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Cathy Barr

Title: Senior Scientist, Neurosciences & Mental Health
Designations: PhD
Phone: 416-603-5800 ext. 2744
Alternate Contact Name: Kathryn Tzimika
Alternate Phone: 416-603-5800 ext. 2940
Alternate Email:
U of T Positions: Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Physiology
Chair Positions: Labatt Family Chair in Depression Biology in Children


Dr. Cathy Barr completed her Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Texas, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (M.D. Anderson Cancer Center) in Houston, Texas. She then pursued her postdoctoral training in the genetics of complex behaviors at Yale University and subsequently at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. 


The focus of our research is on gene identification for complex traits and the determination of how DNA changes influence gene function and contribute to risk. Our lab studies the genetics of behaviour, specific aspects of cognition, and psychiatric and neurological disorders including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), childhood-onset anxiety disorders, childhood-onset depression, reading disabilities (developmental dyslexia), and Tourette syndrome. Large genetic studies for these traits have been successful in identifying the position of genes contributing to these disorders and many of the identified genes overlap indicating shared genetic susceptibility across psychiatric disorders. Interestingly, some of the genes implicated are involved in the immune system. We use multiple methods to identify risk genes tagged by genetic studies and determine how genetic risk alters neural cell function including bioinformatics, molecular assays, CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing of stem cells and patient-derived stem cells differentiated to neural cells.


  • 1990: Ph.D., University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (M.D. Anderson Cancer Institute)


  • 1990-1992: Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University
  • 1992-1995: Postdoctoral Fellow, Hospital for Sick Children
  • 1995: Krembil Research Institute (previously Toronto Western Research Institute), Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network. Scientist
  • 1995–2006: Promoted to Senior Scientist in 2006, Toronto, ON Canada
  • 1996: SickKids Research Institute, Research Associate  
  • 1996–1998: Associate Scientist, Scientist 
  • 1999–2005: Promoted to Senior Scientist in 2005, Toronto, ON Canada
  • 2001: Member, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON Canada
  • 1996: Full Professor in 2007, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON Canada
  • 2017: Professor, Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON Canada


  • 1999: Tourette Syndrome Clinic Gala Award from the Tourette Syndrome Foundation
  • 2006: 2005 Research Award. Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada
  • 2008: Executive Subcommittee, ADHD section of the World Psychiatric Association
  • 2011: Section Editor, BMC Psychiatry
  • 2014: Editorial Board Member, Molecular Neuropsychiatry
  • 2015: Editorial Board Member, BMC Medicine
  • 2018: Editorial Board Member, Genes, Brain and Behavior
  • 2019: Endowed Chair - Labatt Family Chair in Depression Biology in Children, The Hospital for Sick Children & University of Toronto


  1. Xie W, Barr CL, Kim A, Yue F, Lee AY, Eubanks J, Dempster EL, Ren B.  Base-resolution analyses of parent-of-origin and sequence dependent allele specific DNA methylation in the mouse genome. Cell. 2012 Feb 17;148(4):816-31. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.12.035. PMID: 22341451.

  2. Schmitt AD, Hu M, Jung I, Xu Z, Qiu Y, Tan CL, Li Y, Lin S, Lin Y, Barr CL, Ren B. A compendium of chromatin contact maps reveals spatially active regions in the human genome. Cell Rep. 2016 Nov 15;17(8):2042-2059. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.10.061. PMID:27851967.

  3. Reble E, Feng Y, Wigg KG, Barr CL. DNA variant in the RPGRIP1L gene influences alternative splicing. Mol Neuropsychiatry, 2020 Apr;5(Suppl 1):97-106. doi: 10.1159/000502199. Epub 2019 Sep 25. PMID: 32399473

  4. Price KM, Wigg KG, Feng Y, Blokland K, Wilkinson M, He G, Kerr EN, Carter TC, Guger SL, Lovett MW, Strug LJ, Barr CL.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Word Reading: Overlap with Risk Genes for Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Genes Brain Behav, 2020 Jul;19(6):e12648. doi: 10.1111/gbb.12648. Epub 2020 Mar 27.PMID:32108986

  5. Price KM, Wigg KG, Misener VL, Clarke A, Yeung N, Blokland K, Wilkinson M, Kerr EN, Guger SL, Lovett MW, Barr CL. Language difficulties in school-aged children with developmental dyslexia. J Learn Disabil, 2022 May-Jun; 55(3):200-212. doi: 10.1177/00222194211006207. Epub 2021 Apr 23. PMID: 33890525.

See a full list of Cathy Barr's publications

Affiliated Sites:
Senior Scientist, Krembil Research Institute, University Health Network
Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto
Professor, Department of Physiology, University of Toronto
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