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Zentralinstitut für Seelische Gesundheit, Dept. of Genetic Epidemiology


Central Institute of Mental Health
Department of Genetic Epidemiology in Psychiatry
68159 Mannheim


Project leader

Prof. Dr. Marcella Rietschel

Prof. Dr. Marcella Rietschel

Phone: +49 1703 6051
Fax: +49 1703 6055
Dr. Stephanie Witt

Dr. Stephanie Witt

Phone: +49 1703 6091
Fax: +49 1703 6055

Institute presentation

The Central Institute of Mental Health (CIMH) is a globally recognised centre of modern psychiatry delivering outstanding science, research and teaching in partnership with institutions at home and abroad. Since 1980 the Institute is a Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health of the WHO.

The Department of Genetic Epidemiology in Psychiatry explores the genetic and environmental basis of psychiatric disorders, specifically molecular genetics of psychiatric disorders, including epigenetics and transcriptional profiling, pharmacogenetic studies in psychiatry, public health genetics and ethical, social and legal aspects of psychiatric genetics. The department conducts extensive phenotype characterizations and the genotyping of affected individuals, their families and the general population using large samples.

Previous experience:

The group has extensive experience in all aspects of complex genetic research, including high-standard phenotype characterization, development of data-bases for psychiatric-genetic studies, mutation screening, linkage and association studies, and theoretical genetic epidemiological work. Moreover, ethical research projects have been conducted within BMBF funded ELSI projects and we presently lead an ethics subproject within an EU-FP 6 Integrated Project.

In national and international collaborations within Germany (within the framework of the National Genome Research Network, NGFN), France (INSERM), Europe (FP6 and FP7), and the NIMH, our group has actively participated in the organization, phenotype characterization and analysis of several of the largest candidate-gene association and linkage studies on mental disorders.

The Molecular Genetic Laboratory is a leading partner in collection and storage of diverse biomaterial including saliva and blood for genetic, epigenetic as well as gene expression analysis and plasma and serum for protein analysis. The group is the biobanking and genotyping partner in GEPOLO-ADHD (German Population Based Long Term Follow-Up of ADHD) where we are responsible for the collection and storage of samples from adolescent donors. We are also the German leading recruiting partner in the European FP6 IMAGEN project (Reinforcement-related behaviour in normal brain function and psychopathology), including the collection of blood samples for genetic, gene expression and protein analyses. We run one of Germans largest biobanks with biomaterial from psychiatric patients and controls and provide state of the art data management according to ethical and data privacy standards.

Profile of staff members:

Professor Marcella Rietschel, MD is Head of the Department of Genetic Epidemiology in Psychiatry. She is a Professor of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and a Medical Geneticist, and has profound expertise in all aspects of formal and molecular genetics of psychiatric disorders. She has published over 300 peer-reviewed publications.

Stephanie Witt, PhD is a psychologist with a PhD in molecular biology. She has extensive experience in laboratory work as well as phenotypic assessment of probands. As Assistant Scientific Director of the department she is supervising and coordinating studies and acts as a contact person for collaborating partners.

Vanessa Nieratschker, PhD is a biologist and leader of the Molecular Genetic Laboratory of the Department of Genetic Epidemiology in Psychiatry. She is coordinating the biobanking of human material including data management and quality assurance.

Main tasks attributed in the project:

This partner is participating in WP3: Establishing Biological Sampling Methodology for Investigation of Mediators of Suicidality.

Research with relevance to the project:

  1. Witt SH, Buchmann AF, Blomeyer D, Nieratschker V, Treutlein J, Esser G, Schmidt MH, Bidlingmaier M, Wiedemann K, Rietschel M, Laucht M, Wüst S, Zimmermann US. An interaction between a neuropeptide Y gene polymorphism and early adversity modulates endocrine stress responses. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011 Aug;36(7):1010-20. Epub 2011 Jan 26.
  2. Treutlein J, Cichon S, Ridinger M, Wodarz N, Soyka M, Zill P, Maier W, Moessner R, Gaebel W, Dahmen N, Fehr C, Scherbaum N, Steffens M, Ludwig KU, Frank J, Wichmann HE, Schreiber S, Dragano N, Sommer WH, Leonardi-Essmann F, Lourdusamy A, Gebicke-Haerter P, Wienker TF, Sullivan PF, Nöthen MM, Kiefer F, Spanagel R, Mann K, Rietschel M. Genome-wide association study of alcohol dependence. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009 Jul;66(7):773-84. PubMed PMID: 19581569.
  3. Esslinger C, Walter H, Kirsch P, Erk S, Schnell K, Arnold C, Haddad L, Mier D, Opitz von Boberfeld C, Raab K, Witt SH, Rietschel M, Cichon S, Meyer-Lindenberg A. Neural mechanisms of a genome-wide supported psychosis variant. Science. 2009 May 1;324(5927):605. PubMed PMID: 19407193.
  4. Perroud N, Uher R, Hauser J, Rietschel M, Henigsberg N, Placentino A, Kozel D, Maier W, Mors O, Souery D, Dmitrzak-Weglarz M, Jorgensen L, Kovacic Z, Giovannini C, Mendlewicz J, Zobel A, Strohmaier J, McGuffin P, Aitchison KJ, Farmer A. History of suicide attempts among patients with depression in the GENDEP project. J Affect Disord. 2009 Sep 21. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 19772940.
  5. Rietschel M, Georgi A, Schmael C, Schirmbeck F, Strohmaier J, Boesshenz KV, Schwarz M, Nöthen MM, Schulze TG. Premorbid adjustment: a phenotype highlighting a distinction rather than an overlap between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Schizophr Res. 2009 May;110(1-3):33-9. Epub 2009 Apr 3. PubMed PMID: 19345565.