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The Cognomics programme is a major new collaboration involving leading experts at the Radboud University, the MPI for Psycholinguistics, Maastricht University and Twente University. This initiative aims to establish a large resource of thousands of participants from the general population, for tracing the connections between genes, brains and cognition.

Our society is increasingly dependent on tailoring education, work, and disease prevention to the talents and risks of the individual. Brain structure and function are intricately related to the cognitive strengths and limitations of each person. Research has mapped various cognitive domains to structural and functional aspects of the brain, and has further shown that cognition, brain structure and brain function are all strongly influenced by a person's genetic makeup. In fact, we have recently witnessed a massive increase in reports describing associations between genes and various traits and cognitive processes. However, what is still critically lacking is insight into the functional mechanisms and consequences of genetic factors at the level of the brain. Such mechanistic insights are necessary to be able to translate genetic findings into new strategies for optimizing cognitive skills, reducing limitations, remedying deficits and, in a broader scope, providing a structure for our society that preserves and promotes our invaluable human capital. The integration of genetic studies and large-scale brain imaging creates a knowledge chain all the way from the genome to the brain to complex cognition. This is a new research field that we propose to call cognition genomics, or Cognomics.

The long term goal of the Cognomics Initiative is to establish a resource of integrated behaviour–cognition– DNA–brain data from ~10.000 adults from the general population and to make this resource publicly available to the national and international research community. The first phase (funding application under review) involves recruitment and characterization of 1.500 adults from Nijmegen. Such a resource should already allow for the study of common and moderately rare genetic variants and epigenetic factors that influence cognitive processes at the levels of brain structure and brain function.

In the current phase, we will recruit a stratified sample of 1.500 adults (age 25-40 years) from the general population around Nijmegen, and characterize participants extensively in four cognitive domains: language, memory, cognitive control and social cognition. Brain imaging measures involve structural, diffusion weighted and resting state magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI during language and memory tasks, as well as face and voice perception (total MRI session 1 hour). Moreover, magnetoencephalographic recording (MEG) will be performed for all participants. The other cognitive tasks will be administered offline. We will obtain DNA for genome-wide genotyping (both common and moderately rare variants) and biobanking, allowing epigenetic profiling and whole genome sequencing to be carried out in future. Fibroblast cell lines will be banked for 100 individuals, for future transcriptomic and proteomic analyses, and for the establishment of induced pluripotent stem cells. We also obtain background information about demographics, lifestyle, behaviour and personality, and environmental factors.

*Please note that the new Cognomics website is now available here.*

Last checked 2017-11-03 by Martina Bernhard

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