Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center
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Faculty and Administrative Staff

Ruth Ottman, PhD

Ruth Ottman, PhD

Telephone: 212-305-9188
Fax: 212-305-2526
Ruth Ottman is Professor of Epidemiology (in Neurology and the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center), Mailman School of Public Health, and Deputy Director for Research, Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, Columbia University. She is also a research scientist in the Epidemiology of Brain Disorders Research Department, New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Ottman received an A.B. in zoology in 1975, and a Ph.D. in genetics in 1980, at the University of California, Berkeley. She completed a post-doc in cancer epidemiology at the same institution in 1981, and joined the faculty in epidemiology at Columbia University in 1981.

Dr. Ottman developed and teaches the course in genetic epidemiology required of epidemiology doctoral students at Columbia. She also co-founded the Columbia University Seminar on Genetic Epidemiology, a forum for discussion of issues of interest to genetic epidemiologists from throughout the New York area, which has been active since 1982.

She is the Biological Sciences Core leader for the Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholars Program, and the Pre-doctoral Training Director of the Genetics of Complex Diseases Training Program, both at the Mailman School of Public Health. She is also a member of numerous advisory committees, including the Professional Advisory Board of the Epilepsy Foundation, the Genetics Task Force of the American Epilepsy Society, and the Genetics Commission of the International League Against Epilepsy, which she currently chairs. She recently served on the Institute of Medicine Committee on Assessing Interactions Among Social, Behavioral, and Genetic Factors in Health.

Research Summary

Dr. Ottman's primary area of expertise is genetic epidemiology. Her research addresses the role of inherited factors in susceptibility to neurologic disorders, primarily focusing on seizure disorders. She is also interested in methodologic issues in genetic epidemiology, including research designs for testing gene-environment interaction, methods for collection of valid family history data, and approaches to assessing familial aggregation.

Her group's work on epilepsy has included assessment of familial aggregation, shared vs. distinct genetic influences on different types of epilepsy, consistency with specific modes of inheritance, comorbidity of epilepsy and migraine, teratogenic effects of anticonvulsant medications, reproductive rates in persons with epilepsy, and gene localization and identification. They are currently conducting three different studies of the genetic epidemiology of epilepsy. In the first, they are attempting to localize genes that raise risk by performing genetic linkage analysis in 81 families with various forms of idiopathic epilepsy. In the second, based at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, they are studying the shared and distinct genetic influences on different forms of epilepsy. This study includes all 1,056 Rochester residents born in 1920 or later who had incidence of epilepsy or an isolated unprovoked seizure between 1935 and 1994, and a matched set of controls. In the third study, they are focusing on a specific form of epilepsy, autosomal dominant partial epilepsy with auditory features (ADPEAF), a form of idiopathic temporal lobe epilepsy with auditory symptoms as a major manifestation. Ottman's group was the first to recognize this syndrome. They localized a susceptibility gene to chromosome 10q24 in a single large family, and subsequently identified the gene as /LGI1/ (leucine-rich, glioma inactivated 1). They are performing additional studies to learn more about this gene's role in ADPEAF and other forms of epilepsy.

To learn more and possibly volunteer for Dr. Ottman's research, please go to her study web site at


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Last updated: June 16, 2016
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