Population Genetics of Human Communication

Population Genetics of Human Communication research group

Human language is one of the most distinct and fascinating features of humankind. As a system of communication, language supports peer contact and interaction but also cognitive development, learning and knowledge transfer. Our understanding of the genetic mechanisms behind this complex phenotype is, however, still poor. Our group aims to decipher the genetic basis of language and communication in typically developing children using modern genetic epidemiological analysis techniques.


Beate St Pourcain

Senior Investigator
Language and Genetics Department
+31 24 3521964


Verhoef, E., Demontis, D., Shapland, C. Y., Neale, B. M., Faraone, S. V., Viechtbauer, W., Stergiakouli, E., Davey Smith, G., Fisher, S. E., PGC-iPSYCH consortium, Børglum, A. D., & St Pourcain, B. (2017). Polygenic risk for ADHD is associated with reading- and spelling-related traits. Talk presented at COGNOMICS conference 2017. Nijmegen, The Netherlands. 2017-09-07 - 2017-09-08.




Haworth, S., Felix, J., Prims, B., Blewitt, I., Tachmazidou, I., Medina-Gomez, C., Rivadeneira, F., Ring, S., Davey Smith, G., Evans, D., Timpson, N., Iotchkova, V., Ritchie, G., UK10, C., Dedoussis, G., Vincent Jaddoe, V. W. V., Zeggini, E., & St Pourcain, B. (2015). Analysis of common and less frequent genetic variation for head circumference: Next-generation genetic association studies within the UK10K COHORTS project. Poster presented at the 9th annual Genomics of Common Diseases, Cambridge, UK. Robinson, E., St Pourcain, B., Anttila, V., Bulik-Sullivan, B., Kosmicki, J., Samocha, K., Maller, J., Skuse, D., Grove, J., Mortensen, P. B., Borglum, A., Neale, B., Ronald, A., Smith, G. D., & Daly, M. (2015). Genetic Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders and Neuropsychiatric Variation in the General Population. Talk presented at the XXIIIrd World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics. Toronto, Canada. 2015-10-16 - 2015-10-20. St Pourcain, B., Martin, J., Stergiakouli, E., Robinson, E., Skuse, D., Susan, R., Ronald, A., Evans, D., Timpson, N., Thapar, A., & Smith, G. D. (2015). Genetic Links between Social-Communication Traits, ADHD Traits and Clinical ADHD During Development. Talk presented at the XXIIIrd World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics. Toronto, Canada. 2015-10-16 - 2015-10-20. St Pourcain, B., Robinson, E., Bulik-Sullivan, B., Anttila, V., Maller, J., Skuse, D., Ring, S., Evans, D., Timpson, N., Ronald, A., Grove, J., Borglum, A., Mortensen, P. B., Daly, M., & Smith, G. D. (2015). Developmental Changes in Genetic Relationships Between Traits and Disease: Analyses of Genetic Overlaps Between Social-communication Difficulties, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Schizophrenia. Poster presented at the XXIIIrd World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics, Toronto, Canada.

  • St Pourcain, B., Eaves, L. J., Ring, S. M., Fisher, S. E., Medland, S., Evans, D. M., Carey, G., & Smith, G. D. (2016). Developmental changes within the genetic architecture of social communication behaviour: A multivariate study of genetic variance in unrelated individuals. Poster presented at the World Congress in Psychiatric Genetics 2016, Jerusalem, Israel.
  • Verhoef, E., Fisher, S. E., Stergiakouli, E., Evans, D., Ring, S., Smith, G. D., & St Pourcain, B. (2016). Common polygenic risk for ASD and ADHD is associated with childhood linguistic traits within the general population, but with opposite effects. Talk presented at the World Congress in Psychiatric Genetics 2016. Jerusalem, Israel. 2016-10-30 - 2016-11-03.



St Pourcain, B. (2016). The genetic continuity of Autism Spectrum Disorders and other psychiatric illness with related traits in the general population. Talk presented at the Radboud Research Round. Nijmegen, The Netherlands. 2016-02-18. St Pourcain, B. (2016). The genetic continuity of psychiatric symptoms in the general population: dimensional views of ASD, ADHD and schizophrenia. Talk presented at the Department of Biological Psychology. Vrije Universiteit. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 2016-04-05. St Pourcain, B., Eaves, L. J., Evans, D. M., Fisher, S. E., Carey, G., & Smith, G. D. (2016). Trait-specific patterns of common genetic factors influence social communication difficulties and ADHD symptoms during development. Talk presented at the Behaviour Genetics Association Annual Meeting 2016. Brisbane, Australia. 2016-06-20 - 2016-06-23.


Genetic-relationship-matrix structural equation models

We have developed multivariate genetic-relationship-matrix structural equation modelling (GSEM) techniques in samples of unrelated individuals. For this, we combined whole-genome genotyping information with structural equation modelling techniques, analogous to twin research methodologies. The code is implemented within the R GSEM package and includes functions to fit "Cholesky decomposition", "Independent Pathway", and "Common Pathway" models.


  •  Beate St Pourcain Population Genetics of Human Communication Group
    13 September 2018

    SFARI Pilot Award

    Dr. Beate St Pourcain, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, has been granted a SFARI Pilot Award for her project ‘Disentangling autism heterogeneity through multivariate...

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