroup sessions, students will develop skills in critically reading relevant research papers, comment on the papers, and discuss their pros and cons in order to develop improved research designs. Furthermore, students will be trained in presenting and writing a scientifically sound research proposal that complies with standards for research funding.

Course objectives

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of genetics and neurobiological systems

  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of various research designs that can be used to address research questions on gene-environment interactions

  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of relevant concepts of gene-environment interactions, such as heritability, gene-environment interactions vs. correlations, candidate genes, risk factors, and endophenotypes

And students will have gained improved skills in:

  • Critically reading papers and discussing them with others

  • Presenting research ideas and proposals

  • Writing a research proposal


Gene-Environment Interactions in Developmental Psychopathology (2013-2014):

Mode of instruction

Seven 2-hour sessions (weekly), each addressing one of a number of themes, based on recent empirical publications. Each session starts with a short lecture followed by group discussions and paper presentations. Students are responsible for each week’s assigned readings, which will be made available via blackboard. Sessions will revolve around discussion of these readings. To facilitate discussions, students should prepare three questions that arose for them while reading the week’s material. In addition to these sessions, students will write an individual research proposal, which is due at the last session. During the last session, students will present their research proposal. Based on feedback of both students and the lecturer, research proposals will have to be revised in order to get graded.

Assessment method

  • Workgroup participation (20%): come to all sessions, active participation (i.e., take active part in the session by discussing the papers), preparation of discussions points (i.e., three questions based on the readings).

  • Presenting and discussion (30%): take a turn in leading the discussions, present one of the sessions topic and provide an overview of the literature, presentation of the research proposal, provide feedback on the students’ research proposal (both oral as well as written feedback).

  • Research proposal (50%): writing the research proposal on the topic of your choice and revise the proposal based on the feedback provided by the lecturer and students.

From January 1, 2006 the Faculty of Social Sciences has instituted the Ephorus system to be used by instructors for the systematic detection of plagiarism in students’ written work. Please see the information concerning fraud .


Information on

Reading list

The reading list will be made available via blackboard.

Contact information

Dr. M.J.W. van der Molen
Room 3B43
071-527 6042