Behavioural Epidemiology and Genetics (BEG) group

We aim to understand the intersections of behaviour, cognition, mental health and physical illness. In particular we focus on intermediate traits of both mental and physical illness to explore the biology underlying the coexistence of these conditions.

We take a team science approach to achieve our aims, using epidemiology, statistical genetics, machine learning and neuroimaging methods with a range of data sources including electronic health records, adolescent and adult population studies and clinical cohorts. Key data sources used in our work include UK Biobank, ALSPAC, ABCD, Add Health, IMPROVE, GENiAL and Generation Scotland. We are among the leading contributors to the institute's UK Biobank research group. We aim to share analytic code and summary statistics openly.

Group members

Lead investigators

Photo of Mark BaileyMark Bailey

I am Senior Lecturer in Molecular Genetics, with interests in the genetic basis for a range of human traits and disorders, both single gene and complex, focussing on brain- and body composition/performance-related phenotypes.


Photo of Breda CullenBreda Cullen

I am a Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology and a clinical neuropsychologist. My research focuses on understanding variation in cognitive function in chronic psychiatric and neurological disorders.


Photo of Nicholas GrahamNicholas Graham

I am an Honorary Lecturer in Psychiatry, and my research focuses on understanding the relationship between mood disorder and cardiometabolic disease.


Photo of Donald LyallDonald Lyall

I am a Lecturer in Public Health and I am interested in cognitive ageing: its modifiers (e.g. genetics or lifestyle) and its substrates (e.g. brain structure).


Photo of Laura LyallLaura Lyall

I am a Research Fellow with a background in psychology, and my research focuses on understanding predictors of mental health, cognitive and brain imaging outcomes.


Photo of Claire NiedzwiedzClaire Niedzwiedz

I am an RCUK Innovation Fellow, and my research aims to explore how aspects of computer science can help us better understand the onset of mental and physical co-morbidities and associated adverse outcomes.


Photo of Rona StrawbridgeRona Strawbridge

I am a Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow with a background in molecular genetics, and my current research focus is on using genetics to investigate the link between psychiatric disorders and cardiometabolic disease.


Lead bioinformatician

Photo of Joey WardJoey Ward

I am a postdoctoral researcher, and my research investigates how genetic risk for neuroticism and major depression influence response to antidepressants and longer-term clinical outcomes.


Affiliate investigators

Photo of Jana AndersonJana Anderson

I am a Research Fellow in Public Health, interested in understanding the link between diet and health in association with other lifestyle risk factors.


Research assistants and students

Photo of Alisha AmanAlisha Aman

I am a BHF-funded PhD student with a background in genetics/genomics. My area of focus is to identify potential drug repositioning or new drug targets using quantitative trait loci and GWAS data in cardiovascular disease, primarily hypertension.


Photo of Enock HavyarimanaEnock Havyarimana

I am a Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher and my research investigates patterns and risk factors for inflammatory diseases.


Photo of Natasha SanghaNatasha Sangha

I am an MRC-funded PhD student with a background in data science and psychology. I am interested in using machine learning to understand predictors of mood disorders.


Photo of Ioana StanciuIoana Stanciu

I am a PhD student with a background in psychology and health psychology, interested in the genetic links between rheumatoid arthritis and mental health, cognition and sleep.


Photo of Xingxing ZhuXingxing Zhu

I am a CSC-funded PhD student with a background in neuroscience, focusing on how genetic risk factors act on mental disorders especially the potential roles of brain morphology and function.


Past members

Dr Amy Ferguson (University of Edinburgh)

Dr Keira Johnston (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)

Dr Rachana Tank (UCSF)

Key publications

Strawbridge, R. J. et al. (2021) The overlap of genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia and cardiometabolic disease can be used to identify metabolically different groups of individuals. Scientific Reports, 11, 632. (doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-79964-x) (PMID:33436761) (PMCID:PMC7804422)

Anderson, J. J. , Gray, S. R. , Welsh, P. , Mackay, D. F. , Celis-Morales, C. A. , Lyall, D. M. , Forbes, J., Sattar, N. , Gill, J. M.R. and Pell, J. P. (2020) The associations of sugar-sweetened, artificially sweetened and naturally sweet juices with all-cause mortality in 198,285 UK Biobank participants: a prospective cohort study. BMC Medicine, 18(1), 97. (doi: 10.1186/s12916-020-01554-5) (PMID:32326961)

Ward, J. et al. (2020) The genomic basis of mood instability: identification of 46 loci in 363,705 UK Biobank participants, genetic correlation with psychiatric disorders, and association with gene expression and function. Molecular Psychiatry, 25(11), pp. 3091-3099. (doi: 10.1038/s41380-019-0439-8) (PMID:31168069) (PMCID:PMC7116257)

Cullen, B., Smith, D. J., Deary, I. J., Pell, J. P., Keyes, K. M. and Evans, J. J. (2019) Understanding cognitive impairment in mood disorders: mediation analyses in the UK Biobank Cohort. British Journal of Psychiatry, 215(5), pp. 683-690. (doi: 10.1192/bjp.2019.188) (PMID:31412972)

Graham, N. A., Ward, J. , Mackay, D. , Pell, J. , Cavanagh, J. , Padmanabhan, S. and Smith, D. J. (2019) Impact of major depression on cardiovascular outcomes for individuals with hypertension: prospective survival analysis in UK Biobank. BMJ Open, 9(9), e024433. (doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-024433) (PMID:31575565) (PMCID:PMC6797415)

Lyall, D. M. et al. (2019) Assessing for interaction between APOE ε4, sex and lifestyle on cognitive abilities. Neurology, 92, e2691-e2698. (doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007551) (PMID:31028125) (PMCID:PMC6556094)

Lyall, L. M. et al. (2018) Association of disrupted circadian rhythmicity with mood disorders, subjective wellbeing, and cognitive function: a cross-sectional study of 91 105 participants from the UK Biobank. Lancet Psychiatry, 5(6), pp. 507-514. (doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30139-1) (PMID:29776774)

Niedzwiedz, C. L. , Robb, K. A. , Katikireddi, S. V. , Pell, J. P. and Smith, D. J. (2020) Depressive symptoms, neuroticism and participation in breast and cervical cancer screening: cross-sectional and prospective evidence from UK Biobank. Psycho-Oncology, 29(2), pp. 381-388. (doi: 10.1002/pon.5272) (PMID:31663185) (PMCID:PMC7002161)

External collaborators

Professor Daniel Smith and Dr Heather Whalley, University of Edinburgh, UK

Associate Professors Bruna Gigante and Ingrid Dahlman, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

Dr Maria Sabater Lleal, IIB-Sant Pau, Spain

Associate Professor Damiano Baldassarre, University of Milan, Italy

Dr Christopher Whelan, Biogen Pharmaceuticals, US