NSHG-PM Webinar: Polygenic Architecture of Mental Traits and Disorders: Are Small Effects the New Normal?

           Ole Andreassen

The 2020-2021 NSHG-PM webinar series continued on 14 April 2021 with a presentation titled “Polygenic Architecture of Mental Traits and Disorders: Are Small Effects the New Normal?” by Ole Andreassen and Oleksandr Frei, Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research in Oslo, Norway

In addition to audience Q&A, there was a panel discussion with Sarah Bergen of the Karolinska Institute; Aarno Palotie of the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland; Daniel Gudbjartsson, Hreinn Stefánsson, and Kári Stefánsson of deCODE genetics; and Thomas Werge of the Institute of Biological Psychiatry, Sct Hans Hospital.

Watch previous webinars.

           Oleksandr Frei

Recent development in psychiatric genetics has revealed a large number of genetic variants associated with mental traits and disorders. This is often referred to as the polygenic architecture. For example, the recent genome-wide association study of schizophrenia reported 270 independent loci. Similarly, there are hundreds of loci associated with traits such as personality and intelligence, and brain structures as measured with MRI. In addition, there is a large degree of genetic overlap among brain-related phenotypes.
Despite the substantial number of discoveries, each genetic locus has a small effect. Thus, it is a challenge to translate the polygenic architecture to neurobiological insight, by understanding the molecular genetic mechanisms involved in brain disorders. However, a potential exists for applying polygenic signals in clinical useful settings, for example, in treatment stratification. Therefore, this could lead to the introduction of precision medicine in psychiatry.


The webinar included two presentations

  • Polygenic Architecture Beyond Genetic Correlations Revealed With Mathematical Models. Oleksandr Frei, University of Oslo
  • Can We Exploit Multiple Small Genetic Effects in Developing Precision Psychiatry Tools? Ole A. Andreassen, Oslo University Hospital



1. How can sequencing efforts improve translation of statistical genetics associations to biological function?
2. Why is the genetics of brain function different from other organs?
3. How can large-scale genotyping efforts in the Nordic region provide critical training samples to improve stratification and prediction tools?


Listen to the webinar


 About the Society

The Nordic Society of Human Genetics and Precision Medicine (NSHG-PM) works with stakeholders at national, regional, and global levels to: 1) establish a Nordic framework for research into the genetics of human diseases, evolution, and population history; 2) accelerate discovery of disease-influencing genes; 3) translate these findings for precision medicine to improve public health; and 4) uphold and promote the highest legal, regulatory, social, and ethical standards.

The benefits of membership for you and your research include reduced registration fees at NSHG-PM conferences, symposia, and select workshops. Equally important, you are helping to support the field as NSHG-PM works to educate and advocate for human genetics and precision medicine research in academic, policy, and public education arenas.

NSHG-PM membership runs from January to December.