Genes, the Brain, and the “P-Factor” of Psychopathology

Psychiatric disorders tend to co-occur. This phenomenon is a hallmark of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and an especially major issue in the emerging field of psychiatric genetics, since it greatly complicates our search for specific genes for specific disorders. There is increasing evidence that mental disorders may have a hierarchical rather than categorical taxonomy, such that a single major source of risk may be shared across all of the disorders and that other risk factors may contribute to the development of each specific disorder.

This study utilizes genetic, neuroimaging, and clinical data from the Neurodevelopmental Genomics: Trajectories of Complex Phenotypes (i.e., PNC) dataset to characterize the ways in which psychiatric disorders are expressed in a diverse sample nearly 10,000 youths and young adults. Our studies examine the extent to which a hierarchical taxonomy of psychopathology can be applied across racial-ethnic lines, as well evidence for unique genetic/neurobiological risk factors that underly general risk for psychopathology (i.e., the p-factor) and specific risk for each disorder.

From He & Li, 2020

Key collaborators:


Qiongshi Lu, Ph.D. (Biostatistics & Medical Informatics)

Brittany Travers, Ph.D. (Kinesiology)

Ryan Herringa, MD, Ph.D. (Psychiatry)

Representative articles: