Current Research

Research in the CAN-D lab examines the development of cognitive, emotional and social processes using cognitive and affective neuroscience methods.

Mood and Brain Circuitry in Adolescence

Trajectories of adolescent mood disorders are unclear. Some adolescents with depression will continue to have symptoms into adulthood, others may have mixed manic features, some may develop bipolar disorder, and still others will remit and have no mood symptoms as adults. The goal of this study is to identify biomarkers that predict the course of mood symptoms. This information will be used to develop precise treatments tailored to these differing symptom profiles.

This study will follow healthy and depressed adolescents over 2 years to observe the course of mood disorders in adolescence. This study employs a multidimensional approach, consisting of fMRI and DTI imaging of FSL circuitry, clinical interviews, self-report measures, mood diaries, and actigraphy data. This study will also test machine learning-pattern recognition on the neurological data, to investigate the possibility of predicting an individual patient’s disease course based on brain imagery.

Funding: NIMH R01 MH111600-01

Puberty and adolescent brain development

There is a fundamental gap in understanding how puberty affects neural systems supporting emotion regulation in typically developing adolescents. Filling this gap is important to advance knowledge regarding neurodevelopmental markers of risk for mood disorders, which typically onset during adolescence, particularly in girls. Given the importance of attentional biases in mood disorders, the goal of this project is to use EEG, fMRI and functional connectivity methods to gain a deeper understanding of puberty-specific effects on the functioning of frontolimbic and frontostriatal systems involved in attentional control in the context of emotion and motivation.

Funding: NIMH R01MH099007

Functioning of neural systems underlying cognitive-affective processes in ADHD

Existing studies of adult ADHD have typically focused on the functioning of dorsal and lateral prefrontal systems underlying cognitive control processes. However, recent evidence suggests that fronto-striatal-limbic systems supporting processes at the interface of cognition and motivational/emotional processes – implicated in self-regulation of behavior and emotion – may also be impaired in ADHD. The goal of this project is to examine the functioning of neural systems supporting processes at the interface of cognitive control and emotion/motivation in relation to latent variable growth curves of ADHD symptoms estimated from the uniquely frequent and long-term assessments of the Pittsburgh ADHD Longitudinal Study (PALS). Given recent evidence that emotional dysregulation (specifically, anger-irritability) may have distinct neurobiological substrates in ADHD, we will test whether variation in the functioning of these systems is associated with anger-irritability also measured longitudinally in the PALS.

Funding: NIMH R01MH101096