The focus of research and educational courses at the department of Biological Psychology is the analysis of individual differences in health, cognition, normal and abnormal behaviour. We study the genetic and biological basis of individual differences in human behaviour using approaches from genetic epidemiology, psychophysiology and molecular genetics. These themes and approaches form the basis of the two-year Research Master Genes in Behaviour and Health.
The department maintains the Netherlands Twin Register which was established in 1987 and has developed into an important resource for research in (behavioural) genetics. The NTR collects data from twin-families (twins, sibs, parents, spouses and offspring) and teachers. More than 70.000 young twins and multiples have been registered at birth and are followed throughout their development and over 25.000 adults take part in longitudinal genetic studies. In the NTR-Biobank project biological material (DNA, RNA, cell lines serum, plasma, urine) is collected in over 10.000 participants. The database is widely used for psychological, genetic and medical research.
Longitudinal data are collected by surveys on lifestyle, personality, health and psychiatric disorders. Subgroups participate in studies of cognition and memory; of sMRI, fMRI, EEG/ERP; adult and childhood psychopathology, addiction, diabetes and cardiovascular risk (see www.vu-ams.nl). Over 60 PhD students have used data collected by the NTR for their PhD thesis projects and many of these projects are done in close collaboration with international colleagues.
Of longstanding interest to the department is also the genetics of fertility and dizygotic twinning and twinning as a risk or a protective factor during development. In collaboration with the VU Medical Centre a special clinic (www.twinvumc.nl) has been established to address the special needs of twins and multiples.