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Current Studies

This is an R01-funded, longitudinal, high-dimensional, multi-modal, phenotyping (neuroimaging, behavior, caregiver report, physiology) study of 350 school-aged children (5-12 years old) with heterogeneous exposures to early caregiving adversities (ECAs) that will prospectively assess neuro- behavioral development of the Negative Valence System and Cognitive Control System as defined by the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC). Participants of the PACCT study and their parents/guardians participated in up to three in-lab sessions (every 15 months). The parents/guardians also completed a brief set of follow-up questionnaires via phone or online (7 months after each in-lab session). This study is conducted with co-investigators Drs. Michael Milham and Aki Nikolaidis at the Child Mind Institute, and is currently in the data analysis phase.

The Conte study is a longitudinal neuroimaging follow-up examining the association between prenatal exposure to depression and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and children's emotional behavior. Prenatal data was collected from mothers during their third trimester of pregnancy, and postpartum. We are now bringing children back into the lab at 5-7 years old to examine the long-term effects of these prenatal exposures on affective development. This study is in the data analysis phase, and is a collaboration with the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the department of Child Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center.

Emotional schemas are superordinate memory structures that are formed based on past experiences and guide how we experience, interpret, and respond to emotions and the environment. The Childhood Adversity, Schemas, and Emotions (CHASE) study aims to examine the effects of early life adversity on emotional schema learning and memory processes later in development. Participants come into the lab on two consecutive days. On day 1, participants complete an online survey and then learn a new emotional schema by completing a behavioral task. The next day, participants complete two behavioral tasks that assess the adaptation and generalization of the emotional schema when confronted with new information. This study is in the data collection phase for the young adult sample; a child sample will also be recruited.

We are working in collaboration with the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition to assess the benefits of the AGAPE Program, sponsored by this organization. By providing supportive services and connecting families to resources such as parent trainings, support groups for both parents and youths, peer mentoring, navigation for cross-system needs, therapeutic services referrals, counseling, or other supports to help families address issues as they arise, the AGAPE program aims to help post-adoptive and post-guardianship families through the unique challenges they face following an adoption or guardianship.

Two studies being conducted in collaboration with the Barnard Center for Toddler Development will investigate how parents modulate children’s behavior within the realm of two regularly experienced events for toddlers: coping with frustration and emotional learning. These studies will examine how children differentially learn about emotional information from their parents versus other adults, and how parents regulate children’s responses to frustrating events when encountered, as well as how long these regulatory effects last. This project is currently in the data analysis phase.

We are also starting preparations for a study using novel collection procedures to obtain functional neuroimaging data from awake toddlers to investigate how neural circuitry develops during this early window of development and supports the emergence of emotional behavior. Data collection is anticipated to begin in summer 2023.

The goal of this study is to advance current knowledge on how attachment representations promote humans' exploration and learning while they learn to navigate a rewarding environment. Participants complete a computerized exploration task after being prompted to think about different social figures in their life and complete a self-report questionnaire. This study is currently in the data collection phase.


Past Studies

The Autobiographical Memory and Familiar Music (AMFM) study examined the effects of music on retrieval of remote autobiographical memories during healthy aging. Participants aged 65-80 listened to songs from the Billboard Hot 100 charts from 1945-1982 and conducted semi-structured interview sessions to characterize the content of recalled memories. Data collection is now complete, and the study protocol was prepared as a manuscript for submission as a registered report. This study is conducted with co-investigator Dr. Mariam Aly.

This is a study in the data analysis stage that recruited previously instituionalized and domestically adopted children and comparisons between the ages of 5- 17 years old. The goal of the study was to better understand how early social experiences influence emotional health. We aimed to study children and adolescents as well as their parents. This project used a combination of functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) neuroimaging, physiological, and behavioral methods to examine how early social environments scaffold and modulate neural systems involved in emotional learning. Participation included two in-lab visits at Columbia University where biological and physiological measures were taken, questionnaires and interviews were completed, and fMRI protocols were conducted. A follow-up memory test occurred one week after the fMRI scan.

A sub-study of the ELFK study, this is a study in the analysis stage that recruited 2-4 year old children who were adopted, born in the US, or born in another country and are now living in the US. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of the gut microbiome in shaping socio-emotional development. We were particularly interested in studying whether orphanage rearing affects the gut microflora of developing individuals and whether rearing- induced gut alterations moderate associations between rearing and brain development. To this effect, parents were asked to collect stool and saliva samples from their children as well as fill out food diaries and medication health questionnaires.

This is a longitudinal study that examined neuro-affective development across childhood to adolescence following both typical and atypical caregiving experiences. Internationally adopted youth with history of institutional care and comparison youth participated in study sessions that measured affective behavior (e.g. tasks, questionnaires), physiology (e.g. cortisol), and neurobiological development (functional and structural MRI). The study was conducted with an accelerated longitudinal design, with a wide age range at baseline (3-16 years old). Participants completed up to 3 waves of data collection that occurred at two year intervals. The SB Study is in the data analysis stage.

This study sought to address how being in an emotional state of awe might influence dimensions such as personality, learning, attention, schemas, and cognition. The Awe study is in the data analysis stage.