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Current projects

Neural Predictors of Response to Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Adolescent Depression

Depression is a prevalent disorder in adolescents and often leads to long-term impairments in functioning and risk of suicide. Although cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment, many depressed adolescents fail to respond to CBT and few established measures are available for identifying those most likely to benefit. Brain-based measures seem to be powerful predictors of treatment response. However, they have yet to be extended to adolescent depression or to more economical, easily accessible measures such as electroencephalogram (EEG). With funding from the Klingenstein Third Generation Foundation, we are conducting a study to examine neural measures of positive and negative valence systems as predictors of CBT response in adolescent depression. This project will take a step towards improved prediction of response to treatment for adolescent depression, with the ultimate aim of informing more personalized approaches to treatment and improving long-term outcomes.

Social Processing in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults: From Brain Function to Behavior

The goal of this series of studies is to develop and validate new approaches for assessing sensitivity to social reward and threat using EEG and neuroimaging. We are developing novel lab-based paradigms for measuring social processes and are working to map brain function on to real-world experiences. The hope is that these methods could be applied to better understand processes that predispose some children and adolescent to increase risk for mood and anxiety disorders and offer new targets for early intervention. This work is supported in part by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

Trajectories of Emotional Reactivity across Pregnancy (in collaboration with Dr. Kathryn Humphreys)

There is a gap in the literature on longitudinal changes in neurobiological functioning across pregnancy, particularly with regard to brain function and emotional reactivity. The goal of this study is to assess neural (EEG/ERP), physiological (HRV), and behavioral responses to rewarding and emotionally salient stimuli across pregnancy. Understanding trajectories of change in these processes across the peripartum period has the potential to improve prediction of postpartum depression risk.

Neurocognitive Effects of Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome on Preschool Children

This study (in collaboration with Drs. Kathryn Humphreys and Andrew Molnar) seeks to examine the executive functioning and behavior of children ages 3-5 with and without exposure to opioids during pregnancy, with the goal of learning more about children diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS/NOWS). We will examine measures of preschool executive functioning and behavior, including neural (EEG), and neuropsychological measures, and diagnostic interviews in order to assess the impact of opioid exposure on preschool-age children.

Dyadic Intervention for Preschool-Age Children

This study (in collaboration with Drs. Kathryn Humphreys and Andrew Molnar) seeks to identify processes that predict behavioral treatment response in preschool-aged children who had experienced exposure to opioids during gestation. We will examine several measures of preschool executive functioning in order to investigate changes in response to the Brief Behavioral Intervention (BBI). BBI is an abbreviated parent-child intervention, designed to assist parents in managing children’s difficult behaviors. Parent-child dyads, including children ages 3-5 years old and their primary caregiver, will participate in 6-8 intervention sessions, followed by a post-treatment session. Following the intervention sessions, participants will be invited to complete follow-up measures of preschool executive functioning and behavior, along with neurophysiological measures as an exploratory test of changes before and after treatment. The results of this study may lead to improved understanding of the effectiveness of BBI and similar interventions for children born with neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS).