Eric Slob co-authors largest genetic study of brain structure

Erasmus School of Economics

Eric Slob of Erasmus School of Economics has contributed to the largest ever study of the genetics of the brain. This month, the results of the study, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge, have been published in Nature Genetics.

Advice on the statistics and design of the study

Encompassing some 36,000 brain scans, the researchers have identified more than 4,000 genetic variants linked to brain structure. Dr Eric Slob advised on the statistics and design of the study, and on what inferences could be made based on the results that were obtained.

‘We made an important contribution to the field with the largest ever study of the genetics of the brain. Analysing the results was a challenging task, as topologically closer regions were likely to share genetic loci and be genetically similar.’ - Researcher Eric Slob

Little is known about how our genetic make-up shapes the organization and development of the brain. To answer this question, a team led by researchers at the Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, accessed MRI scans from over 32,000 adults from the UK Biobank cohort and over 4,000 children from the US-based ABCD study. From these scans, the researchers measured multiple properties of the outermost layer of the brain called the cortex. These included measures of the surface area and volume of the cortex as well as how the cortex is folded.

Findings have allowed the researchers to confirm and, in some cases, identify, how different properties of the brain are genetically linked to each other. These can be used to understand how changes in the shape and size of the brain can lead to neurological and psychiatric conditions, potentially leading to better treatment and support for those who need it.

About Eric Slob

Eric Slob (1994) obtained a MSc degree in Econometrics and Management Science at Erasmus School of Economics. In 2021, he successfully defended his PhD thesis. In his dissertation ‘Integrating Genetics into Economics’, Slob developed and compared statistical methods that can be used in genoeconomics, and showed through empirical studies how genetically informed study designs can give new insights to economists. The methods developed and compared in his dissertation foster the use of genes as instrumental variables and help further the understanding of genetic relationships across socio-economically relevant characteristics. Already during his PhD research, Eric took up an appointment at the Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge as a Research Associate. In 2022, he accepted a part-time appointment on the ERC Starting Grant of Niels Rietveld (Associate Professor at the department of Applied Economics and Executive Director of the Erasmus University Rotterdam Institute for Behavior and Biology).

As of September 2023, Eric Slob will continue his career at Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences as an assistant professor. Eric’s work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, such as the International Journal of Epidemiology, Genetic Epidemiology, and Small Business Economics. He has presented his work, amongst others, at meetings of the Behavior Genetics Association, and the Mendelian Randomization conference.

More information

For more information, please contact Ronald de Groot, Media & Public Relations Officer at Erasmus School of Economics:, mobile phone: +31 6 53 641 846.

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