Professor Eske Derks and her team of collaborators investigates how improved phenotyping of schizophrenia could facilitate the identification of genetic variants involved in this severe psychiatric disorder. She uses statistical modelling analyses, including Item Response Analysis, to obtain more valid assessments of psychopathology. In these studies, genome-wide genetic data was used to actually verify that symptoms of disorganization were more strongly influenced by genetic variants than other psychosis symptom dimensions. These studies were financed by an external grant of the Dutch government of which Eske was the Principal Investigator.
A focus on gene-finding studies of complex traits resulted in several methodological questions, which were targeted at improving the statistical power to identify genetic variants. She firstly showed that estimates of genetic effect sizes are underestimated when dichotomous disease traits are influenced by multiple genetic variants. Secondly, it was shown that survival analysis can improve the statistical power of detecting genetic variants that contribute to the age of onset of disease. In these studies, which were conducted by a PhD student whom I supervised, Eske was the principal investigator.
Another line of research aims to identify genetic variants which contribute to substance abuse. She has shown that genetic factors which impact on ADHD show large overlap with those contributing to problem drinking. Eske has also developed a website that provides an overview of the results of genome-wide studies on substance abuse and dependence (www.addictiongwas.com) . This website is automatically updated using the GWAS catalog as an input, and is therefore an important contribution to the addiction field.
As a member of the steering committee of the IOCDF-GC consortium and as a co-PI of the International Cannabis Consortium, she plays a leading role in genome-wide genetic analyses of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and cannabis use. Her contribution in these consortia is to develop an outline for the genetic analyses, to supervise conductance of the genetic analyses and to monitor progress on large-scaled meta-analyses. Eske is the senior author on a paper that shows a genome-wide significant impact of four genes on cannabis use risk.
Other current appointments
- Associate editor, Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
- 2012-2016: Professor of Genetics in Psychiatry (0.88 fte, tenure position), Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam.
- 2007-2011: Senior Researcher (0.88 fte, tenure position), Department of Psychiatry, Utrecht Medical Center, Utrecht.
- 2010-2011: Visiting scientist, Department of Genetic Epidemiology, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia.
- 2006-2007: Postdoc (0.8 fte, fixed term), Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.
- 2006: Postdoc (1 fte, fixed term), Department of statistical genetics, Wellcome Trust Center of Human Genetics, Oxford, United Kingdom – in collaboration with Professor L.R. Cardon and Dr D.M. Evans.
- 2006: Postdoc (0.8 fte, fixed term), Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.
- 2006: PhD student (0.8 fte, fixed term), Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam – the topic of the project was the exploration of genetic and environmental influences on attention problems and related childhood behavior problems, such as aggression and anxiety/depression.
Current Area of Research
- eQTL analysis
- Mental health disorders
- Substance use disorders (including cannabis, alcohol, smoking, and cocaine)
- Genome-Wide Association
- Exome chip analyses
- Statistical analysis of GWAS data from the COCAch study (Involvement of genes of the striatal glutamatergic and cholinerqic pathways in cocaine dependence in humans), (INSERM, France)
- Using predicted and observed levels of gene expression and methylation to interpret genome-wide association results of complex traits (Amsterdam Public Health-Mental health program)
- The role of rare genetic variants on alcohol and nicotine consumption (Foundation Volksbond Rotterdam)
- The impact of genetics on stigmatization of alcohol dependent patients (Foundation Volksbond Rotterdam)
- The role of genetic, psychological, and social factors on alcohol intoxication in adolescents (Foundation Volksbond Rotterdam)
- The development of new statistical methods for the identification of genetic variants associated with complex (psychiatric) traits (Foundation Volksbond Rotterdam).
- Identifying the role of rare exonic variants in alcohol and tobacco use (Foundation Volksbond Rotterdam).
- Professor Dorret Boomsma, Free University Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Professor Jacqueline Vink, Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
- Professor Peter Visscher, UQ
- Professor Naomi Wray, UQ
- Professor Christel Middeldorp, UQ
- Professor Rene Kahn, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
- Professor Wim van den Brink, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Professor Damiaan Denys, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Dr Hugo Schnack, UMC Utrecht, the Netherlands
- Dr Lea Davis, Vanderbilt University
- Dr Eric Gamazon, Vanderbilt University
- Dr Florence Vorspan, Universités Paris Descartes – Paris Diderot, France
- Dr Dorien Nieman, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Dr Dirk Smit, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Development of novel statistical methods in behaviour genetics analyses.
- Identification of genetic variants contributing to the risk of schizophrenia by improved phenotyping and IRT analysis of disease symptoms.
- Methodological advances in genome-wide association studies.
- Development of the Addiction GWAS website, which provides an overview of the results of genome-wide studies on substance abuse and dependence. This website is automatically updated using the GWAS catalog as an input, and is therefore an important contribution to the addiction field.
- Improved understanding of the genetic architecture of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Improved understanding of the genetics of cannabis use initiation.
- 2010 – present: Member of the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics.
- 2006: I obtained my PhD degree with the highest possible distinction (“cum laude”) in the Netherlands, this distinction is provided to less than 5% of the graduates. Vrije University Amsterdam
- 2008: I was awarded a prestigious fellowship from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (2008).
- Identification of a genetic link between schizophrenia and immune disorders.
- Identification of 35 genes associated with the initiation of cannabis.
- Discovery of a genetic link between problematic alcohol use and ADHD.
- PhD title thesis, Assessment and Genetic Aetiology of Attention Problems, Hyperactivity, and Related Disorders, Free University, Department of Biological Psychology, Amsterdam (Promotor – Professor D.I. Boomsma. Co-promotors – Professor J.J. Hudziak and Dr C.V. Dolan).
- Bachelor and Master in Psychology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands (with specialisations in statistical methods and neuroscience).