Barbara Franke

Barbara Franke

Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen
Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Keynote lecture

Will talk about: How to make sense of genetics for psychiatric disorders?

Bio sketch:

Barbara Franke is a Professor of Molecular Psychiatry at the Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. She studied Biology at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, and at Utrecht University in The Netherlands until 1995. After a PhD in molecular signal transduction at Utrecht University, she moved to the Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen in 1999. Following a postdoc position in multifactorial genetics, she became Head of the Researchlab for Multifactorial Diseases at the Department of Human Genetics in 2001. Since 2004, her work is dedicated to the identification of genetic risk factors for neurodevelopmental disorders, especially the psychiatric disorders ADHD, autism and dyslexia, as well as the characterization biological pathways from gene to disease at the molecular, cell and brain level. As a Professor of Molecular Psychiatry and a PI at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior of the Radboud University Nijmegen, much of Dr. Franke’s current research efforts focus on imaging-based endophenotypes for psychiatric disorders as well as (animal) model systems for functional gene analysis. She has set up and coordinates the International Multicentre persistent ADHD Genetics CollaboraTion (IMpACT) since 2007. IMpACT studies the genetics of adult ADHD in >3500 cases and >4000 controls. She is a member of the management team of the International Multicentre ADHD Genetics (IMAGE) study on >1400 families with ADHD offspring. In Nijmegen, she has founded and leads the Cognomics Initiative (, which tries to map the effects of genes to brain and behaviour. She also is a co-founder and steering committee member of the new international ENIGMA consortium on brain imaging genetics meta-analysis. She has published over 200 articles in peer-reviewed, international journals (H-index: 42).

Talk abstract:

Most psychiatric disorders are highly heritable. Take Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which has a heritability of nearly 80% in both children and in adults. However, ADHD’s genetic background is extremely complex, with multiple genetic variants plus the environment contributing to its etiology in most patients. This has hampered the identification of the genes underlying this disorder. The same holds true for other psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism.

In my presentation, I will highlight approaches to finding genes for psychiatric disorders, particularly ADHD, including genome-wide genetic association studies, copy number variant studies and next generation sequencing. In this, we often find that statistical/bioinformatics analysis methods lack behind technical advances, however, I will show how we are finally starting to pick up speed in gene-identification.

Importantly, though, the way in which such genes contribute to psychiatric psychopathology is still hardly understood. For this, it is essential that we integrate findings across different types of approaches using bioinformatics. An important tool in the identification of biological pathways is brain imaging. I will show our ‘cognomics’ studies, in which we link genetics with behaviour by mapping the effects of genes on the brain. Only an effective integration of multimodal data can provide the information needed to map the biological pathways from gene to disease and translate the results from genetic findings into clinically useful information for diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders.