My work focuses on exploring interplay between genes and the environment with respect to the development and treatment of anxiety and depression, particularly in young people. I have always been fascinated by the fact that different people react so differently from one another when under stress. In my research I use both twin studies, in order to estimate the relative contribution of genes and the environment, and also molecular genetic approaches, which can identify links between specific genes and outcomes of interest. I also draw on methods used in experimental psychology to explore aspects of information processing that may be relevant mechanisms when trying to understand the role of genes and the environment on the development and treatment of anxiety and depression.
Broadly, my work focuses on the role of the social environment in the development of common emotional and behavioural disorders. I have a particular interest in the use of genetically informative methodologies that allow for the distinction between potential 'real' environmental effects and the confounding effects of gene-environment correlation. For example, I work on international project in which we use children-of-twins data to study the effects of parental behaviours on offspring. The use of such data allows us to distinguish between environmental effects and passive and evocative gene-environment correlation.
My research is broadly concerned with understanding the interactions between genetic variation and environmental influences, using genome-wide methods. A major focus of this has been identifying genetic factors affecting response to psychological therapies for anxiety disorders. I have performed a genome-wide association study on the child cohort from the GxT project, and integrated genetic variation with gene-expression measures in the adult cohort. I am currently exploring polygenic approaches to dissecting environmental and genetic components of variance in larger cohorts, including the Twins Early Development Study, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, and the UK Biobank.
I am interested in investigating the cognitive underpinnings of mental illness from a developmental perspective. By looking at the changing role of cognitive biases and patterns of thinking in anxiety, depression and other disorders over the course of childhood and adolescence, it is possible to learn more about their aetiologies, the specific ways in which they impair an individual’s functioning and the optimal time periods for intervention and treatment.
I am also keen to explore the changes in environments people experience across their life course; both in terms of their impact on mental health and the extent to which they are related to, or independent of, an individual’s inherited genome.
My research interests include understanding genetic and environmental factors influencing the development and persistence of obsessive-compulsive disorder in young people. I am particularly interested in identifying predictors of response to cognitive behaviour therapy in this population, including genetic markers.
I am interested in understanding genetic and environmental influences on the aetiology of, and treatment responses in anxiety and depression. I have a particular interest in using approaches that help to bridge environmental, quantitative and molecular-genetically sensitive designs.
I am working on the Children of TEDS (CoTEDS) project. My research aims to understand the mechanisms underlying the intergenerational transmission of mental illness within families.
I am interested in genotype-environment correlation and interaction, and want to uncover why some environments are associated with traits relevant to developmental psychology, and why people differ in their responses to environments. I am particularly keen to use the Children of Twins design to distinguish between environmental effects and genotype-environment correlation in the transmission of traits within families. In addition, I will employ statistical genetic methodologies that take advantage of genotype data, such as genome wide polygenic scores to model individual level genetic influences on traits across development.