Networking and interdisciplinary knowledge transfer
Alumni - Doctoral projects
© Daniela Conrad

Genet­ics and Epige­net­ics of Posttrau­matic Stress Disor­der and its Treatment

Daniela Conrad – Hector Fellow Thomas Elbert

The risk to develop posttrau­matic stress disor­der (PTSD) depends on the number of traumatic events experi­enced and individ­ual risk factors, e.g. genetic predis­po­si­tions. However, to identify causal genetic variants of this polygenic disease, trauma exposure needs to be adequately assessed. Further­more, previ­ously used candi­date gene and genome-wide studies rarely presented with suffi­cient statis­ti­cal power to detect the marginal effects of single genetic markers, making a combi­na­tion with other more suited approaches neces­sary. Moreover, prior research indicated epige­netic modifi­ca­tions (i.e. biolog­i­cal mecha­nism influ­enc­ing gene regula­tion and expres­sion) to be risk factors for PTSD and poten­tial predic­tors of treat­ment success.

This doctoral project, super­vised by Hector Fellow Thomas Elbert, aims to system­at­i­cally inves­ti­gate the inter­play between trauma exposure, genetic pathways and their epige­netic modifi­ca­tion in terms of PTSD devel­op­ment in a large sample of survivors of the rebel war between the Lord‘s Resis­tance Army and Ugandan govern­men­tal troops. Further, the impact of genetic markers on PTSD treat­ment success using a trauma-focused therapy approach (Narra­tive Exposure Therapy, NET) is investigated.

A better under­stand­ing of genetic and epige­netic risk and resiliency factors in the etiol­ogy and treat­ment of PTSD will contribute in the long run to improved psychother­a­peu­tic and pharma­co­log­i­cal treat­ments for PTSD.


Daniela Conrad, Sarah Wilker, Anett Pfeif­fer, Birke Lingen­felder, Tracie Ebalu, Hartmut Lanzinger, Thomas Elbert, Iris-Tatjana Kolassa & Stephan Kolassa (2017). Does trauma event type matter in the assess­ment of traumatic load?, European Journal of Psychotrau­ma­tol­ogy, 8:1, 1344079. DOI: 10.1080/20008198.2017.1344079

Gerke, J.*, Koenig, A. M.*, Conrad, D., Doyen-Waldecker, C., Pauly, M., Gündel, H., ... & Kolassa, I. T. (2018). Child­hood maltreat­ment as risk factor for lifetime depres­sion: The role of differ­ent types of experi­ences and sensi­tive periods. Mental Health & Preven­tion, 10, 56–65. doi:10.1016/j.mhp.2018.03.002
*These authors contributed equally to the manuscript.

Conrad, D., Wilker, S., Schnei­der, A., Karabat­si­akis, A., Pfeif­fer, A., Lingen­felder, B., Freytag, V., Vukoje­vic, V., Vogler, C., Milnik, A., Papas­sotiropou­los, A., de Quervain, D., Elbert, T., Kolassa, I.-T. (2018). Integrated genetic, epige­netic and gene set enrich­ment analy­ses identify NOTCH as a novel media­tor for PTSD risk after trauma: Results from two indepen­dent African cohorts. Psychophys­i­ol­ogy, 2018, e13288. Online publi­ca­tion ahead of print. doi:10.1111/psyp.13288

Conrad, D.*, Schnei­der, A.*, Pfeif­fer, A., Wilker, S., Elbert, T., Kolassa, I.-T. (2018). Stigma­ti­za­tion Is associ­ated with increased PTSD risk after traumatic stress and dimin­ished likeli­hood of sponta­neous remis­sion – A study with East-African conflict survivors. Frontiers in Psychi­a­try, 9, 423. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00423.
*The authors contributed equally to this paper.

RR Lyrae stars as tracers of substructure and Galactic archaeology

Schematic overview of main research topics of the doctoral project

Daniela Conrad

Univer­sität Konstanz

Stress & Epigenetics

How fishes contribute to the treat­ment of post-traumatic stress disorder

An inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research project by Prof. Dr. Axel Meyer & Prof. Dr. Thomas Elbert


Super­vised by

Prof. Dr.

Thomas Elbert


Hector Fellow since 2009