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Roxann Roberson-Nay

Assistant Professor
Department of Psychiatry

Tel: 804 828 8145
Fax: 804 828 8801
Email:
rrobersonnay@vcu.edu
P.O. Box:
980003
VIPBG
Biotech 1-148

My current research efforts focus on the aims of my K01 training grant, which examine phenotypic variance in panic disorder (PD), risk/vulnerability factors and progression of PD subtypes, and mechanisms (i.e., genetic, environmental) that influence risk for PD. I am also broadly interested in the study of psychopathology from a developmental perspective, with the goal of better understanding the roots of anxiety dysfunction from an integrated biologic and psychosocial perspective. It is well documented that childhood anxiety disorders are highly comorbid with one another, which has led some researchers to suggest that the genetic predisposition and neural dysfunction observed among pediatric anxiety disorders relates more to the presence of any anxiety disorder as opposed to any specific diagnosis. To some extent, it does appear that three childhood anxiety disorders (social phobia [SP], separation anxiety disorder [SAD], and generalized anxiety disorder [GAD]) likely involve shared genetic and neural features. Nonetheless, differences in the correlates and course of these disorders have been observed, suggesting a role for disorder-specific pathophysiologic processes. Currently, I am focusing on the developmental relation between childhood SAD and adult (PD) although I maintain interests in childhood SP, which is hypothesized to exhibit strong developmental continuity with adult SP, and childhood GAD, which is thought to share pathophysiologic features with major depressive disorder.
I am currently conducting a high-risk family study of parents with PD and their offspring, with IRB approved protocols at two collection sites (VCU and the National Institute of Mental Health in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Pine). Offspring participate in a carbon dioxide (CO2) lab challenge, which is a commonly used panic provocation task. This study will generate data that will allow the examination of associations between a range of offspring phenotypes (anxiety disorders, anxiety symptoms, respiratory response) and parent PD subtype. As part of this study, I am also testing several candidate genes (Catechol-O-methyl transferase, Cholecystokinin-B, Adenosine) associated with PD to determine whether I can replicate previous associations and whether differential patterns of association emerge between the candidate genes and PD subtypes as well as offspring defined phenotypes.
In addition to my research at VCU, I maintain ongoing collaborations with Dr. Bethany Teachman at the University of Virginia and Dr. Scott Vrana at Virginia Commonwealth University. We are conducting a two site study examining the stability of response to CO2 challenge. Response outcomes include a range of physiological parameters (respiratory measures, cardiac variability), cognitive bias/cognitive processing measures, and DNA collection. The genetic focus of this study is to examine a broadened definition of PD and its association with candidate genes. Research opportunities are available for students interested in anxiety disorders and/or an integrated approach to the study of developmental psychopathology.

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