Associate Professor Sarah Cohen-Woods

Associate Professor

College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

Research expertise

I investigate the genomic and epigenomic bases of behaviour and psychological disorders, and how environmental can contribute to, or alter, genomic and epigenomic risk.

Research expertise

I investigate the genomic and epigenomic bases of behaviour and psychological disorders, and how environmental can contribute to, or alter, genomic and epigenomic risk.

place Social Sciences North (352)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

Publications: You can find my publications via Google Scholar

Background: I received a BSc in Psychology from the University of Leeds in 2003, and an MRC-funded MSc (2004) and PhD (2008) in Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, King’s College London. In 2012 I moved to the University of Adelaide, and in 2016 to Flinders University as a Matthew Flinders Fellow. Here I head the Behavioural Genetic and Environmental Mechanisms (Behavioural GEMs) Lab. For current projects please see Research and Supervision in the tabs above.

Current Research:
My research focuses on incorporating environmental factors, such as life-stress, with genetic variation in depression, psychosis (bipolar disorder and schizophrenia), and cognition. This work extends to understanding if factors such as stress also contribute to physiological factors such as obesity, or infertility.

The aim of my work is to understand how it is the environment interacts with our genetics, and with ourselves, at the biological level, and how risk can be passed from one generation to the next. Epigenetics provides a possible avenue by which the environment can influence how our genes are expressed, and my recent research investigates this variation in behaviour and psychological disorders, in conjunction with gene-environment interactions. This includes investigating DNA methylation and small RNAs associated with disease risk/protective factors as well as the disease, and their functional impact on gene-expression, protein levels, and/or neuroimaging.

Qualifications

PhD Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry

MSc Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry

BSc (Hons) Psychology

Honours, awards and grants

Recent Cat 1 Funding:

2019 - 2021 Australian Research Council Discovery Project (DP19) ($443,000): "Investigating differences in decision-making ability in older adults" Irina Baetu, Lyndsey Collins-Praino, Sarah Cohen-Woods, Ahmed Moustafa, Nicholas Burns

2015 - 2017  National Health and Medical Research project grant ($601,328): “Epigenetic mechanisms of brain dysfunction in psychotic and mood disorders” Melissa Green, Murray Cairns, Sarah Cohen-Woods

2014 - 2016  National Health and Medical Research project grant ($713,447): “Defining the role of inflammation in depression during aging” Bernhard Baune, Sarah Cohen-Woods, Julian Trollor, Simone Reppermund

Honours/Awards

2015 - Society for Mental Health Research, Best Poster

2009 - International Society of Psychiatric Genetics - Early Career Investigator Award

2009 - NIHR Retreat Presentation, second prize

2008 - Awarded Associate Member of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Key responsibilities

Lab Head: Behavioural Genetic and Environmental Mechanisms (Behavioural GEMs) Lab

Director of Studies Bachelor of Psychological Science (HELP/Flinders)

Director of Studies Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours) (HELP/Flinders)

Research expertise
Genetics
Psychology
Research interests

Behavioural Genetic and Environmental Mechanisms (Behavioural GEMs) Lab:
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Understanding genomic and environmental risk / protective mechanisms in behaviour, Including:

  1. Role of childhood maltreatment, life stress, and exercise in psychological disorder (e.g. depression, psychosis), and cognition: gene-environment interaction, and epigenetic regulation (DNA methylation and small RNAs) that impact on risk/protection for a disorder, or cognitive outcomes.
  2. Behavioural genomics, in particular eating disorders, depression, and psychosis (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) (GWAS and sequencing).
  3. Understanding (epi)genetic and environmental impact within context of behavior, in particular immunity / inflammation (i.e. immunogenetics and proteomics), and comorbid physical illness.

Our research focuses on incorporating environmental factors (i.e. childhood maltreatment), with genetic and epigenetic analyses in eating disorders, depression, and psychosis (bipolar disorder and schizophrenia), and in longitudinal population cohorts. Our work aims to understand how the environment interacts with our genes at the biological level. Epigenetics provides a possible avenue by which the environment can interact with our genome. We investigate DNA methylation and small RNAs associated with disease risk/protective factors as well as the disease, and their functional impact on gene-expression, protein levels, and/or neuroimaging.

Topic coordinator
PSYC3010 Mind, Brain & Behaviour
Topic lecturer
PSYC7006 Contemporary Issues in Psychology
PSYC3010 Mind, Brain & Behaviour
PSYC3009 Lifespan Development in Cultural Perspective
Supervisory interests
Depression
Eating disorders
Epigenetics
Genetics
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Schizophrenia
Stress
Trauma
Higher degree by research supervision
Current
Principal supervisor: Honours (3), PhD (3), PhD (Clinical) (1), Masters (Clinical) (1)
Associate supervisor: PhD (clinical) (1)
Higher degree by research student achievements
Kaitlin Harkess

Clinical Psyc PhD - JUN 2016

Kaitlin Harkess

Dean’s Commendation for Doctoral Thesis - JUN 2016

Kaitlin Harkess

Australian and New Zealand Three-Minute Thesis Competition National Finalist - OCT 2013

Publications
Expert for media contact
Genetics/Genetic engineering
Psychiatry
Psychology
Schizophrenia
Stress
Environmental epigenetics
Genomics in mental health
Available for contact via
Or contact the media team
+61 8 82012092
0427 398 713
Media expertise
  • Genetics/Genetic engineering
  • Psychiatry
  • Psychology
  • Schizophrenia
  • Stress
Interests
  • Environmental epigenetics
  • Genomics in mental health

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