AYATS Seeks to Identify Risk for Internalizing Disorders

Roxann Roberson-Nay, Ph.D. is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry. Her background is in clinical psychology and she came to be interested in psychiatric genetics while she was working as a post-doctoral fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Pine. Her goal was to combine her clinical background with neuroimaging and genetics. Upon arrival at the VCU Virginia Treatment Center for Children in 2005, she wrote and was awarded a K01 Mentored Research Scientist grant, under the mentorship of Kenneth Kendler, M.D. to gain a deeper understanding of behavioral and molecular genetic methods. During her K01 training, she joined the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics faculty.

Dr. Roberson-Nay’s current research involves internalizing psychopathology and includes both twin and molecular genetic methods. She has just completed data collection for her Adolescent and Young Adult Twin Study that seeks to identify endophenotypes associated with risk for internalizing disorders. This study brought 430 twin pairs into the lab here at the VIPBG, where they underwent a 5-hour protocol measuring a number of different outcomes. The second part of her research program examines differential DNA methylation patterns and gene expression levels among monozygotic twins discordant for a history of major depressive disorder. “As a clinical psychologist,” she says, “I have generally held the belief that, for internalizing conditions, the environment trumps genetic propensity in either protecting or enhancing risk. Differential methylation patterns are interesting to me because DNA methylation, which influences gene expression, is an innovative approach to connect phenotype, genetics, and environment.

Outside of research, Dr. Roberson-Nay enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband, exercising (when she can), and carpentry/renovating.


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