Complex Trait Genetics


Course Objective

Provide the theoretical background into human population and biometrical
genetics, as they are applicable to the genetic analysis of human
complex traits.

Course Content

Quantitative genetics is concerned with the inheritance of those
differences between individuals that are of degree rather than of kind
(quantitative rather than qualitative). Such differences are seen for
most human complex traits (e.g. depression, cognitive abilities or
attention problems). When traits are classified into dichotomies (e.g.
the population is characterized by affected and unaffected individuals),
a quantitative distribution of liability may be assumed to model their
inheritance. This course aims to provide the theoretical understanding
of the inheritance of quantitative differences in behaviour, behavioural
disorders, endophenotypes (e.g. blood pressure or brain volumes)
underlying disease traits (e.g. hypertension or schizophrenia).
Quantitative differences, as far as they are inherited, depend on genes
with on average small effects and are usually influenced by gene
differences at many loci. Consequently these genes cannot be identified
by Mendelian segregation ratios (though they are subject to the laws of
Mendelian transmission).
The methods of quantitative genetics are characterized by studies of
large populations and families / twins and by the fact that the nature
of quantitative differences requires the measurement (and not just the
classification) of individuals. The extension of Mendelian genetics into
quantitative genetics will be made in two stages: the genetic properties
of populations (population genetics) and the inheritance of measurements
(biometrical genetics).
Quantitative genetics is now merging with molecular genetics and the
last part of this course will be devoted to methods for the localization
and characterization of genes causing quantitative variation and an
introduction of epigenetics.

Teaching Methods

Tuition consists of lectures, homework assignments, and active
participation in class.
Homework is evaluated in class each week.

Method of Assessment

• A final grade based on the average grade of 3 separate assessments:
homework assignments (20%), essays (50%), and oral presentation (30%).

Entry Requirements

General knowledge of human and quantitative genetics. When in doubt, ask
the course coordinator.


Book ‘Introduction to Quantitative Genetics’ by Falconer & Mackay(1996):
Pearson; 4 edition
ISBN-10: 0582243025
• Boomsma DI. Twin, association and current "omics" studies. J
Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2013, 26 2:9-12
• Flint J, GWAS. Curr Biol. 2013;23(7):R265-6.
• Manolio TA. Bringing genome-wide association findings into
clinical use. Nat Rev Genet. 2013, 14(8),
• Geschwind DH, Flint J. Genetics and genomics of psychiatric
disease. Science, 2015:1489-1494
• O'Donovan, MC. What have we learned from the Psychiatric
Genomics Consortium. Psychiatry 2015, 14.3: 291-293.

Target Audience

MA Students, PhD-students, postdocs who are interested in the
theoratical basis of research on the genetic origin of complex features
of man.

Additional Information

There will be guest lectures on topics that have emerged after the
last edition of the book was published; on fields like epigenetics.
Furthermore, it is expected from students that they will join a couple
of high-level meetings in the Netherlands, such as from BBRMI-NL.

Recommended background knowledge

General knowledge of human and quantitative genetics. When in doubt,
contact the course coordinator (Dorret Boomsma:

General Information

Course Code AM_470733
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator prof. dr. D.I. Boomsma
Examiner prof. dr. D.I. Boomsma
Teaching Staff J. van Dongen
prof. dr. D.I. Boomsma

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Lecture