Faculty

How virtual reality may help explore the role of fear in youth at risk for violence and crime

Conduct disorder — often characterized by aggression, theft, vandalism, violations of rules and lying — is one of the most prevalent and debilitating psychiatric disorders that emerges during childhood and adolescence.

There is a subgroup of those with conduct disorder who are more likely to engage in chronic violence and criminal behavior. These individuals display severe behavioral and personality symptoms, called callous-unemotional traits, that include callousness toward others, lack of empathy or guilt for their harmful behaviors, and shallow or diminished emotional ... Continue Reading →

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Cracking the code for resilience

Given current events ranging from the ongoing pandemic to giant wildfires and powerful hurricanes, it’s not surprising that many people find their emotional reserves are depleted. Statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic, up from 1 in 10 adults who reported these symptoms in the first half of 2019.

Such trends are concerning. They also illustrate just how different individuals’ responses to stress ... Continue Reading →

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Featured Faculty: Ruth Brown, Ph.D.

Ruth Brown, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Brown studies psychometric properties and measure development in patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Additionally, she has a background in measurement of treatment processes and outcomes of psychosocial treatments. She first became involved in this field while completing the clinical portion of her Ph.D. at a residential center serving people with IDD. During this time, ... Continue Reading →

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Dr. Roberson-Nay accepts assistant dean appointment for Graduate Recruitment and Admissions

Roxann Roberson-Nay, Ph.D. has accepted the appointment as assistant dean for Graduate Recruitment and Admissions. In this capacity, Dr. Roberson-Nay will coordinate recruitment efforts for prospective Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal students, serve as the chair of the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal Admissions Committee, oversee the first-year curriculum and help identify research mentors for Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal students during their first year of study.

While Dr. Roberson-Nay is new this position, she has been on faculty in the ... Continue Reading →

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Featured Faculty: Timothy York, Ph.D.

Timothy York, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Human and Molecular Genetics and a faculty member of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University. A self-proclaimed “poster child” for VIPBG and the School of Medicine as a whole, Dr. York obtained his Ph.D. in human genetics at VCU followed by postdoctoral positions at the Massey Cancer Center and the Department of Psychiatry before being awarded a faculty position in the Department of Human and ... Continue Reading →

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Featured Faculty: Katie Bountress, Ph.D.

Katie Bountress, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at VCU. Her interests in molecular and behavioral genetics are expanding daily, as her primary discipline is psychology. She recalls learning in a class while a Ph.D. student at Arizona State University that there is not a lot known about the underlying risk factors for peer deviance and substance use. Thus, she taught herself this literature while writing her (successful) F31 grant ... Continue Reading →

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Research Discovers Three New Genetic Risk Markers of Depression

Hinxton, (Scicasts) — A study published today (March 2) in the American Journal of Psychiatry details the discovery of three additional genetic risk markers for depression, building on the discovery of two genetic risk factors in 2015.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and Wellcome Sanger Institute have found that the contribution of genetic variations to depression may differ between people who have experienced serious adversities in their life and those who haven’t. By carrying out a genome-wide ... Continue Reading →

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Major mental illnesses unexpectedly share brain gene activity, raising hope for better diagnostics and therapies

Mental illness affects one in six U.S. adults, but scientists’ sense of the underlying biology of most psychiatric disorders remains nebulous. That’s frustrating for physicians treating the diseases, who must also make diagnoses based on symptoms that may only appear sporadically. No laboratory blood test or brain scan can yet distinguish whether someone has depression or bipolar disorder, for example.

Now, however, a large-scale analysis of postmortem brains is revealing distinctive molecular traces in people with mental illness. This week, an ... Continue Reading →

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Featured Faculty: B. Todd Webb, Ph.D.

Dr. B. Todd Webb, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University. His interest in behavioral genetics developed gradually over his academic career. He majored in biology at VCU but always had an interest in genetics. Over time, he became passionate about how complex systems work and later obtained his Ph.D. in human genetics. This allowed him to hone his skills while providing him opportunities to ... Continue Reading →

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Featured Faculty: 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 ... Continue Reading →

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