Ruth Ottman, PhD

  • Professor of Epidemiology (in Neurology and the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center)
Profile Headshot


Dr. Ottman received her PhD in genetics from the University of California at Berkeley, and joined the Columbia University faculty in 1981, where she is Professor of Epidemiology (in Neurology and the Sergievsky Center) and Deputy Director for Research at the Sergievsky Center. She is also a Research Scientist in the Division of Translational Epidemiology, New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Dr. Ottman is a genetic epidemiologist whose research aims to unravel the complex genetic and nongenetic influences on neurologic disorders.  Much of her work has focused on the epilepsies.  Her research group was the first to recognize the familial epilepsy syndrome “autosomal dominant partial epilepsy with auditory features” and to identify LGI1 as a major susceptibility gene for the disorder. She is a primary investigator in large epilepsy genetics research consortia, including the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project, which collected dense phenotypic information and DNA for gene discovery on ~3500 individuals with epilepsy, and Epi4K, which is using genomic sequencing to identify genes that influence epilepsy susceptibility. She is also deputy director of the Columbia Center for Research on Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic, and Behavioral Genetics, and is actively engaged in research on the psychosocial impacts of genetic research and practice among persons affected by or at risk for neurologic disorders.

Academic Appointments

  • Professor of Epidemiology (in Neurology and the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center)

Administrative Titles

  • Deputy Director for Research, G.H. Sergievsky Center


  • Spanish


  • Female

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • PhD, 1980 University of California at Berkeley

Committees, Societies, Councils

American Epilepsy Society
American Academy of Neurology
American Society of Human Genetics
International Genetic Epidemiology Society
Society for Epidemiologic Research

Honors & Awards

  • B.A. in Zoology conferred with Distinction in General Scholarship, University of California (Berkeley), 1975
  • Sergievsky Fellow, Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, 1981 83
  • Sergievsky Scholar, Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, 1984 1986
  • Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford, CA), 2007-08
  • Recipient, American Epilepsy Society Research Recognition Award, 2014


Dr. Ottman's research addresses the role of inherited factors in susceptibility to common disorders, primarily focusing on neurologic disorders, and on the psychosocial impacts of genetic research and practice among persons affected by or at risk for these 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.

Research Interests

  • Chronic disease
  • Genetics
  • Global Health

Selected Publications

  1. Ottman R, Annegers JF, Hauser WA, Kurland LT. Higher risk of seizures in offspring of mothers than of fathers with epilepsy. Am J Hum Genet 1988;43:257-264.  PMC1715377.
  2. Ottman R. An epidemiologic approach to gene-environment interaction. Genet Epidemiol 1990;7:177-185.  PMC2819318.
  3. Ottman R, Risch N, Hauser WA, Pedley TA, Lee JH, Barker-Cummings C, Lustenberger A, Nagle KJ, Lee KS, Scheuer ML, et al. Localization of a gene for partial epilepsy to chromosome 10q. Nat Genet 1995;10:56-60.  PMC2823475.
  4. Ottman R. Gene-environment interaction: definitions and study designs. Prev Med 1996;25:764-770.  PMC2823480.
  5. Ottman R, Lipton RB. Is the comorbidity of epilepsy and migraine due to a shared genetic susceptibility? Neurology 1996;47:918-924.  PMC2791701.
  6. Ottman R, Annegers JF, Risch N, Hauser WA, Susser M. Relations of genetic and environmental factors in the etiology of epilepsy. Ann Neurol 1996;39:442-449.  PMC2737460.
  7. Ottman R, Hauser WA, Barker-Cummings C, Lee JH, Risch N. Segregation analysis of cryptogenic epilepsy and an empirical test of the validity of the results. Am J Hum Genet 1997;60:667-675.  PMC1712524.
  8. Kalachikov S, Evgrafov O, Ross B, Winawer M, Barker-Cummings C, Boneschi FM, Choi C, Morozov P, Das K, Teplitskaya E, Yu A, Cayanis E, Penchaszadeh G, Kottmann AH, Pedley TA, Hauser WA, Ottman R, Gilliam TC. Mutations in LGI1 cause autosomal-dominant partial epilepsy with auditory features. Nat Genet 2002;30:335-341.  PMC2606053.
  9. Rosanoff MJ, Ottman R. Penetrance of LGI1 mutations in autosomal dominant partial epilepsy with auditory features. Neurology 2008;71:567-571.  PMC2652575.
  10. Ottman R, Lipton RB, Ettinger AB, Cramer JA, Reed ML, Morrison A, Wan GJ. Comorbidities of epilepsy: results from the Epilepsy Comorbidities and Health (EPIC) survey. Epilepsia 2011;52:308-315. PMID: 21269285.
  11. Winawer MR, Connors R, the EPGP Investigators. Evidence for a shared genetic susceptibility to migraine and epilepsy. Epilepsia 2013;54:288-295.  PMC3566298.
  12. Okeke JO, Tangel VE, Sorge ST, Hesdorffer DC, Winawer MR, Goldsmith J, Phelan JC, Chung WK, Shostak S, Ottman R. Genetic testing preferences in families containing multiple individuals with epilepsy. Epilepsia 2014;55:1705-1713. PMC4232990.
  13. Peljto AL, Barker-Cummings C, Vasoli VM, Leibson CL, Hauser WA, Buchhalter JR, Ottman R. Familial risk of epilepsy: a population-based study. Brain 2014;137:795-805.  PMC3927702.
  14. Ottman R, Freyer C, Mefford HC, Poduri A, Lowenstein DH, Epilepsy Return of Results Workshop Participants. Return of individual results in epilepsy genomic research: A view from the field. Epilepsia 2018;59:1635-1642.  PMC6119474.
  15. Insel BJ, Ottman R, Heiman GA. Mood disorders in familial epilepsy: A test of shared etiology. Epilepsia 2018;59:431-439.  PMC5803440
  16. Nakamura J, Sorge ST, Winawer MR, Phelan JC, Chung WK, Ottman R. Reproductive decision-making in families containing multiple individuals with epilepsy. Epilepsia 2021;62:1220-1230.  PMC8096692