The Infant Development Project
This project aims to explore how integration of neural networks over the first year of life vary as a function of caregiving processes. We will use longitudinal assessments and multimethod techniques to examine how the quality of infant-mother attachment contributes to intra-network and inter-network connectivity from 3 to 12 months using dynamic whole-brain data-driven approaches.. By incorporating multiple levels of analysis across multiple time scales, this project will provide novel insight into transactions among maternal caregiving, infant behavior, and neural networks across the first year of life that underlie infants’ attachment-related behavior and representations.
Funding sources: NIH
The Carolina Sibling Study
The Carolina Sibling Study is a 2-year longitudinal study that investigates how siblings influence the way the teenage brain develops. Families will answer questions about their daily lives and both teenagers will complete interactive tasks together and brain games while they are in a fMRI scanner. Families will visit us at Howell Hall and the Biomedical Research Imaging Center on the UNC campus. We are currently looking for families with two children, one between ages 11 and 13 and one 1-4 years older, to participate with a parent! For more information, please contact us at carolinasiblingstudy [at] gmail [dot] com.
Project NeuroTeen is a longitudinal study examining the important role of peers and parents on neurobiological development during adolescence. With funding from an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, we will be following 150 middle school students across 3 years. We are interested in how the brain is changing during this very important developmental phase. By studying changes in brain development, we hope to better understand the experiences and contexts that help teens thrive. This study is currently in its developmental phase and actively recruiting participants. Each year, families will visit us at the Biomedical Research Imaging Center at UNC where adolescents will complete a brain scan. For more information, please contact us here.
Funding sources: NIH
Social Contexts & Adolescent Neural Development (SCAND)
Project SCAND is a two-year longitudinal study supported by the National Science Foundation. The goal of this project is to understand the social contexts and brain mechanisms that influence teens’ decision-making, social interactions, and motivation. Approximately 80 adolescents completed a brain scan, computer tasks, and provided physical samples (e.g., hair, saliva). We are currently in the second wave of data collection and following up with participants one year after their brain scan. Our goal is to understand how neural development predicts longitudinal trajectories of psychological functioning, substance use, and risk taking behaviors.
Funding sources: NSF
Children’s Social Development Project (CSDP)
This is phase three of a 10-year longitudinal study examining children’s social development. In collaboration with Dr. Nancy McElwain at the University of Illinois, children were assessed for social and cognitive functioning (e.g. Strange Situation, Snack Task) at 2, 3, and 5 years of age. Children are now turning 13 years old, making this an exciting time to bring them back into the lab to assess longitudinal correlates of early measures. The current phase of the project involves bringing adolescents and their parents in for both an observational visit at our Research Home to assess family dynamics, as well as an fMRI session at the Biomedical Imaging Center. The addition of neuroimaging will allow us to prospectively examine how early social and cognitive functioning is related to brain development across a 10-year window.
Funding sources: NSF, Jacobs Foundation
Social Networks in Adolescence Project (SNAP)
The SNAP Project aims to understand the long-term impact of exposure to peer adversity on subsequent reactivity to social stress and consequent depression in adolescent girls. In collaboration with Dr. Karen Rudolph at the University of Illinois, adolescent girls with a well-characterized history of social stress were recruited from an 8-year longitudinal study which began when the girls were in second grade. Now as they are in high school, the study uses computer-based performance tasks and fMRI scans to examine how individual differences in girls’ personality and interpersonal experiences influence their neural and behavioral processing of social threat cues.
Funding sources: NIH, NARSAD
We completed two studies that aimed to investigate the role of culture in neural and behavioral functioning. American and Chinese participants were recruited to complete an fMRI scan and questionnaires assessing their family and peer relationships, school motivation, and psychological functioning. This study allows us to examine cultural similarities and differences in the neural basis of cognitive control, emotion reactivity and regulation, and prosocial behavior.
Juvenile Justice Project (JJP)
This project’s main goal is to take a comprehensive approach to understanding when and why adolescents engage in high-risk behaviors. Adolescents were recruited from alternative schools for students who had engaged in gross misconduct. By examining cognitive, social, and emotional neural systems in at-risk youth, we are better able to understand how these processes develop and influence real-world outcomes, such as social adjustment, substance use and behavioral conduct issues.
Family Dyads Study
The dyads study is a longitudinal study following children since they were in 7th grade. Parent-child dyads both underwent fMRI scans and completed questionnaires on family, school, and psychological well-being. The goal of this study was to investigate neural changes in children’s cognitive control, emotion regulation, and risk-taking behavior, with special attention to the role of parents in these processes.
Journeys in Adolescence
The Journeys in Adolescence (JIA 家) Study is a multimethod investigation examining the academic achievement, physical health, and emotional well-being of Chinese American adolescents and their families. Most studies of Chinese American families take place in diverse metropolitan areas and ethnic enclaves but JIA focuses on the unique experiences of families living in small, mostly homogenous Midwestern towns. We use questionnaires, daily checklists, and diurnal cortisol to answer a wide range of questions surrounding acculturation, family, school, and peer relationships, psychological functioning, and physical health and nutrition.
Funding source: Immigrant Health Transitions Initiative Seed Grant, UIUC
College Transition Study
The College Transition Study (CTS) seeks to understand how changes during the course of social development across the high school-college transition impact the psychological well-being of college students. We are specifically interested in examining the role of close relationships (e.g., family, significant others, etc.) in this process. Over 500 first year college students completed self report measures prior to starting their first semester of school, and we followed these same students over their college years. In their second year of college, approximately 40 students completed a brain scan, and one year later completed several self report measures.