dr. C.H. (Christiaan) Vinkers

Assistant Professor - medical

  • Birth Center Neonatology - Medical

dr. C.H. (Christiaan) Vinkers

Research Programs


Christiaan Vinkers studied Pharmacy (2005), Law (2009), and Medicine (2009) at Utrecht University.  In 2009, he finished his PhD thesis on fundamental neurobiological research and the GABA system (cum laude). Subsequently, he started his clinical training to become a psychiatrist and continued to carry out clinical research related to risk and resilience for psychiatric disorders and the role of the GABA system. In 2014, he became a psychiatrist and researcher at the Rudolf Magnus Brain Center.

His overall research objective is to investigate the neurobiological background of stress resilience and vulnerability including (epi)genetic, neuroendocrine, and brain circuitry factors, with a special interest in the GABA system. Traumatic stress, especially during early life, is a major risk factor for the development of almost all psychiatric disorders including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. Moreover, stress has persistent effects on brain structure and functionality.  However, considerable inter-individual differences exist in outcomes after trauma exposure. Despite decades of research, we still cannot predict which individuals are at risk and which individuals are resilient following traumatic stress. Therefore, his goal is to shed more light on the neurobiological basis of stress susceptibility. His work is sponsored by grants of the the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO, VENI), ZonMW, the Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, NARSAD, the Dutch Brain Foundation, and Neuroscience Cognition Utrecht. 

Research line

Vulnerability and resilience to stress

Most recent key publications

1. Zorn JV, Schür RR, Boks MP, Kahn RS, Joëls M, Vinkers CH, Cortisol stress reactivity across psychiatric disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017 Mar;77:25-36.

2. Schur RR, Boks MP, Rutten BP, Daskalakis NP, de Nijs L, van Zuiden M, Kaverlaars A, Heijnen CJ, Joels M, Kahn RS, Geuze E, Vermetten E, Vinkers CH Longitudinal changes in glucocorticoid receptor exon 1F methylation and psychopathology after military deployment, Translational Psychiatry, 2017, in press.

3.    Houtepen LC, Vinkers CH, Carrillo-Roa T, Hiemstra M, van Lier PA, Meeus W, Branje S, Heim CM, Nemeroff CB, Mill J, Schalkwyk LC, Creyghton MP, Kahn RS, Joëls M, Binder EB, Boks MP, Genome-wide DNA methylation levels and altered cortisol stress reactivity following childhood trauma in humans. Nat Commun. 2016 Mar 21;7:10967

4.    Boks MP, Rutten BP, Geuze E, Houtepen LC, Vermetten E, Kaminsky Z, Vinkers CH, SKA2 Methylation is Involved in Cortisol Stress Reactivity and Predicts the Development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) After Military Deployment. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016 Apr;41(5):1350-6

5.    Vinkers CH, Joëls M, Milaneschi Y, Gerritsen L, Kahn RS, Penninx BW, Boks MP. Mineralocorticoid receptor haplotypes sex-dependently moderate depression susceptibility following childhood maltreatment.  Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015 Apr;54:90-102.

6.    Houtepen LC, Schür RR, Wijnen JP, Boer VO, Boks MP, Kahn RS, Joëls M, Klomp DW, Vinkers CH, Acute stress effects on GABA and glutamate levels in the prefrontal cortex: A 7T 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy study. Neuroimage Clin. 2017 Jan 4;14:195-200.

7. Vinkers CH, Joëls M, Milaneschi YM, Kahn RS, Penninx BW, Boks MP, Stress exposure across the life span cumulatively increases depression risk and is moderated by neuroticism, Depression Anxiety 2014.

8. Vinkers CH, Luykx JJ, Bakker SC, Visser W, van Boxmeer L, Strengman E, van Eijk KR, Lens JA, Borgdorff P, Keijzers P, Kappen T, van Dongen EPA, Bruins P, Verhoeven-Duif NM, de Koning TJ, Kahn RS en Ophoff RA, A Common Variant in ERBB4 Regulates GABA Concentrations in Human Cerebrospinal Fluid, Neuropsychopharmacology 2012, Aug;37(9):2088-92.

  1. Zorn JV, Schür RR, Boks MP, Kahn RS, Joëls M, Vinkers CH, Cortisol stress reactivity across psychiatric disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017 Mar;77:25-36.

Fellowship and Awards

  • Grants

    2017 Wilhelmina’s Children Hospital Grant, Thriving after preterm birth: stress resilience and cognitive and emotional outcomes in childhood, €150K.

    2016 Dutch Young Academy (“Jonge Akademie”) of  the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), grant to initiate the national stress consortium STRESS-NL, €10K.

    2015 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant

    2014 Rudolf Magnus Fellowship, “Functional connectivity and stress vulnerability in siblings of schizophrenia patients”

    2014 Seeding grant “ Dynamic of Youth“ program Utrecht University, “Vulnerability and resilience: genetic and epigenetic determinants of adolescent trajectories for depression and anxiety“, €67K.

    2013-2016    PI, Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (VENI), “GABA and stress resilience”

    2013-2015 Dutch Brain Foundation Fellowship, “Stress and the mineralocorticoid receptor”

    2011 Neuroscience and Cognition Utrecht (NCU) grant, “Epigenetic and translational modification of the stress response”


    2014    Young Talent Award from the Endo-Neuro-Psycho (ENP) Society

    2014    UMC Utrecht Research Talent Program  

    2014    European Psychiatric Association (EPA) Award

    2012    Selected for master class chaired by Dr. T. Moffitt and Dr. A Caspi, The University of Amsterdam Academic Medical Centre's annual Anatomy Lesson event.

    2011    Fellowship Award, European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP)

    2009    PhD student of the year-award (Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences).

Research Output (92)

Lipid-suppressed and tissue-fraction corrected metabolic distributions in human central brain structures using 2D H-1 magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging at 7 T

Bhogal Alex A, Broeders Tommy A A, Morsinkhof Lisan, Edens Mirte, Nassirpour Sahar, Chang Paul, Klomp Dennis W J, Vinkers Christiaan H, Wijnen Jannie P 20 nov 2020, In: Brain and Behavior. 10 , p. e01852

Safe and informed prescribing of psychotropic medication during the COVID-19 pandemic

Luykx Jurjen J., van Veen Sisco M.P., Risselada Arne, Naarding Paul, Tijdink Joeri K., Vinkers Christiaan H. 1 sep 2020, In: The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science. 217 , p. 471-474 4 p.

The Role of Stress and Mineralocorticoid Receptor Haplotypes in the Development of Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety During Adolescence

Endedijk Hinke M., Nelemans Stefanie A., Schür Remmelt R., Boks Marco P.M., Lier Pol van, Meeus Wim, Branje Susan, Vinkers Christiaan H. 15 mei 2020, In: Frontiers in Psychiatry. 11 , p. 367 10 p.

An epigenome-wide association study of posttraumatic stress disorder in US veterans implicates several new DNA methylation loci

Logue Mark W, Miller Mark W, Wolf Erika J, Huber Bertrand Russ, Morrison Filomene G, Zhou Zhenwei, Zheng Yuanchao, Smith Alicia K, Daskalakis Nikolaos P, Ratanatharathorn Andrew, Uddin Monica, Nievergelt Caroline M, Ashley-Koch Allison E, Baker Dewleen G, Beckham Jean C, Garrett Melanie E, Boks Marco P, Geuze Elbert, Grant Gerald A, Hauser Michael A, Kessler Ronald C, Kimbrel Nathan A, Maihofer Adam X, Marx Christine E, Qin Xue-Jun, Risbrough Victoria B, Rutten Bart P F, Stein Murray B, Ursano Robert J, Vermetten Eric, Vinkers Christiaan H, Ware Erin B, Stone Annjanette, Schichman Steven A, McGlinchey Regina E, Milberg William P, Hayes Jasmeet P, Verfaellie Mieke, 14 mrt 2020, In: Clinical Epigenetics. 12 , p. 46

International meta-analysis of PTSD genome-wide association studies identifies sex- and ancestry-specific genetic risk loci

Nievergelt Caroline M., Maihofer Adam X., Klengel Torsten, Atkinson Elizabeth G., Chen Chia Yen, Choi Karmel W., Coleman Jonathan R.I., Dalvie Shareefa, Duncan Laramie E., Gelernter Joel, Levey Daniel F., Logue Mark W., Polimanti Renato, Provost Allison C., Ratanatharathorn Andrew, Stein Murray B., Torres Katy, Aiello Allison E., Almli Lynn M., Amstadter Ananda B., Andersen Søren B., Andreassen Ole A., Arbisi Paul A., Ashley-Koch Allison E., Austin S. Bryn, Avdibegovic Esmina, Babić Dragan, Bækvad-Hansen Marie, Baker Dewleen G., Beckham Jean C., Bierut Laura J., Bisson Jonathan I., Boks Marco P., Bolger Elizabeth A., Børglum Anders D., Bradley Bekh, Brashear Megan, Breen Gerome, Bryant Richard A., Bustamante Angela C., Bybjerg-Grauholm Jonas, Calabrese Joseph R., Caldas-de-Almeida José M., Dale Anders M., Geuze Elbert, Luykx Jurjen J., Rutten Bart P.F., Schijven Dick, Vermetten Eric, Vinkers Christiaan H., 1 dec 2019, In: Nature Communications. 10 1 p.

Circulating Serum MicroRNAs as Potential Diagnostic Biomarkers of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder:A Pilot Study

Snijders Clara, Krauskopf Julian, Pishva Ehsan, Eijssen Lars, Machiels Barbie, Kleinjans Jos, Kenis Gunter, van den Hove Daniel, Kim Myeong Ok, Boks Marco P.M., Vinkers Christiaan H., Vermetten Eric, Geuze Elbert, Rutten Bart P.F., de Nijs Laurence 22 nov 2019, In: Frontiers in Genetics. 10 10 p.

Multivariate genome-wide analysis of stress-related quantitative phenotypes

Schijven Dick, Geuze Elbert, Vinkers Christiaan H., Pulit Sara L., Schür Remmelt R., Malgaz Marie, Bekema Erwin, Medic Jelena, van der Kust Kendrick E., Veldink Jan H., Boks Marco P., Vermetten Eric, Luykx Jurjen J. 9 okt 2019, In: European Neuropsychopharmacology. 29 , p. 1354-1364 11 p.

Disrupted upregulation of salience network connectivity during acute stress in siblings of schizophrenia patients

van Leeuwen Judith M. C., Vinkers C. H., Vink M., Kahn R. S., Joels M., Hermans E. J. sep 2019, In: Psychoneuroendocrinology. 107 , p. 65-65

Phenotypic factors associated with amisulpride-induced weight gain in first-episode psychosis patients (from the OPTiMiSE cohort)

Pandit R, Cianci D, Ter Hark S E, Winter-van Rossum I, Ebdrup B H, Broberg B V, Garcia-Portilla M P, Bobes J, Vinkers C H, Kahn R S, Guloksuz S, Huitema A D R, Luykx J J sep 2019, In: Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 140 , p. 283-290 8 p.

Reward-Related Striatal Responses Following Stress in Healthy Individuals and Patients With Bipolar Disorder

van Leeuwen Judith M C, Vink Matthijs, Joëls Marian, Kahn René S, Hermans Erno J, Vinkers Christiaan H 10 jul 2019, In: Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. 4 , p. 966-974 9 p.

All Research Output (92)