All posts by Ally Avery

Genetic and environmental influences on posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and disinhibited eating behaviors

Afari N, Gasperi M, Dochat C, Wooldridge JS, Herbert MS, Schur EA, Buchwald DS.

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COVID-19 Follow-up: Change in Physical Activity

In our March baseline survey, we asked participants their perceived change in the amount of physical activity since the widespread social restriction soon after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 a pandemic. At the time, 43.78% of the participants reported a decrease in physical activity, 29.84% reported no change, and 26.38% reported an increase in the amount of physical activity, compared to prior to the spread of COVID-19.

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Perceived change in physical activity and mental health during COVID-19: Findings among adult twin pairs

Between March 27 and April 5, 2020, we administered an online survey asking participants a series of questions regarding the changes of health-related behaviors and health outcomes during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. Considering that strategies aimed to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, such as physical distancing and lock downs, may have unintended consequences on health behaviors (e.g., physical activity, exercise), we explored the relation between individuals’ perceived change in the amount of physical activity and mental health over the short-term.

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Perceived change in physical activity levels and mental health during COVID-19: Findings among adult twin pairs

Duncan GE, Avery AR, Seto E, Tsang S

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Genetic and environmental variation in educational attainment: an individual-based analysis of 28 twin cohorts

Silventoinen K, Jelenkovic A, Sund R, et al.

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Central and Peripheral Symptoms in Network Analysis are Differentially Heritable A Twin Study of Anxious Misery

Olatunji BO, Christian C, Strachan E, Levinson CA.

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Association Between Low Back Pain and Body Mass Index in Adult Twins: An analysis of monozygotic and dizygotic twins of the Washington State Twin Registry

Liechty A, Tsang S, Turkheimer E, Duncan GE.

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Affectionate Communication findings

We are happy to share that a manuscript using data from the affectionate communication study has been published. Within twin pairs, identical twins were more highly correlated for expressed and received affection than fraternal twins, suggesting genetic influences play a role in affection. Using an ACE model, which is used in twin studies to estimate the contribution of genetics and the environment to a given phenotype such as affection, the study authors determined that 45% of the variance in expressed affectionate communication is heritable (due to genetics), and 0% is explained by the common environment. This means that shared influences such as being raised by the same parents in the same households had no impact on expressed affection. Only 21% of the variance in received affection was heritable. Given that received affection largely depends on others, it is not surprising to see that heritability is lower for this trait. These findings suggest that greater attention should be given to communicative behaviors by considering genetic and biological influences, and not just environmental influences.

If you would like to read the full article, click here.

Research Assistant

Shelby Tarutis, MPH, 425-405-1766

Shelby Tarutis studied biochemistry and literature at The Evergreen State College (BS, 1976) and received her Master of Public Health in Health Services from the University of Washington (1996).  She received a Certificate in Executive Development from the UW Foster School of Business (2018).  She has experience with coordinating research studies, managing data collection and planning budgets for grant applications.  For over 25 years, she obtained grant funding and coordinated village development projects in The Gambia, West Africa.  In her spare time, she volunteers with Gambia Health Education Liaison Project, a locally based non-profit.

Assistant Director

Elizabeth Blue, PhD, 206-685-4666

July2014Dr. Blue studied Economics and Anthropology at Indiana University (BS, 2003), and Anthropology at the University of Utah (MS, 2005; Ph.D., 2008). Her graduate work focused on the principles of evolutionary and population genetics. She pursued training in statistical genetics as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington (2008). She joined the faculty at the University of Washington in the Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Genetics (2011). She has been the chair of the Young Investigators committee of the International Genetic Epidemiology Society since 2013, joined the Statistical Genetics Program faculty in 2014, and the Institute of Public Health Genomics faculty in 2015. Dr. Blue’s research focuses on identifying genetic variants influencing complex traits, such as Alzheimer Disease and autism spectrum disorder. Her recent work has delved into the complexities of Mendelian traits as well, including oculocutaneous albinism, familial idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and others.


Glen Duncan, PhD, 509-358-7875

Duncan-GlenDr. Duncan’s academic training is in physical education (BS, 1992, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania) and exercise physiology (MS, 1994, Ball State University; PhD, 1997, University of Tennessee). Following graduate school, he completed postdoctoral research training (1998-2002) and then joined the faculty at the University of Florida (2002-2003), both in the Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism. He joined the Core Faculty of the Nutritional Sciences Program, Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington in July 2003. In June 2015, he accepted a position as Professor in the newly established Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, and Chair of the Nutrition and Exercise Physiology program at Washington State University – Health Sciences Spokane, where the Washington State Twin Registry is administratively housed. His major focus is related to macro-level influences (built environment, social environment, policies) on physical activity, nutrition, and chronic disease within an ecological framework.


Scientific Operations Manager

Ally Avery, MS, 425-405-1765

ally_avery_lthumbMs. Avery studied sociology at Western Washington University (BA, 2009) and received her Master of Science in Data Science from Northwestern University (2016). She has experience with all aspects of twin studies, including grant, budget, and protocol development, building and maintaining study databases, data collection, and data analysis.