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10 February 2021

Twins Early Development Study receives £3.2million funding from MRC

Successful grant renewal from Medical Research Council (MRC) will fund pioneering Twin Early Development Study until 2025.

TEDS logo - 780 x 440px

The Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) is one of the leading twin studies in the world. It has followed twins born in England and Wales throughout their childhood, adolescence and into early adulthood. The funding from the MRC for the next five years will mean that TEDS, the only longitudinal twin birth cohort in the UK, will have received continuous funding for 30 years.

Set up in 1995 by Professor Robert Plomin, Professor Judy Dunn and Professor Sir Michael Rutter, TEDS' main goal is to gain better insights into the roles of genes and the environment in shaping who we are. The pioneering project has garnered important insights into genetic influences on maths and reading ability, intelligence and autism. The study offers an outstanding resource for investigating cognitive and behavioural development across childhood and early adulthood and actively fosters scientific collaborations.

This new grant sees the transition to the incoming Director of TEDS, Professor Thalia Eley.

I am really honoured to be taking on leadership of TEDS. We have learned so much from the twins about their cognitive, educational and emotional development. It is incredible to think that the study will have been funded by the MRC for 30 years! Now that they are in their late twenties many of the participants are having children which is a great chance to get back in touch.

Professor Thalia Eley, incoming TEDS Director and Professor of Developmental Behavioural Genetics

This successful grant renewal from the Medical Research Council will fund ongoing salaries of the core TEDS staff, all of whom have been with the study for between 15 and 25 years. The renewal brings with it a focus on mental health, and new posts needed to enable three workstreams:

  • mental health assessment focussed on anxiety and depressive disorders
  • medical record linkage (in collaboration with the BRC, ALSPAC and the TwinsUK teams)
  • ongoing recruitment and assessment of the Children of TEDS

TEDS was the first major research programme funded after the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre was launched in 1994. TEDS epitomises the ethos of the SGDP in bringing together genetic and environmental strategies to study the development of behavioural dimensions and disorders. Here’s to TEDS’ next 25 years with Thalia Eley at the helm!

Professor Robert Plomin, MRC Research Professor in Behavioural Genetics

TEDS recruited over 16,000 twin-pairs born between 1994 and 1996 in England and Wales through national birth records. More than 10,000 of these families are still engaged and help the study’s research by completing questionnaires and taking part in interviews about different environmental and individual factors that might have been influencing them throughout their lives. TEDS has also collected DNA samples from 12,500 twins and are using them together with the rest of the data to better understand how genes affect abilities and behaviours. In addition, many of the twins who became parents have signed up for a complementary study CoTEDS (Children of TEDS) looking at the development of TEDS twins’ children. CoTEDS is the world’s first ever twin study including information of both twin parents and their offspring from birth.

TEDS is a fabulous asset – the participants have generously shared so much of their development and it’s wonderful that the study can now progress to this next stage as we can gain a better understanding of the reasons why some people develop anxiety or depressive disorders and others don’t.

Professor Matthew Hotopf, Vice Dean (Research) at IoPPN

TEDS was and still is a representative sample of the population in England and Wales.

TEDS data have contributed to over 400 papers in the fields of cognition, school achievement, home and school environment, health and wellbeing, personality, and mental health. Over 140 researchers from 50 research institutions (as per 2019 publication) have collaborated with IoPPN in interdisciplinary investigations using TEDS data.

In this story

Thalia Eley

Professor of Developmental Behavioural Genetics

Robert Plomin

Professor of Behavioural Genetics

Judy Dunn

Emeritus Professor of Developmental Psychology

Michael Rutter

Emeritus Professor of Developmental Psychopathology