Welcome to the inDEPTH lab

Investigating developmental pathways to mental health

About us

We are a research group based at Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam. Our goal is to understand how genetic and environmental influences jointly shape children’s development, behaviour and mental health. With this goal in mind, our key aims are to:

  1. Identify ‘risk’ and ‘protective’ influences on mental health. We examine longitudinal data across development to identify which environmental factors beginning in utero influence mental health and psychiatric risk later in life. In parallel, we study the genetic structure of common child psychiatric problems, in order to understand the role of genetic factors in risk and resilience. 

  1. Examine how children’s genetic makeup and their environment interact over development to influence mental health. This can help us understand why children with a similar genetic profile can differ in their mental health, and conversely, how children who experience similar life events can react in very different ways to them. 

  1. Uncover the biological mechanisms linking genetic and environmental factors to mental health. To address this, we investigate a wide range of biological factors, including epigenetic regulation, neurodevelopment, the immune system and inflammation, the gut microbiome, and the role of hormones.

Our research draws on the power of large epidemiological birth cohorts, where the same children are followed longitudinally from prenatal life onward, to map the relationship between children’s environment, biology and mental health as it unfolds over time. A big part of our research is embedded in the Generation R Study – an ongoing population cohort of nearly 10,000 children born in Rotterdam and followed from pre-birth onward. We also collaborate closely with other international cohorts, high-risk clinical studies and experimental research groups to triangulate evidence regarding factors involved in mental health, psychiatric risk and resilience. You can learn more about our research here.

Together, we believe that a better understanding of developmental pathways to mental health can help us devise more effective strategies for early intervention and the prevention of child and adolescent psychiatric problems. Ultimately, we hope that this knowledge will translate into better ways to promote child mental health, so as to help children thrive and to avert the development of chronic mental illnesses in adulthood.