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Current Projects

Active Projects

Predicting Adolescent Transition after Hospitalization (PATH) Study

With our collaborators including Drs. Alex BettisMeg Benningfield, and Richard Liu we are conducting a series of studies examining neural reward responsiveness and emotional reactivity as prospective predictors of suicidal behavior in adolescents following discharge from acute psychiatric treatment. We obtained funding for pilot data collection from the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research and Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and recently received support from the National Institute of Mental Health to launch a larger study!

Happy Families Study

With our collaborator Dr. Katie Burkhouse we are developing and piloting a novel preventive intervention aimed to enhance positive emotions and reward responsiveness in children of parents with histories of depression or anhedonia. We received pilot funding from the American Psychological Foundation and a Peabody Small Grant to support this research. We were recently awarded an R61 from the National Institute of Mental Health to test intervention effects on neural markers.

Pregnancy to Parenthood Study

The goal of this series of studies, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and conducted in collaboration with Dr. Kathryn Humphreys and Dr. David Cole is to examine changes in neural (EEG/ERP) and behavioral responses to rewarding and emotionally salient stimuli across pregnancy and postpartum. Understanding trajectories of change in these processes across the peripartum period has the potential to improve prediction of postpartum depression risk, and ultimately, advance understanding of the intergenerational transmission of depression.

Completed Projects

Brief Promoting Positive Emotions Study

We recently completed a pilot study of a single-session positive emotion-focused intervention for college students to test the extent to which the intervention can change neural markers of reward responsiveness and reduce stress and depression across a longitudinal follow-up. We are now analyzing data and look forward to sharing results soon.

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 recently concluded a study examining neural measures of positive and negative valence systems as predictors of CBT response in adolescent depression. Our primary results of this study were published in Research in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology.

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 onto real-world experiences. The hope is that these methods could be applied to better understand processes that predispose some children and adolescents to increased risk for mood and anxiety disorders and offer new targets for early intervention. This work has been supported in part by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. We are also conducting several National Institute of Mental Health -funded collaborative projects with Dr. Dara Babinski examining brain-behavioral markers of social processing in clinical samples of adolescents. We look forward to sharing more results soon!

Neurocognitive Effects of Prenatal Opioid Exposure on Preschool Children

This study (in collaboration with Drs. Kathryn Humphreys and Andrew Molnar and funded by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center) examined executive functioning in children ages 3-5 with and without exposure to opioids during pregnancy, with the goal of learning more about children with prenatal opioid exposure or diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS/NOWS). We measured neural (EEG) and neuropsychological measures measures of executive functioning, and clinical interviews/symptom measures to better understand the impact of opioid exposure on preschool-age children and inform approaches to early intervention. The primary results of this study were published in Child Neuropsychology.

Dyadic Intervention for Preschool-Age Children

This study (in collaboration with Drs. Kathryn Humphreys and Andrew Molnar) tested the effectiveness of a parent-child intervention for preschool-aged children who had experienced exposure to opioids during gestation. We examined measures of preschool executive functioning in order to investigate changes in response to the Brief Behavioral Intervention (BBI).  Parent-child dyads, including children ages 3-5 years old and their primary caregiver, participated in 6-8 intervention sessions, followed by a post-treatment session. Following the intervention, participants were 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).