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Featured Faculty: Dr. Judy Silberg, Ph.D.

Dr. Judy Silberg, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics. A fortuitous meeting with Drs. Lindon Eaves, D.Sc., Nick Martin, and Andrew Heath while working on her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University led to her life-long involvement in the field of behavior genetics. Her initial research interest began with the influence of genetic and environmental factors on pre- and peri-menstrual disorders using data on female twins enrolled in the Australian Twin Registry. She was intrigued by the use of twins for disentangling the role genetic and environmental play in explaining individual differences, an approach that was not yet fully recognized in her field of psychology. Upon completion of her PhD, she worked with Dr. Andrew Heath as a post-doc and also collaborated with Dr. Kenneth Kendler, M.D. on projects involving the links between dysmenorrhea, depression, and anxiety.

Soon thereafter, she played a major role in the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development (VTSABD) project, one of the largest juvenile twin studies to date. The Young Adult Follow-Up Study (YAFU) then evaluated the psychiatric outcomes of these juvenile twins as young adults. Along with Dr. Lindon Eaves, she was awarded a grant for studying Twins and their Children (the “Children of Twins Study“) with a focus on disentangling the role of genetic and environmental factors in the transmission of risk from parents to their children’s behavioral and emotional disturbance. She was then Principal Investigator of a study of preschool twins in Puerto Rico showing that psychiatric disorders could be reliably assessed in very young children.

Currently, Dr. Silberg is interested in causal and non-causal processes in childhood bullying and psychiatric outcomes on MZ discordant twins. She is collaborating with Drs. Jaakko Kaprio and Danielle Dick using data from the Finnish twin registry for the replication of these findings.

Dr. Silberg continues her work on understanding the intergenerational effect of maternal and paternal genotypes on how parents contribute to their children’s psychiatric problems and the role of parental neglect in children’s depression. Dr. Silberg has been the Scientific Director of the Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry (MATR) for more than a decade. She is the CERT Advisor to the pre-medical students enrolled in the Certificate Master’s Program at VCU and is extensively involved in the training of Genetic Counselors.

“Look at the bloody data!” – Dr. Lindon Eaves

Outside of research, Dr. Silberg enjoys spending time with her children, her pets, and swimming, running, and playing the piano. She was a major in piano in college and continues to play when she has time!

Article by Jessica Bourdon.

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