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Behavioural GEMs Laboratory

genomics, epigenomics, psychiatry, psychology...

Also known as the Behavioural Genomic & Environmental Mechanisms Laboratory


Research Summary

Our nature does not exist independently of our nurture (environment). Our laboratory investigates genomic, epigenomic, and environmental factors contributing to mental health outcomes, and fertility. Our work spans across the lifespan from baby to geriatric. We have three broad research streams within the lab:
1) Genomics in mental health and behaviour,
2) Environmental mechanisms and epigenomics in mental health, behaviour, and fertility,
3) School uniform equity and impact on child wellbeing.


Research Projects

Investigating the association between early life stressors and fertility outcomes (including measures of sperm motility etc.), and potential mediation by confounding lifestyle factors.

Investigating the biological plausibility of epidemiological evidence for transgenerational transmission of pre-conception stress from parents to children: starting at the sperm. We will also evaluate if there is evidence for mediation by potentially confounding lifestyle factors for any sperm DNA methylation-trauma associations seen.

Investigating epigenomic and genomic patterns in psychosis, and evidence for trauma-specific profiles.

Selected Publications

Cohen-Woods SL, Fisher HL, Ahmetspahic D, Douroudis K, Stacey D, Hosang G, Korszun A, Owen M, Craddock N, Arolt V, Dannlowski U, Breen G, Craig IW, Farmer A, Baune BT, Lewis CM, Uher R, McGuffin P (2018) Interaction between childhood maltreatment on immunogenetic risk in depression: discovery and replication in clinical case-control samples. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 67:203-210


Amare AT, Schubert KO, Klinger-Hoffmann M, Cohen-Woods SL and Baune BT (2017) The genetic overlap between mood disorders and cardiometabolic diseases: a systematic review of genome wide and candidate gene studies. Translational Psychiatry, 7(1):e1007


Hosang G, Fisher HL, Cohen-Woods SL, Maughan B, McGuffin P and Farmer AE (2017) Childhood maltreatment and the medical morbidity in bipolar disorder: A case-control study. International Journal of Bipolar Disorders, 5(1):30


Ciobanu LG, Sachdev PS, Trollor JN, Reppermund S, Thalamuthu A, Mather KA, et al. (2016) Differential gene expression in brain and peripheral tissues in depression across the life span: A review of replicated findings. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 71:281-293


Harkness KN, Delfabbro PH and Cohen-Woods SL (2016) The longitudinal mental health benefits of a yoga intervention in women experiencing chronic stress: A clinical trial. Cogent Psychology, 3:1256037


Harkness KN, Delfabbro PH, Mortimer J, Hannaford Z and Cohen-Woods SL (2016) Brief report on the Psychophysiological effects of a yoga intervention for chronic stress: Preliminary Findings. Journal of Psychophysiology, 31(1):38-48


Mullins N, Perroud N, Uher R, Butler AW, Cohen-Woods SL, Rivera M, et al. (2016) Genetic Relationships Between Suicide Attempts, Suicidal Ideation and Major Psychiatric Disorders: A Genome-Wide Association and Polygenic Scoring Study. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A, 165(5):428-437


Harkness KN, Ryan J, Delfabbro PH and Cohen-Woods SL (2016) Preliminary indications of the effect of a brief yoga intervention on markers of inflammation and DNA methylation in chronically stressed women. Translational Psychiatry, 6(11):e965


Rucker JJH, Tansey KE, Rivera M, Pinto D, Cohen-Woods SL, Uher R, et al. (2016) Phenotypic Association Analyses With Copy Number Variation in Recurrent Depressive Disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 79(4):329-336


Power RA, Tansey KE, Buttenschon HN, Cohen-Woods SL, Bigdeli T, Hall L, et al. (2016) Genome-wide association for Major Depression through age at onset stratification: Major Depressive disorder working group of the psychiatric Genomics consortium. Biological Psychiatry, 81(4):325-335


Mullins N, Power RA, Fisher HL, Hanscombe KB, Euesden J, Iniesta R, et al. (2016) Polygenic interactions with environmental adversity in the aetiology of major depressive disorder. Psychological Medicine, 46(4):759-770


MacGregor Legge R, Sendi S, Cole JH, Cohen-Woods SL, Costafreda SG, Simmons A, et al. (2015) Modulatory effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor Val66Met polymorphism on prefrontal regions in major depressive disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry, 206(5):379-384


Powell TR, McGuffin P, D'Souza UM, Cohen-Woods SL, Hosang G, Martin C, et al. (2014) Putative Transcriptomic Biomarkers in the Inflammatory Cytokine Pathway Differentiate Major Depressive Disorder Patients from Control Subjects and Bipolar Disorder Patients. PLoS One, 9(3):e91076


Cohen-Woods SL, Craig IW and McGuffin P (2013) The current state of play on the molecular genetics of depression. Psychological Medicine, 43(4):673-687


Cohen-Woods SL, Gaysina D, Craddock N, Farmer AE, Gray J, Gunasinghe C, et al. (2009) Depression Case Control (DeCC) Study fails to support involvement of the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor M2 (CHRM2) gene in recurrent major depressive disorder. Human Molecular Genetics, 18(8):1504-1509




  • Sarah Cohen-Woods, PhD, MSc, BSc(Hons)

Support Staff

  • Rachel Laattoe, Technical Assistant


  • Thomas Trebilco, PhD Student

    Natasha Wood, PhD Student

    Wei (Willa) Song, PhD Student

    Thomas Hagias, Masters Student

    Thomas Snyder, Summer Scholarship Student


  • Dr Sarah Cohen-Woods

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