Joery den Hoed


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  • Tilot, A. K., Vino, A., Kucera, K. S., Carmichael, D. A., Van den Heuvel, L., Den Hoed, J., Sidoroff-Dorso, A. V., Campbell, A., Porteous, D. J., St Pourcain, B., Van Leeuwen, T. M., Ward, J., Rouw, R., Simner, J., & Fisher, S. E. (2019). Investigating genetic links between grapheme-colour synaesthesia and neuropsychiatric traits. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences. Advance online publication. doi:10.1098/rstb.2019.0026.


    Synaesthesia is a neurological phenomenon affecting perception, where triggering stimuli (e.g. letters and numbers) elicit unusual secondary sensory experiences (e.g. colours). Family-based studies point to a role for genetic factors in the development of this trait. However, the contributions of common genomic variation to synaesthesia have not yet been investigated. Here, we present the SynGenes cohort, the largest genotyped collection of unrelated people with grapheme–colour synaesthesia (n = 723). Synaesthesia has been associated with a range of other neuropsychological traits, including enhanced memory and mental imagery, as well as greater sensory sensitivity. Motivated by the prior literature on putative trait overlaps, we investigated polygenic scores derived from published genome-wide scans of schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), comparing our SynGenes cohort to 2181 non-synaesthetic controls. We found a very slight association between schizophrenia polygenic scores and synaesthesia (Nagelkerke's R2 = 0.0047, empirical p = 0.0027) and no significant association for scores related to ASD (Nagelkerke's R2 = 0.00092, empirical p = 0.54) or body mass index (R2 = 0.00058, empirical p = 0.60), included as a negative control. As sample sizes for studying common genomic variation continue to increase, genetic investigations of the kind reported here may yield novel insights into the shared biology between synaesthesia and other traits, to complement findings from neuropsychology and brain imaging.

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  • Den Hoed, J., Sollis, E., Venselaar, H., Estruch, S. B., Derizioti, P., & Fisher, S. E. (2018). Functional characterization of TBR1 variants in neurodevelopmental disorder. Scientific Reports, 8: 14279. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-32053-6.


    Recurrent de novo variants in the TBR1 transcription factor are implicated in the etiology of sporadic autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Disruptions include missense variants located in the T-box DNA-binding domain and previous work has demonstrated that they disrupt TBR1 protein function. Recent screens of thousands of simplex families with sporadic ASD cases uncovered additional T-box variants in TBR1 but their etiological relevance is unclear. We performed detailed functional analyses of de novo missense TBR1 variants found in the T-box of ASD cases, assessing many aspects of protein function, including subcellular localization, transcriptional activity and protein-interactions. Only two of the three tested variants severely disrupted TBR1 protein function, despite in silico predictions that all would be deleterious. Furthermore, we characterized a putative interaction with BCL11A, a transcription factor that was recently implicated in a neurodevelopmental syndrome involving developmental delay and language deficits. Our findings enhance understanding of molecular functions of TBR1, as well as highlighting the importance of functional testing of variants that emerge from next-generation sequencing, to decipher their contributions to neurodevelopmental disorders like ASD.

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