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Alexander Neumann


Alexander Neumann
PhD Student

'Early child maltreatment: Do epigenetic changes underlie the risk of behavioral problems'

Stressful life events during early childhood, such as maltreatment, increase the risk of psychiatric problems later in life. However, the mechanisms of this risk effect are not well understood. My PhD project will revolve around studying how stressful life events could impact gene activation, which in turn might predispose children to behavioral problems. These epigenetic changes will be investigated in the Generation R study.

In Generation R methylation profiles from children were collected after birth and additionally methylation profiles at age 5 will be available as well. Methylation of DNA is associated with gene expression. Therefore it will be possible to study how stressful life events impact gene expression by examining their association with methylation changes during a child's early life. In Generation R not only life events and epigentics are measured, but also child behavioral problems and brain activity through the use of fMRI. Therefore, the next step in my PhD project will be to investigate whether the methylation changes induced by life events impact brain activity, which in turn could affect behavioral problems. Thus in the end, we hope to find the mechanisms explaining how stressful life events impact the occurrence of child behavioral problems.

Research Interests
- Psychiatric (epi-)genetics
- Early stressful life events
- Child behavioral problems