• Telefoon:+31 20 59 88789
  • Kamernr:2b-41
  • E-mail:di.boomsma@vu.nl
  • Onderdeel:faculteit der psychologie en pedagogiek (afd. biologisch)
  • Functie:Professor

Twin studies

Professor Boomsma has established a database of over 75,000 twins and their family members in the Netherlands (The Netherlands Twin Register), which forms the basis for genetic studies of complex traits. The twins and their families have undergone periodic testing over a period of decades, providing a wealth of longitudinal data for research into health and disease. A large number of participants have also provided DNA, blood, and urine samples for testing. Her research has primarily focused on a better understanding of the influence of the genome on various physical and mental traits including cognition and brain development, the development of behavioral and emotional problems in children, personality, psychiatric disorders in adults, migraine, cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome. This work has been reported in over 500 published papers and one book and has led to many awards.


Twin studies provide a way to understand how genotype affects an observable characteristic (called a phenotype). In short, identical (monozygotic) twins carry nearly always the same alleles for 100% of their genes whereas fraternal (dizygotic) twins will carry different alleles at 50% of their segregating genes. So if some characteristic (say, depression) that is observed in one identical twin is always observed in the other one, but this does not hold for fraternal twins, then one can conclude that heredity plays an important role in causing the condition. Boomsma has been a pioneer in collecting a broad spectrum of data (e.g., medical histories, IQ tests, MRI scans) and biological material (e.g., DNA and RNA samples, blood and urine samples) from thousands of twins and analyzing them to determine the role of genetics in characteristics as varied as adult height, brain volume, intelligence, migraine headaches, anxiety, drug addiction, and love of coffee. Her results span a wide range of behavioral characteristics, including discovery of the surprisingly large genetic component to feelings of loneliness, the fact that first borns have higher IQs than their younger siblings, and the increased influence of genetics on body weight as children grow older.

European Research Council Advanced Grant

In 2008, the European Research Council began awarding grants of about 2.5 million euro (about $3.5 million) to the top scientists and scholars in Europe via a competition that covered all academic disciplines. Due to the large amount of money these were extremely competitive, with a very strong applicant pool and a 13% acceptance rate. Boomsma received one of the ERC grants for a project on the genetics of mental illness. Her research focuses on several themes: Neuropsychiatric Disorders (ADHD, anxiety, depression), Cognition & Attention and Migraine & Metabolic Disorders. The goal of this research is to use the NTR twin database and biological specimens to try to determine which genes play a role in causing these conditions.


Dorret Boomsma has received several awards for her research. These include:

  • Behavior Genetics Association Thompson Award (1985)
  • Dutch Psychological Association Junior-Heymans Award (1996)
  • Membership in the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) (2001)
  • Spinoza Prize (NWO) (2001)
  • International Twin Society James Shield Award (2002)
  • Dr. Hendrik Muller Prize for Behavioural and Social Sciences (2009) 
  • KNAW Merian Prize (2011)
  • Elected as Member Academia Europaea (2012)
  • Dobzhansky Award for lifetime achievement in Behavior Genetics (awarded by BGA) (2013)
  • KNAW Academy Professor (2014)





Behavior Genetics
Quantitative Genetics
Statistical Methodology for Twins & Families


Nederlands Tweelingen Register


Int. Socity for Twin Studies

01 januari 1983

K. Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen

01 januari 2002


01 januari 2002

Avond van Wetenschap en Maatschappij

01 januari 2006

Gezondheidsraad/ beraadsgroep genetica

Den Haag
01 januari 2008

Engage Steering Board Publication An

01 januari 2009

Heineken Young Scientists Award

01 januari 2010

Behavior Genetics Association

02 januari 2014
Laatste wijzigingen Nevenwerkzaamheden: Amsterdam, 15 augustus 2014
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