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Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, 1992, PhD

Research Interests

  • Genetic Epidemiology Methodology
  • Relationships Between Mental and Physical Health
  • Health Risk Factors: Obesity & Smoking
  • Substance Use & Abuse

Research Description

My research program aims to improve our understanding of the etiology of health risk factors with the goal of preventing disease and reducing the population burden of ill health, and my focus is four-fold.

First, I study the genetics and epidemiology of obesity and smoking, and lead the Developmental Genetic Epidemiology of Smoking project combining data from twin registers worldwide to map the changing role of genetic and environmental factors to smoking stages across the lifespan.

Second, I manage phenotypic and genotypic data sharing from the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development study with genomewide association study consortia, to identify genes for substance use and psychiatric disorders, and apply related genomic approaches.

Third, I collaborate with researchers in Sweden and Norway, capitalizing on their large population registries to identify familial and individual risk factors for substance use and mental health outcomes with family- and genome-based approaches, focusing on inter-generational genetic and cultural transmission.

Fourth, I explore individual differences in substance use and abuse trajectories and related phenotypes in terms of the combined effects of unmeasured and measured genes and environment in the nationwide Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study.  These projects rely on my expertise in structural equation modeling of data on twins, extended families, and genotypes, to investigate the causes of (co)variation and test developmental and causal genetic epidemiological hypotheses.

As a development team member of OpenMx, the state-of-the art open-source software used to perform these types of analyses, I contribute to code development and scripts documentation (


  • Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute Graduate, 2019
  • Behavior Genetics Association, runner up for “best paper in Behavior Genetics” for “A twin association study of nicotine dependence with markers in the CHRNA3 and CHRNA5 genes.  Behavior Genetics 2011 41(5):680-90. PMCID: PMC3400498, 2012
  • School of Medicine Outstanding Departmental Teacher Award in Dept. of Human Genetics, 2005
  • John Templeton Foundation Exemplary Paper Awards, 1999
  • Thompson Memorial Award for Behavior Genetics, 1993

Selected Publications

Maes HH, Neale MC, Eaves LJ. Genetic and environmental factors in BMI. Behav Genet. 1997 27:325-351 PMID: 9519560 (cited 1010 times)

Maes HH, Neale MC, Martin NG, Heath AC, Eaves LJ: Religious attendance and frequency of alcohol use: same genes or same environments: a bivariate extended twin kinship model.  Twin Res. 1999 2:169-179 PMID: 1048075.

Maes HH, Sullivan PF, Bulik CM, Neale MC, Prescott CA, Eaves LJ, Kendler KS: A twin study of genetic and environmental influences on tobacco initiation, regular use & nicotine dependence. Psychol Med. 2004 34:1251-61 PMID: 15697051.

Neale MC, Boker SM, Xie G, Maes HH: Mx: Statistical Modeling. VCU Box 900126, Richmond, VA 23298: Department of Psychiatry. 7th Edition, 2006.

Maes HH, Neale MC: Genetic modeling of tobacco use behavior and trajectories. in NCI Tobacco Control Monograph Series 20: Phenotypes and Endophenotypes: Foundations for Genetic Studies of Nicotine Use and Dependence, Swan GE, Baker TB, Chassin L, Conti DV, Lerman C, Perkins KA (Eds). US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, 2009.

Maes HH, Neale MC, Medland SE, Keller MC, Martin NG, Heath AC, Eaves LJ: Flexible Mx specification of various extended twin kinship designs. Twin Res Hum Genet. 2009 12:26-34. PMCID: PMC3090211.

Boker S, Neale MC, Maes HH, Wilde M, Spiegel M, Brick T, Spies J, Estabrook R, Kenny S, Bates T, Mehta P, Fox J: OpenMx: An Open Source Extended Structural Equation Modeling Framework.  Psychometrika. 2010 76(2):306-317. PMCID: PMC3525063.

Neale MC, Hunter MD, Pritikin JN, Zahery M, Brick TR, Kirkpatrick RM, Estabrook R, Bates TC, Maes HH, Boker SM: OpenMx 2.0: Extended Structural Equation and Statistical Modeling. Psychometrika. 2016 81(2):535-49.  PMCID: PMC4516707.

Maes HH, Prom-Wormley E, Rhee SH, Hewitt JK, Young S, Corley R, McGue M, Iacono WG, Legrand L, Samek D, Murrelle EL, Eaves LJ, Silberg JL, Miles D, Schieken RM, Beunen GP, Thomis M, Rose RJ, Dick DM, Boomsma DI, Bartels M, Vink JM, Lichtenstein P, White V, Kaprio J, Neale MC, A Genetic Epidemiological Mega Study of Smoking Initiation in Adolescents. Nicotine Tob Res. 2017 19(4):401-409 PMCID: PMC5896552.

Verhulst B, Maes HH, Neale MC: GW-SEM: A Statistical Package to Conduct Genome-Wide Structural Equation Modeling. Behav Genet. 2017;47(3):345-359. PMCID: PMC5423544

Verhulst B, Neale MC, Eaves LJ, Medland SE, Heath AC, Martin NG, Maes HH: Extended Twin Study of Alcohol Use in Virginia and Australia. Twin Res Hum Genet. 2018; 21(3):163-178. PMCID: PMC6318803.

Maes HH, Morley K, Neale MC, Kendler KS, Heath AC, Eaves LJ, Martin NG: Cross-cultural comparison of Genetic and Cultural Transmission of Smoking Initiation Using an Extended Twin Kinship Model. Twin Res Hum Genet. 2018; 21(3):179-190. PMCID: PMC6340705.

Maes HH, Neale MC, Kirkpatrick RM, Kendler KS. Using Multimodel Inference/Model Averaging to Model Causes of Covariation Between Variables in Twins. Behav Genet. 2020 Nov 4. doi: 10.1007/s10519-020-10026-8. PMID: 33150523.

Cooke ME, Clifford JS, Do EK, Gilman JM; Spit for Science Working group, Maes HH, Peterson RE, Prom-Wormley EC, Evins AE, Schuster RM. Polygenic Score for Cigarette Smoking is Associated with Ever Electronic-Cigarette Use in a College-Aged Sample. Addiction. 2021 Oct 11. doi: 10.1111/add.15716. PMID: 34636095.

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