Emma Meaburn

Reader in Human Genetics

Office: Room 516b, Department of Psychological Sciences

tel: +44 (0)20 3926 1084
email: e.meaburn@bbk.ac.uk

Publications listed on BIROn



Dr Emma Meaburn is a behaviour geneticist based at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, embedded within the Department of Psychological Sciences at Birkbeck. In 2019 she joined forces with Prof Angelica Ronald to co-direct the GEL lab, and is the co-director and founder of the BRIDGE Lab (a bio-banking and wet lab). She is also a member of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience


Dr Meaburn obtained a BSc (Hons) in Human Biology at King’s College London in 1999, which sparked an interest in the genetic basis of human behaviour. She went on to complete an MSc in Human Molecular Genetics from Imperial College London in 2000 and joined the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London in 2000 as a research assistant. This led to a PhD in Behavioural Genetics under the supervision of Professor Robert Plomin and several enjoyable years as a TEDS postdoc, where she led the molecular genetic research efforts into the identification of genetic variants associated with individual differences in reading and cognitive abilities. In 2010 she was appointed as a Lecturer at Birkbeck, promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2016, and Reader in 2020.


Dr Meaburn’s research program is centered on the fundamental, yet timely, question of how genetic variation contributes to individual differences in behavior and how these causal processes unfold across development. Her research harnesses contemporary molecular genomic and statistical genetic approaches using clinical, twin, familial and population-based samples. Key insights from her research include that variance in learning abilities is polygenic, and the development of early versions of polygenic scores with applications in prediction. Her research has over time expanded to address the developmental timing and specificity of genetic and epigenetic effects, and the role of environmental factors. This multidisciplinary work has real-world implications for educational practice and social policies, and for the treatment and early identification of neurodevelopmental disorders.




Laurel A. Fish, Pär Nyström, Teodora Gliga, Anna Gui, Jannath Begum Ali, Luke Mason, Shruti Garg, Jonathan Green, Mark H. Johnson, Tony Charman, Rebecca Harrison, Emma Meaburn, Terje Falck-Ytter, Emily J. H. Jones & the STAARS-BASIS team. (2021). Development of the pupillary light reflex from 9- to 24-months in infants with elevated familial and genetic liability to autism. Journal of Child Psychology. http://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.13518 

Gui A, Meaburn EL, Tye C, Charman T, Johnson MH, Jones EJH. Association of Polygenic Liability for Autism With Face-Sensitive Cortical Responses From Infancy. JAMA Pediatr. Published online June 07, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.1338

Georgina Donati, Iroise Dumontheil, Oliver Pain, Kathryn Asbury, Emma L. Meaburn (2021). Evidence for specificity of polygenic contributions to attainment in English, maths and science during adolescence. Sci Rep 11, 3851 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-82877-y

Georgina Donati, Emma Meaburn & Iroise Dumontheil (2021). Internalising and externalising in early adolescence predict later executive function, not the other way around: a cross-lagged panel analysis. Cognition and Emotion, DOI: 10.1080/02699931.2021.1918644


Gui A, Jones, E.J.H., Wong C.C.Y., Meaburn E., Xia. B., Pasco G., Lloyd-Fox, S., Charman T., Bolton, P. , Johnson M.H. (2020) Leveraging epigenetics to examine differences in developmental trajectories of social attention: A proof-of- principle study of DNA methylation in infants with older siblings with autism. Infant Behavior and Development. Volume 60

Meaburn, E.L., and Donati, G. (2020) What has behavioural genetic research told us about the origins of individual differences in educational abilities and achievements? in Thomas, M., Mareschal, D., Dumontheil, I. (Eds) Educational Neuroscience: Development Across the Life Span. Frontiers of Developmental Science series. London: Routledge

Gui, A., Mason, L., Gliga, T., Hendry, A., Begum Ali, J., Pasco, G., Shepard, E., Curtis, C., Charman, C., Johnson, M.H., Meaburn, E., Jones, E. and the BASIS-STAARS team (2020). Look duration at the face as a developmental endophenotype: Elucidating pathways to autism and ADHD. Development and Psychopathology, 1-20.


Donati, G., Dumontheil, I., Meaburn, E. (2019) GenomeWide Association Study of Latent Cognitive Measures in Adolescence: Genetic Overlap With Intelligence and Education. Mind, Brain, and Education 13 (3), 224-233

Donati, G., Meaburn, E., Dumontheil, I. (2019) The specificity of associations between cognition and attainment in English, maths and science during adolescence. Learning and Individual Differences 69, 84-93

Saffari, A., Arno, M., Ronald, A., Wong C.C., Schalkwyk, L.C., Mill, J., Dudbridge, F., Meaburn, E. (2019) RNA sequencing of identical twins discordant for autism reveals blood-based signatures implicating immune and transcriptional dysregulation. Molecular Autism 10, 38


Saffari, Ayden; Silver, Matt J; Zavattari, Patrizia; Moi, Loredana; Columbano, Amedeo; Meaburn, Emma L; Dudbridge, Frank (2018) Estimation of a significance threshold for epigenomewide association studies. Genetic epidemiology


Sarah J. Marzi, Emma L. Meaburn, Emma L. Dempster, Katie Lunnon, Jose L. Paya-Cano, Rebecca G. Smith, Manuela Volta, Claire Troakes, Leonard C. Schalkwyk, Jonathan Mill. Tissue-specific patterns of allelically-skewed DNA methylation. (2016) Epigenetics 11 (1), 24-35

S L Spain, I Pedroso, N Kadeva, M B Miller, W G Iacono, M McGue, E Stergiakouli, G D Smith, M Putallaz, D Lubinski, E L Meaburn, R Plomin and M A Simpson (2016). A genome-wide analysis of putative functional and exonic variation associated with extremely high intelligence. Molecular Psychiatry 21(8) 1145


Michael S. C. Thomas, Yulia Kovas, Emma L. Meaburn, and Andrew Tolmie (2014) What Can the Study of Genetics Offer to Educators? Mind, Brain and Education. 9(2); 72-80

St Pourcain B, Haworth CM, Davis OS, Wang K, Timpson NJ, Evans DM, Kemp JP, Ronald A, Price T, Meaburn E, Ring SM, Golding J, Hakonarson H, Plomin R, Davey Smith G. (2014) Heritability and genome-wide analyses of problematic peer relationships during childhood and adolescence. Human Genetics. 134(6):539-51


Beate St Pourcain, Rolieke Cents, Andrew Whitehouse, Claire Haworth, Oliver Davis, Paul O'Reilly, Susan Roulstone, Yvonne Wren, Qi Ang, Fleur Velders, David Evans, John Kemp, Nicole Warrington, Laura Miller, Nicholas Timpson, Susan Ring, Frank Verhulst, Albert Hofman, Fernando Rivadeneira, Emma Meaburn, Thomas Price, Philip Dale, Demetris Pillas, Anneli Yliherva, Alina Rodriguez, Jean Golding, Vincent Jaddoe, Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin, Robert Plomin, Craig Pennell, Henning Tiemeier, and George Davey-Smith (2014) "Common variation near ROBO2 is associated with expressive vocabulary in infancy" Nature Communications 5, 4831

Broadbent, H., Farran, E.K., Chin, E., Metcalfe, K., Tassabehji, M., Turnpenny, P., Sansbury, F., Meaburn, E.L., Karmiloff-Smith, A. (2014) Genetic contributions to visuospatial cognition in Williams syndrome: Insights from two contrasting partial deletion patients. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders. 6(1).

Sieradzka, D., Power, R.A., Freeman, D., Cardno, A.G., McGuire, P., Plomin, R., Meaburn, E.L., Dudbridge, F., Ronald, A. (2014) Are genetic risk factors for psychosis also associated with dimension-specific psychotic experiences in adolescence? PLoS One. 9(4)

Davis, O.S., Band, G., Pirinen, M., Haworth, C.M.A., Meaburn, E.L., Kovas, Y., Harlaar, N., Docherty, S., Hanscombe, K.B., Trzaskowski, M., Curtis, C.J.C., Strange, A., Freeman, C., Bellenguez, C., Su, Z., Pearson, R., Vukcevic, D., Langford, C., Deloukas, P., Hunt, S., Gray, E., Dronov, S., Potter, S.C., Tashakkori-Ghanbaria, A., Edkins, S., Bumpstead, S.J., Blackwell, J.M., Bramon, E., Brown, M.A., Casas, J.P., Corvin, A., Duncanson, A., Jankowski, J.A.Z., Markus, H.S., Mathew, C.G., Palmer, C.N.A., Rautanen, A., Sawcer, S.J., Trembath, R.C., Viswanathan, A.C., Wood, N.W., Barroso, I., Peltonen, L., Dale, P.S., Petrill, S.A., Schalkwyk, L.S., Craig, I.W., Lewis, C.M., Price, T.S., Donnelly, P., Plomin, R., Spencer, C.C.A. (2014) The correlation between reading and mathematics ability at age twelve has a substantial genetic component. Nature Communications.  5 4204

Harlaar. N*., Meaburn, E.L*., Hayiou-Thomas, M.E., ,Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium, Davis, O.S.P.,  Docherty, S., Hanscombe, K.B., Haworth, C.M.A., Price, T.S., Trzaskowski, M., Dale, P.S., & Plomin, R (2014) Genome-wide association study of receptive language ability of 12-year-olds. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research1-10.


Trzaskowski, M., Eley T.C., Davis O.S., Doherty S.J., Hanscombe K.B., Meaburn E.L., Haworth C.M., Price T, Plomin R. (2013) First genome-wide association study on anxiety-related behaviours in childhood. PLoS One. 8(4).

Viding, E., Price, T.S., Jaffee, S.R., Trzaskowski, M., Davis, O.S.P., Meaburn, E.L., Haworth, C.M.A., Plomin, R (2013). Genetics of callous-unemotional behavior in children. PLoS One. 8(7).

Wong, C.C.Y., Meaburn, E.L Ronald, A., Price, T.S., Jeffries, A.R., Schalkwyk, L.C.,  Plomin, R., Mill, J. (2013) Methylomic Analysis of Monozygotic Twins Discordant for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Related Behavioural Traits. Molecular Psychiatry. Apr 23.

Plomin, R.,  Haworth, C.M.A, Meaburn, E.L., Price, T.S., Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium, Davis, S.P., (2013) Common DNA markers can account for more than half of the genetic influence on cognitive abilities. Psychological Sciences. Apr 24(4).

Benyamin, B., Pourcain, B. St., Davis, O.S.P., Davies, G., Hansell, N.K., Brion, M.JA., Kirkpatrick, R.M., Cents, R.A.M., Franic, S., Miller, M.B., Haworth, C.M.A., Meaburn, E.L., Price, T.S., Evans, D.M., Timpson, N., Kemp, J., Ring, S., McArdle, W., Medland, S.E., Yang, Y., Harris, S.E., Liewald, D.C., Scheet, P., Xiao, X., Hudziak, J.J., de Geus, E.J.C., Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium 2 (WTCCC2), Jaddoe, V.W.V., Starr, J.M., Verhulst, F.C., Pennell, C., Tiemeier, H., Iacono, W.G., Palmer, L.J., Montgomery, G.W., Martin, N.G., Boomsma, D.I., Posthuma, D., McGue, M., Wright. M.J., Davey Smith, G., Deary, I.J., Plomin, R., and Visscher, P.M (2013) Childhood intelligence is heritable, highly polygenic and associated with FNBP1L. Molecular Psychiatry, 1–6.


Meaburn E.L, Schultz, R (2011) Next generation sequencing in epigenetics: Insights and challenges. Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology. Seminars in Cell Biology. 23(2).


Meaburn E.L, Schalkwyk L.C. & Mill J (2010). Allele-specific methylation in the human genome: Implications for genetic studies of complex disease. Epigenetics. 5(7).

Schalkwyk L.C*,  Meaburn E.L*, Smith R, Dempster E, Plomin R. & Mill J (2010). Allelic skewing of DNA methylation is widespread across the genome. American Journal of Human Genetics.  86(2).

Davies M, Meaburn E.L. & Schalkwyk L.C (2010). Gene Set Enrichment: a problem of pathways. Briefings in Functional Genomics. 9(5)

Schosser A, Pirlo K, Gaysina D, Cohen-Woods S, Schalkwyk L.C., Elkin A, Korszun A, Gunasinghe C, Gray J, Jones L, Meaburn E, Farmer A.E., Craig I.W., McGuffin P (2010). Utility of the pooling approach as applied to whole genome association scans with high-density Affymetrix microarrays. BMC Research Notes. 1(3).

Davis O, Butcher L.M.,  Meaburn E.L., Docherty S.J., Curtis C.J.C., Simpson M.A., Craig I.W., Schalkwyk L.C. & Plomin R (2010). A three-stage genome-wide association study of general cognitive ability: Hunting the small effects. Behaviour Genetics. 40(6)

Viding E., Hanscombe K., Curtis C.J.C., Davis O.,  Meaburn E.L. & Plomin R (2010). In search of genes associated with risk for psychopathic tendencies in children: A two-stage genome-wide association study of pooled DNA.  Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 51(7).


Docherty, S.J, Davis, O., Kovas, Y, Meaburn, E.L, Dale, P.S, Petrill, S.A, Schalkwyk, L.C. & Plomin, R (2009). A genome-wide association study identifies multiple loci associated with mathematics ability and disability. Genes, Brain and Behavior. 9(2).

Meaburn E.L., Fernandes C, Craig I.W., Plomin R. & Schalkwyk L.C (2009). Assessing Individual Differences in Genome-Wide Gene Expression in Human Whole Blood: Reliability Over Four Hours and Stability Over 10 Months. Twin Research and Human Genetics. 12(4)


Meaburn E.L., Harlaar N., Craig I.W., Schalkwyk L.C., Plomin R. (2008) Quantitative trait locus association scan of early reading disability and ability using pooled DNA and 100K SNP microarrays in a sample of 5760 children. Molecular Psychiatry. 13(7).

Haworth C.M.A., Carnell S., Meaburn E.L., Davis O.S.P., Plomin R., Wardle J. (2008) Increasing Heritability of BMI and Stronger Associations with the FTO Gene Over Childhood. Obesity 16(12).


Haworth, C.M.A., Meaburn E.L., Harlaar N., Plomin R. (2007) Reading and Generalist Genes. 2007. Mind, Brain and Education. 1(4).


Meaburn, E., Butcher, L.M., Schalkwyk, L.C., Plomin, R. (2006). Genotyping pooled DNA using 100K SNP microarrays: a step towards genomewide association scans. Nucleic Acids Research 34(4).


Butcher, L.M., Meaburn, E., Knight, J., Sham P.C., Schalkwyk L.C., Craig I.W., Plomin R. (2005) SNPs, microarrays and pooled DNA: identification of four loci associated with mild mental impairment in a sample of 6000 children. Human Molecular Genetics 14(10).

Butcher L.M., Meaburn E., Dale P.S., Sham P., Schalkwyk L.C., Craig I.W., Plomin R. (2005) Association analysis of mild mental impairment using DNA pooling to screen 432 brain-expressed single-nucleotide polymorphisms. Molecular Psychiatry. 10(4).

*Meaburn E.L., *Butcher L.M., Liu L., Fernandes C., Hansen V., Al-Chalabi A., Plomin R., Craig I.W., Schalkwyk L,C. (2005) Genotyping DNA pools on microarrays: Tackling the QTL problem of large samples and large numbers of SNPs. BMC Genomics 6(1)

Simpson C.L., Knight J., Butcher L.M., Hansen V.K., Meaburn E.L., Schalkwyk L.C., Craig I.W., Powell J.F., Sham P.C., Al-Chalabi A. (2005) A central resource for accurate allele frequency estimation from pooled DNA genotyped on DNA microarrays.  Nucleic Acids Research. 33(3)

Harlaar N, Butcher L.M., Meaburn E., Sham P., Craig I.W., Plomin R. (2005) A behavioural genomic analysis of DNA markers associated with general cognitive ability in 7-year-olds. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 46(10)

Craig I., Meaburn E., Butcher L.M., Hill L., Plomin R. (2005) Single-nucleotide polymorphism genotyping in DNA pools. Methods in Molecular Biology. Volume: 311.  Pages: 147-164.


*Butcher, L.M., *Meaburn, E., Liu, L., Fernandes C., Hill L., Al-Chalabi A., Plomin R., Schalkwyk L.C., Craig I.W. (2004) Genotyping pooled DNA on microarrays: A systematic genome screen of thousands of SNPs in large samples to detect QTLs for complex traits. Behavior Genetics. 34(5)

Meaburn E.L., Dale P.S., Craig I.W., Plomin R. Language-impaired children: No sign of the FOXP2 mutation. (2002) Neuroreport. 13(8)