About me

I am professor in genetic epidemiology and study director for postgraduate studies at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. I am also deputy head of department and member of MEB's Executive Group

Previous positions

  • 1997 Associate professor (docent) in genetic epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet
  • 2006 Professor in genetic epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet
  • 2006-2013 Head of Swedish Twin Registry
  • 2014-2017 Head of department, Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Research description

The work in my group is primarily concerned with using genetically informative samples (twins, families) to understand genetic and environmental influences on both health and behavior. The studies are usually based on the Swedish Twin Registry (located at the Department and comprising more than 140.000 twins) and other Swedish Registries such as the Multigenerational Register (comprising all individuals born in Sweden since 1931).

My group performs quantitative genetic studies - that is, evaluate the relative importance of genes and environments for a phenotype - and "cotwin-control"-studies, where the importance of an exposure is evaluated after controlling for genetic predisposition for the disease. The research is interdisciplinary and includes, among others, medical, genetic, epidemiological, sociological and psychological research questions.

The development of health and behavioral problems in children

One focus of the work in the group is to understand how genes and environments influence the development of health and behavior during childhood and adolescence. We have followed a cohort of 1.500 twin pairs longitudinally since they were 8 years old in 1994 with multiple contacts (1994, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2013) with both the parents and the twins themselves. We have studied how genetic and environmental effects contribute to the development of mental health problems over time. For example, we have found that genetic effects are more stable for ADHD (Chang, Lichtenstein et al. 2014) compared to internalizing problems (e.g., fears, anxiety) (Kendler, Gardner et al. 2008).

The Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden (CATSS)

In CATSS-9, we conduct a psychiatric telephone interview with parents of all 1,400 twin pairs born in Sweden annually since 1992 in connection with their 9th birthdays. By April 2014 we have performed 13,500 interviews with a very high response rate (≈80%), and we have collected DNA from the twins. We follow the families with questionnaires to parents and twins at age 15 and 18. The aim is to understand how genes and environment affect different diseases and behavior during childhood and also to get information about various types of exposures. We have shown that the heritability for ASD was around 80% and that ASD had a common genetic etiology with other neuropsychiatric disorders (Lichtenstein, Carlstrom et al. 2010), that extreme values of ASD (Lundström, Chang et al. 2012) and ADHD (Larsson, Anckarsäter et al. 2012) have the same genetic etiology as normal variation in the underlying traits, and an association between fetal growth on ASD suggesting that fetal growth is in the causal pathway (Losh, Esserman et al. 2011).

Causes and consequences of criminality and psychiatric disorders

To elucidate the mechanisms for the association between early risks and mental health problems as well as intergenerational transmissions of psychiatric problems, we use the large population based registries in Sweden, including, among others, information on all psychiatric care, criminal convictions and suicides in Sweden for all first-degree relatives (>15 million individuals) since 1932. Using different quasi-experimental methods we have shown that smoking during pregnancy is not causally related to offspring criminality (D'Onofrio, Singh et al., 2010), that there is a common genetic etiology between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (Lichtenstein, Yip et al, 2009), and that ADHD medication protects against criminality (Lichtenstein, Halldner et al, 2012).

The Twin Registry

I was head of the Swedish Twin Registry during 2006-2013. During this time contacts with all twins not previously contacted in the Registry was completed. Now the Swedish Twin Registry contains of 200 000 twins. In addition, all twins in the Registry have had the opportunity to donate DNA for research purposes (n=40,000).

Researchers and Associate professors in my group

Current post docs

Selected publications

Discontinuity in the genetic and environmental causes of the intellectual disability spectrum. Reichenberg A, Cederlöf M, McMillan A, Trzaskowski M, Kapra O, Fruchter E, et al Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2016 01;113(4):1098-103

Common psychiatric disorders share the same genetic origin: a multivariate sibling study of the Swedish population. Pettersson E, Larsson H, Lichtenstein P Mol. Psychiatry 2016 May;21(5):717-21

Association of Resting Heart Rate and Blood Pressure in Late Adolescence With Subsequent Mental Disorders: A Longitudinal Population Study of More Than 1 Million Men in Sweden. Latvala A, Kuja-Halkola R, Rück C, D'Onofrio BM, Jernberg T, Almqvist C, et al JAMA Psychiatry 2016 Dec;73(12):1268-1275

Common genetic determinants of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in Swedish families: a population-based study. Lichtenstein P, Yip BH, Björk C, Pawitan Y, Cannon TD, Sullivan PF, et al Lancet 2009 Jan;373(9659):234-9

Common polygenic variation contributes to risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. , Purcell SM, Wray NR, Stone JL, Visscher PM, O'Donovan MC, et al Nature 2009 Aug;460(7256):748-52

Familial confounding of the association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and offspring criminality: a population-based study in Sweden. D'Onofrio BM, Singh AL, Iliadou A, Lambe M, Hultman CM, Grann M, et al Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 2010 May;67(5):529-38

The genetics of autism spectrum disorders and related neuropsychiatric disorders in childhood. Lichtenstein P, Carlström E, Råstam M, Gillberg C, Anckarsäter H Am J Psychiatry 2010 Nov;167(11):1357-63

Genome-wide association study identifies five new schizophrenia loci. Nat. Genet. 2011 Sep;43(10):969-76

A twin study of autism symptoms in Sweden. Ronald A, Larsson H, Anckarsäter H, Lichtenstein P Mol. Psychiatry 2011 Oct;16(10):1039-47

Large-scale genome-wide association analysis of bipolar disorder identifies a new susceptibility locus near ODZ4. Nat. Genet. 2011 Sep;43(10):977-83

Familial confounding of the association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and offspring substance use and problems. D'Onofrio BM, Rickert ME, Langström N, Donahue KL, Coyne CA, Larsson H, et al Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 2012 Nov;69(11):1140-50

Medication for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and criminality. Lichtenstein P, Halldner L, Zetterqvist J, Sjölander A, Serlachius E, Fazel S, et al N. Engl. J. Med. 2012 Nov;367(21):2006-14

Autism spectrum disorders and autistic like traits: similar etiology in the extreme end and the normal variation. Lundström S, Chang Z, Råstam M, Gillberg C, Larsson H, Anckarsäter H, et al Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 2012 Jan;69(1):46-52

Family history of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as risk factors for autism. Sullivan PF, Magnusson C, Reichenberg A, Boman M, Dalman C, Davidson M, et al Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 2012 Nov;69(11):1099-1103

Genetic relationship between five psychiatric disorders estimated from genome-wide SNPs. , Lee SH, Ripke S, Neale BM, Faraone SV, Purcell SM, et al Nat. Genet. 2013 Sep;45(9):984-94

Preterm birth and mortality and morbidity: a population-based quasi-experimental study. D'Onofrio BM, Class QA, Rickert ME, Larsson H, Långström N, Lichtenstein P JAMA Psychiatry 2013 Nov;70(11):1231-40

Premature mortality in epilepsy and the role of psychiatric comorbidity: a total population study. Fazel S, Wolf A, Långström N, Newton CR, Lichtenstein P Lancet 2013 Nov;382(9905):1646-54

GWAS of 126,559 individuals identifies genetic variants associated with educational attainment. Rietveld CA, Medland SE, Derringer J, Yang J, Esko T, Martin NW, et al Science 2013 Jun;340(6139):1467-71

Population-based, multigenerational family clustering study of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Mataix-Cols D, Boman M, Monzani B, Rück C, Serlachius E, Långström N, et al JAMA Psychiatry 2013 Jul;70(7):709-17

Serious transport accidents in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and the effect of medication: a population-based study. Chang Z, Lichtenstein P, D'Onofrio BM, Sjölander A, Larsson H JAMA Psychiatry 2014 Mar;71(3):319-25

Paternal age at childbearing and offspring psychiatric and academic morbidity. D'Onofrio BM, Rickert ME, Frans E, Kuja-Halkola R, Almqvist C, Sjölander A, et al JAMA Psychiatry 2014 Apr;71(4):432-8

Suicide, fatal injuries, and other causes of premature mortality in patients with traumatic brain injury: a 41-year Swedish population study. Fazel S, Wolf A, Pillas D, Lichtenstein P, Långström N JAMA Psychiatry 2014 Mar;71(3):326-33


  • 1985 B. A. Department of Sociology, University of Stockholm
  • 1993 Dr.Med.Sc. in genetic epidemiology. Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet
  • 1997 Associate professor (docent) in genetic epidemiology. Karolinska Institutet

Academic honours, awards and prizes

  • 2011 James Shields Award For Lifetime Contributions To Twin Research
  • 2013 Elected President for Behavior Genetics Association