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Research event at UW

Views of Gender in Early Childhood

Project Duration: 09/21/2017 - 08/31/2022
Sponsor: National Institute of Child Health & Human Development
Dept. Investigator(s): Olson, Kristina
Abstract: Click to expand...
Young children’s essentialist views of gender (i.e., that gender is innate, immutable, informative, and discrete) are found to be inflexible in early childhood in all cultures studied to date, which has led researchers to construe of gender essentialism as an early-emerging cognitive default. The proposed work addresses the validity of this belief that gender essentialism is inevitable, by examining the development of gender essentialism among gender nonconforming and gender typical children. Gender nonconforming children present a unique opportunity for answering this question, as their own gender identity defies central components of an essentialist outlook on gender. Specifically, gender nonconforming children might not view gender as determined by one’s natal sex, or as discrete. Thus, gender nonconforming children’s own experiences with gender might lead to early non-essentialist beliefs about gender, different from gender typical children whose gender aligns with essentialist views of gender. If, however, gender essentialism is indeed a cognitive default, even gender nonconforming children might hold early essentialist beliefs regarding gender. We propose to study development of gender essentialism among gender nonconforming and gender typical children in 4 main ways. First, the proposed work aims to examine the similarities and differences in gender essentialism among gender nonconforming and gender typical children, and to further our current understanding of gender essentialism by studying children’s essentialism of gender and gender identity separately, which has not been previously done in the literature. Second, the project aims to understand the extent to which essentialism is a domain-general or domain-specific cognitive bias. If essentialism is a domain-general capacity, we would expect that gender nonconforming and gender typical children’s essentialism of gender will align with their essentialism of other social categories and natural kinds. However, if gender essentialism is a domain-specific capacity, we would expect to see no alignment. Third, we will examine the family environment as a context that potentially relates to children’s early essentialist beliefs. Specifically, we will examine the extent to which gender nonconforming and gender typical children’s gender essentialism mirrors the messages they receive from their parents about gender. Fourth, we aim to examine the relation between gender essentialism and prejudice against gender nonconforming children among gender typical children. The literature provides conflicting evidence regarding the relation between essentialism of social categories and prejudice. Because gender nonconforming children tend to experience high levels of discrimination and prejudice by their peers, understanding this link has crucial implications for reducing peer victimization of gender nonconforming children. Together this work will not only expand our theoretical understanding of essentialism, but will broaden our understanding of gender nonconformity in early childhood.

Gene regulatory analysis of social integration and resilience during aging

Project Duration: 09/15/2017 - 06/30/2020
Sponsor: National Institute on Aging
Dept. Investigator(s): Snyder-Mackler, Noah
Abstract: Click to expand...
Almost half of American adults over 60 years old report being lonely, a condition that can have a major impact on health and mortality risk in later life. Adults with weak social relationships experience a 50% higher mortality rate than more socially integrated adults—an effect on par with that of smoking, obesity, or alcoholism. One explanation for this association is if better social integration increases resilience against stressful experiences, a hypothesis known as “stress buffering.” Yet despite the importance of social integration for human health, the behavioral and molecular mechanisms that mediate its potential role in stress buffering remain poorly understood, limiting its practical application to improving resilience during aging. The objective of the proposed study is to identify the genomic mechanisms that link social integration to stress sensitivity and inflammation during acute stress. If a main benefit of SI is to buffer against acute stress, I hypothesize that low levels of social integration will be associated with dysregulation of the gene regulatory response to acute stress. To test this hypothesis, I will leverage the advantages of studying rhesus macaques, a well-established animal model for human aging and social behavior. Work performed during the mentored phase of this award has shown that the social environment alters the epigenomic and genomic landscape of immune cells and that these changes may underlie variation in acute stress susceptibility in individuals who have more favorable vs. more adverse social environments. These findings suggest a potential mechanism, epigenomic changes, through which social adversity may accelerate the aging process. Probing how age and social experience interact to alter this mechanism will be the focus of the independent phase of this project. This project will combine studies of free-ranging macaques (Aim 1) with experimental manipulations of the social environment (Aim 2) to yield insight into the relationship between acute stress and gene regulation in a natural environment and a more controlled setting. In both contexts, I will combine genome-wide gene expression, DNA methylation, and chromatin accessibility measurements to characterize the genomic pathways associated with social integration and its relationship with the acute stress response. I will also test whether these relationships are exaggerated for older animals, and whether the presence of a close social partner can enhance resilience to psychosocial stress.

Expanding pathways to early screening and intervention for underserved toddlers with ASD (ASD-PATH)

Project Duration: 09/01/2017 - 08/31/2020
Sponsor: Health Resources and Services Administration
Dept. Investigator(s): Stone, Wendy
Abstract: Click to expand...
The purpose of the ASD-PATH project is to understand barriers to early ASD screening and intervention services for Hispanic and underserved families, and to build capacity within the community to offer more diverse pathways to accessing these services. We will be conducting focus groups with caregivers and providers to guide our development of tailored workshops on evidence-based screening and intervention, as well as parent-centered discussion and decision-making. We propose that community-level improvements in early screening, referral, assessment, and intervention will result in improved outcomes for toddlers as well as their caregivers, as well as reduce current health care disparities. We will be working with providers and caregivers in 2 community health centers and 4 early intervention/home visiting programs in King County, WA. These programs were selected based on the number of children reached and their service to Hispanic and underserved families. Workshops and technical assistance for each community health center will include information on: (1) the early characteristics of ASD, (2) the use of a Level 1 ASD screen (the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers – Revised with Follow-up [M-CHAT-R/F]), (3) family-centered discussion and decision making, and (4) local resources. Workshops and technical assistance for each early intervention program (which include Early Head Start and home visiting programs) will include information on: (1) the early characteristics of ASD, (2) the use of the M-CHAT-R/F, (3) the use of a Level 2 screen (the Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers [STAT]), (4) the use of a low-cost, evidenced based, ASD-specialized behavioral intervention (Reciprocal Imitation Training [RIT]), and (5) family-centered discussion and decision making. To evaluate the effectiveness of ASD-PATH, we will collect data from caregivers and providers at multiple points before and after the ASD-PATH intervention. Caregivers will complete information about their child-related stress and efficacy, their experience of family-centered practices within provider contexts, and their child’s social-communication behavior. Providers will complete information about their practices before and after training and the acceptability and feasibility of using the tools. In addition, to evaluate changes in child’s social communication, 30 toddlers will receive direct behavioral assessments of social communication at two time points before the ASD-PATH training (i.e., pre-RIT), and a separate cohort of toddlers will receive direct assessments of social communication at two time points, once before and once after the ASD-PATH training.

Thomas Jefferson Fund Award: Olfactory navigation using naturally fluctuating odor cues

Project Duration: 09/01/2017 - 08/31/2019
Sponsor: French American Cultural Exchange (FACE)
Dept. Investigator(s): Gire, David
Abstract: Click to expand...
Living systems constantly make decisions based on a large array of sensory inputs that inform them of their environment. Chemical cues bear a fundamental source of information, that all domains of life extract with sophisticated mechanisms. Terrestrial and aquatic animals live in distinct physical environments, and differ in both behavioral strategies and physiological mechanisms. However in all animal species, odorants reach the receptors via an aqueous phase suggesting a common evolutionary history. Moreover, while different species use olfaction to tailor their decision-making onto specific computational needs, the neural architecture underlying the sense of smell is remarkably similar. To unravel the fundamental principles that shape olfactory driven decision-making, we target a connection between the physics of odor transport in the air and animal behavior during olfactory navigation tasks.

Collaborative: RR: Origins of Intergroup Perceptions and Attitudes Across Diverse Contexts

Project Duration: 08/01/2017 - 07/31/2020
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Olson, Kristina
Abstract: Click to expand...
This collaborative project investigates the early emergence of social category knowledge with a particular focus on race and gender in children from a diverse range of racial/ethnic and geographic backgrounds throughout the United States. We focus on four core components of early social category knowledge, each with direct relevance for pressing issues of equity and discrimination: children’s attitudes towards, stereotypes about, facial recognition of, and prosocial behavior with members of different racial and gender groups. Each of these topics has previously been investigated independently and in restricted samples primarily consisting of White American children. In response to Dear Colleague Letter 16-137, a central goal of this proposal is to examine the robustness of past results in these areas, in particular the generalizability of past findings across diverse racial/ethnic and geographic samples. This will be accomplished by interviewing and testing all children on the full set of measures using a common protocol to be developed by the research team. The project involves five geographically diverse sites (Hawaii, Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, the South, and the Northeast), with each site involving two or more racial/ethnic samples of participants spanning White, Asian, Black, and Hispanic Americans, and with each racial/ethnic group sampled from at least two geographic regions.

Collaborative Proposal: Physiological Signatures of Variable Weaning Strategies in Wild Geladas (Theropithecus gelada)

Project Duration: 08/01/2017 - 07/31/2020
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Snyder-Mackler, Noah
Abstract: Click to expand...
Weaning reflects a classic life history tradeoff for mammalian females. While prolonged maternal investment comes at a cost to the mother’s future reproduction, premature weaning can lead
to higher infant mortality and impaired infant development. These patterns beg the question: Under what contexts should mothers curtail parental investment at the expense of offspring fitness? In nonhuman primates, maternal dominance rank and parity appear to influence the duration of nursing, but not the timing of weaning relative to growth. True premature weaning of underdeveloped offspring is expected only under extreme conditions where infant survival
is likely to be low. For instance, in nonhuman primates, mothers are expected to prematurely wean their infants as a cost-cutting strategy against potential infanticide. To date, however,
the links between infanticide risk, maternal weaning strategies, and offspring developmental outcomes are poorly understood. In part, this is because data on growth, accurate assessments of nursing cessation, and biomarkers of potential long-term consequences (e.g., infant growth, immunity) have been difficult to obtain in wild populations. This study proposes to overcome these hurdles by using innovative techniques in stable isotope analyses, photogrammetry, and genomics to examine weaning in relation to growth, gut microbial communities, and fitness in a wild primate - the gelada (Theropithecus gelada). Geladas are an ideal model for examining such questions because male infanticide, one of the key conditions that may favor premature weaning, is common in this species. Our research focuses on three questions: (1) What is the normative trajectory of weaning in relation to growth and gut microbiome establishment? (2) What maternal attributes (dominance rank, parity) or social factors (male takeovers associated with infanticide risk) influence individual differences in nursing cessation and its timing relative to infant growth? 3) Does premature weaning negatively impact long-term health and survival?

Effects of Blindness on Human Early Visual Pathways

Project Duration: 07/01/2017 - 06/30/2022
Sponsor: National Eye Institute
Dept. Investigator(s): Fine, Ione
Abstract: Click to expand...
Early blind individuals show superior performance across a wide variety of auditory skills. However, fMRI studies examining neural plasticity resulting from blindness have almost exclusively focused on techniques that pool information across voxels. As a result, while studies have shown that differences in neural activity between early blind and sighted subjects are correlated with behavioral performance, justifications for these correlations remain at the ‘more cortex is better’ or the ‘bigger BOLD (or sometimes smaller) responses are better’ level of explanation. We will examine the widespread alterations that occur within auditory processing pathways within early blind individuals using ‘voxel‐wise encoding’ models that represent each voxel as having a tuning function along dimension(s) of interest. Simple linking models will allow us to predict behavioral performance based on the predicted cortical discriminability of stimuli. This will allow us, for the first time, to model quantitatively how neural responses to auditory stimuli might mediate the enhanced behavioral abilities observed in early blind individuals. In Aim 1 we will examine whether early blindness alters primary auditory cortex (PAC). We will begin by comparing PAC size, responsiveness and frequency tuning bandwidths across early blind and sighted individuals. We will then examine whether tuning for temporal amplitude modulations within primary auditory cortex are also affected by blindness. Computational models will be used to link primary auditory cortex neural responses to behavioral performance across a variety of auditory tasks for blind and sighted individuals. In Aim 2 we will use naturalistic stimuli to measure complex auditory spectro‐temporal tuning in both auditory and occipital cortex. Again, computational models will be used to link each individual’s neural responses to auditory performance on complex naturalistic tasks. Finally in Aim 3 we will examine auditory motion processing. Although auditory motion responses are found within visual cortical area hMT+ in early blind individuals, it is not clear how these responses help early blind subjects to perceptually segregate moving auditory objects in complex auditory environments. We will examine whether hMT+ is tuned for frequency as well as direction of motion and how hMT+ neural responses might result in enhanced behavioral performance on auditory motion tasks.

Learning Complex Cognitive Skills: Bridging Neuroscience and Education through Individual Differences Research

Project Duration: 06/01/2017 - 05/31/2020
Sponsor: Office of Naval Research
Dept. Investigator(s): Prat, Chantel
Abstract: Click to expand...
Vast individual differences exist in the ability to acquire new information and to master complex skill sets. Such differences must be rooted in the varying information-processing capacities of individual brains. Thus, leveraging the field of cognitive neuroscience to understand the nature of individual differences in learning allows one to move beyond characterizing ability at the behavioral level toward a more complete understanding of why an individual performs at the level he or she does. Such an understanding is critical for informing education and remediation attempts. Importantly, the current availability of affordable, consumer-grade neuroimaging equipment allows for the possibility of augmenting behavioral screening, placement, and assessment tools with the addition of relatively inexpensive measures of neural functioning. Thus, the current proposal aims to extend our previously funded line of research investigating the neural basis of individual differences in second language (L2) learning abilities, with the goal of bridging basic neuroscientific research with applications for screening and training military personnel.

Moving Beyond Changing Mindsets: Creating a Culture of Growth in Schools Phase 2

Project Duration: 06/01/2017 - 10/31/2019
Sponsor: Raikes Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Fryberg, Stephanie
Abstract: Click to expand...
In the proposed research, we will build on our pilot study to examine a) whether training teachers to implement CIGM practices more effectively reduces racial and income achievement gaps compared to standard GM training practices and b) whether the order in which teachers learn about CI and GM affects the efficacy of the CIGM curriculum. We expect all of our curricula to narrow achievement gaps. However, we expect that the CIGM curriculum will reduce achievement gaps to a greater extent than GM curricula because the CIGM curriculum not only helps teachers to create GM cultures within their classrooms but also gives teachers aframework for understanding and validating cultural differences within the classroom. Such changes in classroom culture should create a context in which disadvantaged students feel greater belonging, are more motivated to achieve in school, are more willing to seek academic challenges, and have better academic performance.

Closed loop analysis of hippocampus-prefrontal cortex during flexible navigation

Project Duration: 05/15/2017 - 01/31/2019
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health
Dept. Investigator(s): Mizumori, Sheri
Abstract: Click to expand...
While the existence of multiple memory systems in the brain is generally accepted, it is not known how these different systems interact to result in continuously adaptive memory-guided behaviors and decisions. Recent results clearly show that particular combinations of memory-related brain systems show synchronized neural activity (at the population level, for example at the theta frequency) in a task-dependent way. However the informational and behavioral significance of such co-modulation of neural activity in not known perhaps in part because such measures are not temporally or informationally refined enough to reveal the significance of this interaction. This proposal aims to develop a novel paradigm for determining whether a specific type of information in one brain area can provide a signal for a connected memory structure to engage in its well-known memory-related function. Specifically, we will test the causal relationship between neural signatures of planned behaviors in hippocampus and the regulation of flexible behaviors by the medial prefrontal cortex. Also, we will assess the subsequent impact of this neural directive on future behavioral and cognitive flexibility, as well as on future hippocampal place field integrity. These goals will be accomplished by developing a closed loop circuit between hippocampal place field activity and the prefrontal cortex: we will look on-line for a particular type of sequential activation of hippocampal place cells prior to behavioral choices made by the rat, a sequence that predicts the future path of a rat once the trial starts. This type of sequential activation is referred to as a forward sweep of place cell activity. Detection of a forward sweep will automatically and rapidly trigger the optogenetic excitation or inhibition of the prefrontal cortex, and this will also occur prior to the start of a trial. The impact of this pairing of forward sweeps with prefrontal cortical activation (or inactivation) will be measured behaviorally and neurophysiologically by quantifying behavioral flexibility and the changes in the properties of the hippocampal place fields during actual trial runs. It is postulated that prefrontal cortical normally stabilizes place fields which in turn should enable rats to more quickly adapt to changing task conditions. The successful development of this closed loop paradigm can serve as an innovative and new model for studying the functional interactions between other memory and behavioral systems of the brain, which in turn can have tremendous clinical and therapeutic benefits. It may be possible to interfere with (in cases of unwanted specific associations) or facilitate (in cases of deficient desired associations) specific types of learning or learned associations that characterize a number of mental disorders. MPI: David Gire

Closed loop analysis of hippocampus-prefrontal cortex during flexible navigation

Project Duration: 05/15/2017 - 01/31/2019
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health
Dept. Investigator(s): Gire, David
Abstract: Click to expand...
While the existence of multiple memory systems in the brain is generally accepted, it is not known how these different systems interact to result in continuously adaptive memory-guided behaviors and decisions. Recent results clearly show that particular combinations of memory-related brain systems show synchronized neural activity (at the population level, for example at the theta frequency) in a task-dependent way. However the informational and behavioral significance of such co-modulation of neural activity in not known perhaps in part because such measures are not temporally or informationally refined enough to reveal the significance of this interaction. This proposal aims to develop a novel paradigm for determining whether a specific type of information in one brain area can provide a signal for a connected memory structure to engage in its well-known memory-related function. Specifically, we will test the causal relationship between neural signatures of planned behaviors in hippocampus and the regulation of flexible behaviors by the medial prefrontal cortex. Also, we will assess the subsequent impact of this neural directive on future behavioral and cognitive flexibility, as well as on future hippocampal place field integrity. These goals will be accomplished by developing a closed loop circuit between hippocampal place field activity and the prefrontal cortex: we will look on-line for a particular type of sequential activation of hippocampal place cells prior to behavioral choices made by the rat, a sequence that predicts the future path of a rat once the trial starts. This type of sequential activation is referred to as a forward sweep of place cell activity. Detection of a forward sweep will automatically and rapidly trigger the optogenetic excitation or inhibition of the prefrontal cortex, and this will also occur prior to the start of a trial. The impact of this pairing of forward sweeps with prefrontal cortical activation (or inactivation) will be measured behaviorally and neurophysiologically by quantifying behavioral flexibility and the changes in the properties of the hippocampal place fields during actual trial runs. It is postulated that prefrontal cortical normally stabilizes place fields which in turn should enable rats to more quickly adapt to changing task conditions. The successful development of this closed loop paradigm can serve as an innovative and new model for studying the functional interactions between other memory and behavioral systems of the brain, which in turn can have tremendous clinical and therapeutic benefits. It may be possible to interfere with (in cases of unwanted specific associations) or facilitate (in cases of deficient desired associations) specific types of learning or learned associations that characterize a number of mental disorders. Contact PI: Sheri Mizumori

A Lay-Led Intervention for War and Refugee Related Trauma

Project Duration: 04/07/2017 - 03/31/2020
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health
Dept. Investigator(s): Zoellner, Lori
Abstract: Click to expand...
Rates of PTSD, a chronic and debilitating mental disorder, are considerably higher in war-torn regions like Somalia, known for sexual violence and other human rights violations (e.g., 50.1%; Johnson et al., 2010). In the aftermath of substantial war- and refugee-related trauma, there is a clear need for effectiveness research addressing the significant, under-addressed mental health needs of Somalis and the broader Muslim community. While efficacious treatments exist for PTSD and related difficulties, such treatments typically require extensive training of providers prior to treatment delivery. Furthermore, there are significant barriers to dissemination of such treatments, particularly to the Somali community, due to Islamic beliefs that run contradictory to mental health interventions, language differences, and limited access to care (e.g., Bentley et al., 2011; Aloud & Rathur, 2009). For a population that is almost exclusively Muslim, a treatment that incorporates Islamic principles is essential. No existing trauma-focused treatments have an Islamic focus, despite the fact that almost a quarter of the world’s population practices this religion. We have developed a brief, group-based, lay-led intervention, Islamic Trauma Healing, which specifically targets healing the mental wounds of trauma within mosques. The six-session intervention combines empirically-supported exposure-based and cognitive restructuring techniques with Islamic principles central to spiritual, social, family, and work life. Core intervention components include cognitive restructuring through Prophet stories, and exposure to trauma memories through talking to Allah. Tea, incense, and supplications are included as part of each group session to promote a sense of community and spirituality. We will examine the intervention in a small RCT and to examine intervention mechanisms, specifically the effects of shifts in negative cognitions about self, world, and others and changes in connectedness with others and Allah. We also will demonstrate initial feasibility to implementing the program outside of the U.S. to an Islamic country by conducting a small pre- to post-study design. Taken together, this work will serve as the foundation for a larger scale RCT both within the U.S. Islamic refugee community and in the larger Islamic community outside of the U.S. The Islamic Trauma Healing program has the potential to provide a low-cost, self-sustaining model of faith-based intervention that can address the psychological wounds of trauma.

Integrated Population Health Outcomes in China: Monitoring the Impending (Second) Baby Boom

Project Duration: 01/01/2017 - 02/15/2018
Sponsor: University of Washington Office of Global Affairs
Dept. Investigator(s): Simoni, Jane
Abstract: Click to expand...
The proposed project aims to instigate a bi-national investigation into the possible role of nursing professionals to close the mental health treatment gap in China. The project builds on the PI’s decade-long involvement in research in China, during which the shortage of mental health professionals to address the psychological distress of chronically ill individuals was apparent. With this GIF award, we aim to convene a strategic planning meeting involving faculty researchers, academic administrators, public health officials, and hospital-based nursing professionals from the University of Washington and key institutions in south central China. This summit meeting will involve identifying potential next steps in re-visioning nursing training that will solidify a UW-China partnership. With its focus on China, this application clearly fits within the OGA’s Strategic Regional Priorities. Moreover, the award involves a cross-university interdisciplinary collaboration, involving the Department of Psychology, the School of Nursing, and the Department of Global Health. It aligns with the UW’s vision for innovation and access in terms of eventually offering both faculty and students with opportunities for research collaborations as well as bidirectional exchanges and educational opportunities. Given China’s growing resources for initiatives such as the one proposed, and the priority on this target area in particular, there will be opportunities for sustainability from the Chinese institutions involved.

BRAINS: Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroSciences - A national program to increase the advancement of neuroscience researchers from diverse backgrounds

Project Duration: 12/01/2016 - 11/30/2021
Sponsor: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Dept. Investigator(s): Mizumori, Sheri
Abstract: Click to expand...
Retention of highly skilled scientists from diverse and underrepresented groups is critical for creating the diverse leadership necessary for innovation in neuroscience. Unfortunately, individuals from underrepresented groups often have higher turnover rates due to a greater sense of isolation and inequitable access to networks, mentors, and key resources that affect career success. Neuroscience postdoctoral researchers and assistant professors from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds (including racial and ethnic minorities and people with disabilities) are not immune to these issues. BRAINS: Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroScience adopts novel approaches to diversify neuroscience such that career advancement and retention of post-Ph.D., early-career neuroscientists from underrepresented groups (URGs: racial and ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities) are increased. BRAINS explicitly seeks to plug the neuroscience early career leaky pipeline by offering a novel professional development program that addresses factors known to impact persistence and career decisions of individuals from URGs in science. Such factors include one’s sense of belonging and self-efficacy, the belief in one’s ability to perform particular behaviors to produce a specific outcome. BRAINS intentionally targets talented neuroscientists considered at risk for leaving science and academia due to lack of professional support and career self-efficacy. BRAINS has already significantly impacted the career self-efficacy, career satisfaction, and sense of belonging of 56 participants. BRAINS will next enhance the breadth and depth of its impact by tripling the number of neuroscientists participating in the program, and by introducing formal cross-cohort activities that deepen the program’s influence on participants’ career advancement. Specifically, BRAINS’ increased impact on the leaky pipeline will occur by 1. Expanding the longitudinal evaluation of all prior BRAINS participants and non-selected applicants, and growing the program by adding two new cohorts of BRAINS Fellows. 2. Foster additional synergistic networks, career skills, and the leadership potential of BRAINS Fellows through new cross-cohort activities. 3. Broadening BRAINS’ reach amongst early-career neuroscientists from URGs by introducing a BRAINS Affiliates Program.

Improving Public Response to Weather Warnings

Project Duration: 06/15/2016 - 05/31/2019
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Joslyn, Susan
Abstract: Click to expand...
Despite recent improvements in lead-time and weather forecast accuracy, weather-related injury and death remain a serious problem. There is growing consensus that public response to warning forecasts, or lack thereof, is a significant contributing factor and may arise in part from distrust in the warnings themselves. This project is designed to explore three psychological issues associated with distrust that may be related to warning forecast communication. 1)Forecasts for high-impact weather events are first made days in advance to allow residents time to prepare. Subsequent forecasts for the same event may differ giving rise to the impression of inconsistency that may engender distrust. Indeed this is the assumption of forecasters who are reluctant to change forecasts even when better information becomes available, preferring to sacrifice accuracy for consistency. However, at present there is no behavioral research to support this assumption. 2) Distrust may also arise from the fact that severe weather events are usually presented as certain, because forecasters worry that admitting uncertainty will prevent residents from taking them seriously. However, evidence suggests that residents already understand that there is often considerable uncertainty, especially early on. Thus, overstated forecasts may seem implausible as well as deny residents adequate information to make decisions tailored to their own risk tolerance. 3) Importantly, distrust in warning forecasts may lead to delaying precautionary action in order to gather more information. In some cases residents may run out of time, known as delay beyond optimal stopping, a problem that may be exacerbated by time pressure.

TransYouth Project

Project Duration: 01/01/2016 - 12/31/2017
Sponsor: Arcus Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Olson, Kristina
Abstract: Click to expand...
The TransYouth Project has five major goals for the next two years. (1) We aim to complete the initial recruitment phase of study. With this funding, we will have the opportunity to assure that this sample includes currently under‐represented groups: children from more rural and small town areas, children from the Mid‐Atlantic, Southeastern, Southwestern, Great Plains, and Mountain regions of the United States, children who are from lower income families, and children who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups. (2) We aim to contribute to the (woefully small) scientific literature on gender diverse children through papers in peer reviewed journals, chapters in books about transgender youth, and academic talks to audiences across the country. Through these discussions, we will educate scholars and scientists about why studying transgender youth is not only important, but critical for understanding the ways that gender experience and social support influence children’s lives. (3) We will contribute to public discussions about gender diverse children. We currently receive many more requests for public comment, public talks, and writings about these youth than we can reply to. This funding would allow us to increasingly meet public demand through freeing more of the time of existing staff to meet these needs. (4) We will contribute to the training of a new generation of educators and practitioners working with gender diverse youth, by giving presentations to these individuals, presenting the findings of our and others’ work. (5) We see the next two years as especially crucial for growing this project, not only to be able to maintain our increasingly large pool of participants, but to increase the number and capacity of staff to assure that we can meet goals 1‐4, but by leveraging support from the Arcus Foundation to ensure these research findings have ultimate impact on the lives of transgender and gender variant children long into the future.

Jacobs Foundation: Early Career Research Fellowship

Project Duration: 01/01/2016 - 12/31/2018
Sponsor: Jacobs Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): McLaughlin, Katie
Abstract: Click to expand...
My research will focus on increasing knowledge of how and why early adversity influences risk for mental health and academic problems in children and adolescents. First, I will investigate how exposure to violence influences emotional development and brain networks that support emotional processing in children. Specifically, I will examine how violence exposure alters three aspects of emotional processing: 1) emotional learning (i.e., mechanisms involved in learning about threats and rewards in the environment); 2) emotional reactivity (i.e., the intensity of emotional reactions); and 3) emotion regulation (i.e., the ability to effectively modulate the intensity and duration of emotional responses). I will determine whether disruptions in these processes following violence exposure confer risk for anxiety, depression, and aggression. Second, I will examine how early environmental deprivation influences cognitive development and brain networks that support memory, attention, and self-control. I will investigate deprivation associated with poverty in the U.S. in one study and deprivation related to prolonged institutional rearing in Eastern Europe in a separate study. I will evaluate whether deprivation-related deficits in memory, attention, and self-control increase risk for academic failure, aggression, and risky behavior. Third, I will identify factors that protect children from developing mental health problems after exposure to early adversity using cross-national population-based data from over 30 countries worldwide. My goal is to contribute to greater understanding of the role of adverse environmental experiences in shaping children’s development, so as to inform the creation of interventions, practices, and policies to promote adaptive development in society’s most vulnerable members.

IMHRO Rising Star Award: Neural Mechanisms of Stress Vulnerability Underlying Anxiety and Depression in Youth

Project Duration: 12/15/2015 - 12/31/2018
Sponsor: International Mental Health Research Organization
Dept. Investigator(s): McLaughlin, Katie
Abstract: Click to expand...
Environmental experience plays a central role in the etiology of most mental disorders. Extensive research documents powerful and robust associations between exposure to stressful life events (SLEs) and the onset of virtually all common forms of psychopathology, particularly anxiety and depression. Yet the mechanisms underlying this risk remain poorly understood. In particular, research examining the mechanisms by which SLEs influence neural processes that confer risk for anxiety and depression still lacks the precision required to generate strong translational outcomes. The proposed project will employ a new methodological approach that will, for the first time, allow examination of dynamic changes in emotion, behavior, physiology, as well as neural networks underlying emotional processing following SLEs, at a sufficiently fine grained level of temporal specificity to address currently unanswered, but fundamental, questions about the mechanisms underlying the link between SLEs and anxiety and depression. This information is necessary to identify novel targets for interventions to prevent the onset of anxiety and depression in youth.

Deprivation and Threat: Dimensions of Early Experience and Neural Development

Project Duration: 12/10/2015 - 11/30/2020
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health
Dept. Investigator(s): McLaughlin, Katie
Abstract: Click to expand...
The proposed research examines the impact of child trauma and deprivation on the development of neural networks involved in emotion regulation and cognitive control in a unique, well characterized NIH-funded longitudinal cohort of children where exposure to environmental adversity has been precisely quantified. We will test a conceptual model based on extensive preliminary data suggesting that different types of environmental experience have distinct effects on neural development by examining the influence of trauma and deprivation on neural structure, including cortical thickness and white matter microstructure, and neural function in Negative Valence Systems (function and connectivity in amygdala-ventromedial PFC network during fear conditioning and extinction) and Cognitive Control Systems (function and connectivity in frontoparietal networks during cognitive control tasks). Elucidating these mechanisms will not only build knowledge of how adverse environments alter neural development in ways that might increase risk for psychopathology, but will also suggest possible targets for preventive interventions aimed at reducing psychopathology risk in children exposed to environmental adversity.

Toward a Broader Understanding of Gender Development

Project Duration: 09/01/2015 - 08/31/2018
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Olson, Kristina
Abstract: Click to expand...
Announced at one’s birth or even months before, gender is perhaps the most central social category that affects human lives in every society on earth. And while the study of how children come to understand their own gender and its influence on other aspects of their lives has been central to the study of developmental psychology for decades, nearly all research to date has focused on children who experience “typical” gender identity. This grant proposal argues that a true understanding of gender not only benefits from, but actually requires an understanding of atypical gender experience as well. Specifically, this work asks whether existing theories can explain the pattern of gender development present in a growing group of gender atypical children: those who are transgender. While answering this question, the current work also addresses questions about whether there are any key differences between transgender and cisgender children’s development. Toward this end, the current work seeks to address three major research questions developed from the extant gender development literature: (1) What is the role of social input in the development of gender(ed) identity, cognition, and behavior? (2) Does gender constancy cause increased rates of gendered cognition and behavior?, and (3) Do transgender children show atypical patterns of gender development? To answer these questions, a national, cross-sectional study comparing 100 transgender children (aged 3-10), 100 matched controls, and up to a 100 siblings of transgender children will complete a battery of gender development measures while their parents complete questionnaires about their parenting. The measures of gender development will be taken from the established literature and include both implicit and explicit measures, covering topics ranging from gender identity and stability beliefs to gender stereotyping and behavior.

Collaborative Research: Mechanisms of Sound Source Localization Underlying an Ancestral Mode of Vertebrate Hearing

Project Duration: 08/15/2015 - 07/31/2019
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Sisneros, Joseph
Abstract: Click to expand...
The proposed research investigates the mechanisms of sound source localization underlying an ancestral mode of hearing in fishes. Evidence suggests that the capacity for sound source localization is common to mammals, birds reptiles, and amphibians, but surprisingly it is not known whether fishes locate sound sources in the same manner or what computational strategies fish use for successful source localization. Sound source localization by fishes continues to be an important topic in animal behavior and in the hearing sciences but the specific mechanisms that enable sound source localization by fishes remain a mystery. In the proposed experiments, the plainfin midshipman fish (Porichthys notatus) will be used as a general model to investigate the mechanisms that are common and essential for all vertebrates to mediate sound source localization. A strength of the midshipman fish as a model for sound source localization is that gravid females exhibit a very robust phonotactic response to a relatively simple acoustic signal (the male?s mate call). The investigation will take an integrated behavioral, anatomical, and brain activational approach to determine the extent that the fish inner ear end organs (saccule, lagena, and utricle) and lateral line system are used in sound source localization by fishes. The following hypotheses will be tested: 1) all three endorgans (saccule, lagena and utricle) are required for source localization while the use of lateral line is not required for sound localization, and 2) auditory afferents from the three putative auditory endorgans (saccule, lagena and utricle) have convergent input to the same auditory processing regions (and potentially the same principal cells) in the auditory hindbrain and midbrain forming maps that contain directional and frequency information from each end organ. To test the first hypothesis, a series of behavioral sound playback experiments will be performed to characterize the phonotaxic responses of female fish that have undergone the systematic removal of specific organs (saccule, lagena, utricle, and lateral line organs) in order to determine the role of each organ in sound-source localization. To test the second hypothesis, the central projections of endorgans by bulk labeling each endorgan separately with neurobiotin or simultaneously with different fluorescent-labeled dextran amine tracers will be performed to delineate the auditory pathways for each organ. Brain activation patterns specific to each endorgan of the inner ear will be characterized by using the expression of the immediate early gene product c-Fos in response to controlled auditory directional stimuli after systematically removing auditory input from two of the three end organs (saccule, lagena and utricle). Thus, the input from one end organ will remain intact during each recording session while the others will be ablated or removed.

Effectiveness of PTSD treatment for suicidal and multi-diagnostic clients

Project Duration: 04/01/2015 - 03/31/2018
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health
Dept. Investigator(s): Harned, Melanie
Abstract: Click to expand...
The public health impact of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is enormous. PTSD greatly increases the risk of suicidal ideation and attempts as well as the likelihood of developing multiple, often severe comorbid disorders. Although several evidence-based treatments for PTSD have been found to be effective in community settings and are increasingly available to consumers, only a select group of clients with PTSD are offered these treatments. In particular, suicidal and severely comorbid individuals with PTSD who are likely to incur among the highest individual and societal costs are the least likely to have access to effective PTSD treatment. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Prolonged Exposure (DBT PE) protocol, which is designed to be integrated into standard Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to treat PTSD among suicidal, severe, and multi-diagnostic clients, has shown evidence of efficacy when implemented in research settings. In particular, the integrated DBT+DBT PE treatment significantly improves PTSD while simultaneously reducing suicidal and self-injurious behavior, depression, anxiety, dissociation, guilt, shame, and social and global impairment. The present pilot project aims to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, safety, and effectiveness of this intervention when implemented in community agencies, as well as develop and test the methods needed to successfully transfer the intervention into routine clinical practice. The project will be conducted in collaboration with Community Behavioral Health (CBH), a large, nonprofit managed care organization that manages behavioral health services for Philadelphia County’s more than 400,000 Medicaid recipients. During an initial strategic planning phase, researchers and key stakeholders in the CBH system will collaboratively assess agency, provider, and client needs and work to identify and address potential barriers to implementation. This feedback will then be used to tailor the intervention, training materials, and research procedures to the needs of the target system. Finally, these training and implementation procedures will be evaluated in a pilot feasibility study conducted in four CBH agencies and outcomes will be benchmarked to those obtained in prior studies of DBT+DBT PE conducted in research settings. Organizational-, provider-, and client-level predictors of training outcomes, as well as affective mechanisms of treatment outcome, will also be evaluated. Information gathered during the pilot feasibility study will be used to inform the design and conduct of a subsequent full-scale effectiveness trial. This research has the potential to significantly impact public health by increasing access to effective PTSD treatment for some of the most high-risk and severe consumers of mental health services.

Inhibitory dysfunction in autism

Project Duration: 03/15/2015 - 02/29/2020
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health
Dept. Investigator(s): Murray, Scott
Abstract: Click to expand...
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex disorder of brain development characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors and can be accompanied by intellectual disability and disruptions of sensory processing. One recent and potentially unifying neurobiological explanation posits that ASD is caused by disruptions in the excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) balance within the brain. Consistent with the E/I explanation, recent genetic and neuroscience research in animal models suggest that inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) signaling may be significantly disrupted in ASD. However, the role of GABA in ASD remains largely untested in humans. We propose to test the hypothesis that changes in cortical levels of GABA give rise to over- and under- responsiveness of neural circuits leading to key sensory and motor symptoms of ASD. Critically, GABA signaling is highly amenable to pharmacological treatment. Thus, understanding how GABA signaling is altered in ASD will open up new pharmacological treatment possibilities. We will use state-of-the-art magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) techniques to measure levels of GABA in adults with an ASD and neurotypical control subjects in visual, motor, and auditory cortices. We will use fMRI measures of evoked sensory and motor responses to characterize neural responsiveness in these regions along with clinical measures of sensory-sensitivity and motor-related symptoms. Finally, we will use fMRI to measure the strength of a well-established inhibitory neural circuit in the visual system: surround suppression. By elucidating the functioning of inhibitory signaling our results will significantly advance our understanding of the neurobiological causes of ASD.

Neural circuit mechanisms of odor localization in mice

Project Duration: 01/01/2015 - 05/31/2018
Sponsor: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Dept. Investigator(s): Gire, David
Abstract: Click to expand...
One of the primary functions of the brain is to integrate and process sensory input into a form that can guide the behavior of an animal within its environment. Combining sensory information in such a way that the source of a given stimulus can be located is a key aspect of this function. I propose to study the integration and processing of bilateral sensory information as it applies to odor localization in mice. Mice are macrosmotic creatures, and employ their sense of smell to detect conspecifics, food, and predators at a distance. Odor source localization is thus a vital ability for mice. Despite its ethological importance, the neural mechanisms that support odor localization are largely unknown. Research in this proposal will focus upon a cortical structure, the anterior olfactory nucleus (AON), which has been hypothesized to play a central role in odor localization by processing bilateral olfactory information and transmitting this information across the two hemispheres of the brain. Work performed during the mentored phase of this award has shown that mice use airborne odor plumes to locate the source of odors in the environment. These results suggest a functional role for neural processing of the spatiotemporal cues present in airborne plumes. The mechanisms that support this processing will be examined in awake, behaving mice during the independent phase of this project. This will be accomplished by monitoring the odor responses of AON neurons that send feedback axons to the olfactory bulbs and controlling their activity during odor localization tasks. Selective monitoring of AON feedback projections in awake mice will be accomplished through cutting edge multi-photon imaging techniques, and the role of these neurons in odor localization will be directly tested using optogenetic strategies. Work during the independent phase will also elucidate the mechanisms through which bilateral input is processed in the AON, focusing upon the role of inhibitory neurons. Taken together, the results of these studies will define how feedback from the cortex and local cortical inhibitory processing work together to combine bilateral sensory information in such a way that the source of an odor can be located. By defining the mechanisms used to integrate sensory information in support of an ethologically relevant function, this work will provide a firm basis for the general understanding of information processing within neural circuits as it occurs during natural sensory-driven behavior. Defining such fundamental mechanisms of neural circuit processing will be instrumental for the understanding and treatment of disorders that alter sensory integration, such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders.

Child Trauma and the Development of Neural Systems Underlying Emotion Regulation

Project Duration: 09/17/2014 - 08/31/2019
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health
Dept. Investigator(s): McLaughlin, Katie
Abstract: Click to expand...
Childhood trauma exposure is strongly associated with psychopathology onset in children, adolescents, and adults, accounting for a substantial proportion of mental disorders in the population. However, the neurodevelopmental mechanisms that explain the association between child trauma (CT) and psychopathology remain poorly characterized. In particular, research examining how CT influences brain development remains in its infancy. Yet understanding the neurodevelopmental processes that are disrupted as a result of CT exposure will provide critical information about the pathways linking adverse environments to psychopathology. To that end, the proposed project examines the impact of CT on the development of neural networks involved in emotion regulation, a plausible neurobiological pathway linking CT to psychopathology. The proposed research addresses Objective 1 of the NIMH Strategic Plan by examining how specific types of early environmental experience—child physical or sexual abuse and domestic violence—alter neural structure and function in ways that might increase risk for psychopathology. We hypothesize that CT exposure disrupts the development of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and amygdala, resulting in atypical patterns of neural function and reduced structural and functional connectivity between these regions. We aim to build knowledge of how environmental experience shapes development in Negative Valence Systems by applying a neurobiological model distinguishing between emotional reactivity and both implicit and explicit emotion regulation to investigate this hypothesis. Specifically, we propose that a) CT exposure leads to heightened amygdala reactivity and that reactivity is positively associated with trauma severity and chronicity, and b) chronicity of exposure to CT is additionally associated with deficits in emotion regulation, involving poor PFC modulation of amygdala reactivity resulting from low structural and functional connectivity between these regions. The conceptual model will be tested by acquiring structural and functional MRI data in a sample of 8-16 year olds; half with exposure to child maltreatment or domestic violence and half without exposure to CT or interpersonal violence. The sample will be recruited to ensure variation in CT chronicity and severity and to allow us to examine associations of CT with neural structure and function in children with and without pre-existing internalizing psychopathology. The proposed study builds on existing research examining the influence of early deprivation on brain development by examining how experiences of threat influence neural structure and function in children. Study findings will provide critical information regarding the specific aspects of emotional reactivity and regulation that are disrupted following CT exposure. Elucidating these mechanisms will not only build knowledge of how adverse environments alter neural development in ways that might increase risk for psychopathology, but will also suggest possible targets for preventive interventions aimed at reducing psychopathology risk in children exposed to trauma.

Perception of Climate Change: Implications For Climate Communication And Climate-Related Decision-Making

Project Duration: 09/15/2014 - 08/31/2018
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Joslyn, Susan
Abstract: Click to expand...
One of the great challenges for the scientific community over the next decade is to provide useful guidance to society regarding the implications of global climate change, including the substantial uncertainties involved. Climate change communication strategies have the power to shape public attitudes and response. However at present the causal relationships between specific strategies, cognitive processes, attitudes and ultimate decisions are not well understood. Although there is a growing body of correlational research addressing these issues, firm conclusions require well-designed experimental research, very little of which has yet been conducted. To fill the gap, this project comprises a set of interrelated experimental studies addressing key issues in climate communication. These studies are designed to test a model suggesting that three factors—trust in climate projections, concern about climate change and self-efficacy with respect to climate change mitigation efforts—influence mitigation choices and may interact with key respondent characteristics, such as partisanship. In addition concern, self-efficacy and perhaps even trust may arise from specific mental representations of climate change. Importantly, communications strategies may well influence any or all of these elements. Six experiments are proposed to test this model, systematically varying key communication strategies: 1) inclusion of uncertainty estimates, 2) reducing the level of abstraction, 3) descriptions designed to increase availability, and 4) causal explanations. Four experiments test general population respondents using short-answer questionnaires. Two of them also use a rich content analysis of mental representations. The final two experiments are controlled laboratory behavioral decision experiments with actual monetary consequences.

The Effects of Attention in Human Visual Cortex

Project Duration: 09/01/2014 - 08/31/2019
Sponsor: National Eye Institute
Dept. Investigator(s): Boynton, Geoffrey
Abstract: Click to expand...
Humans are excellent at selecting the relevant part of a cluttered visual scene or the relevant conversation at a noisy party. In contrast, humans are often not so successful at dividing attention over multiple stimuli. One cannot read two books at once and is it is not wise to talk on a phone and drive at the same time. Much has been learned about the effects of attention on physiological responses in the human and monkey visual cortex. However nearly all of this work has addressed selective attention, which is when attention is directed to one source of information over another. In general, studies of selective attention have shown that activity in many areas of the brain is greater for a stimulus that is relevant to the current task compared to a stimulus that is not relevant. Surprisingly, very little is known about the effects of divided attention - paying attention to more than one thing on a time - on neuronal responses. This lack of a physiological literature is particularly surprising given the long history of research on the effects of divided attention on behavioral performance. Interestingly. these behavioral studies show a wide range of effects: for discrimination of simple features there can little cost to attended to multiple stimuli at a time, whereas for higher–level perceptual tasks such as reading words it may impossible to attend to more than one stimulus at a time. Here we propose a series of behavioral and imaging studies to examine the physiological basis of divided attention. We will (1) examine what factors in a task result in a cost when dividing attention. In particular we will examine whether it is the complexity of the stimulus or the task that is the critical factor for both a simple grating task (Specific Aim 1) and complex lexical task (Specific Aim 2). Second we will determine the cause of reduced neural responses and impaired behavioral performance when attentional capacity is limited. In particular, we will determine whether attentional limitations are due to attenuation of attentional gain, a shift to serial processing or suppressive interactions between stimuli. Finally we will examine the spatial profile of attentional modulations during divided attention: whether it is spread broadly across space and/or features or allocated discretely. This gap in the literature is of clinical importance. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD show differential divided attention effects: a deeper understanding of the mechanism underlying divided attention is likely to prove critical in linking these behavioral differences to underlying neurophysiological mechanisms.

Double Isolation: Social Pressure and Gender Disparities in Computer Science

Project Duration: 09/01/2014 - 02/28/2018
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Cheryan, Sapna
Abstract: Click to expand...
This is a middle-stage project focusing on broadening participation in computer science. The current proposal builds on my previously funded work (NSF CAREER Award; DRL-0845110) by proposing a novel mechanism for why women are less interested in computer science than their male peers. We investigate whether women perceive social pressure from their peers to conceal an interest in the field. We further investigate how to alleviate this social pressure and increase women’s participation in computer science. Taken together with my previous findings, this proposal would show that women considering computer science face an unfortunate “double isolation” in that they anticipate isolation not only from those within the field of computer science but also from their peers outside it. The current work develops and tests a theoretical model that identifies the sources of social pressure on women and the consequences of this social pressure on women’s interest and performance in computer science. To test our theory, we will conduct two surveys in Year 1 and seven behavioral experiments in Years 1 to 3. In Year 1, we examine whether women perceive more social pressure than men in computer science but not in other fields (e.g., English), and the effects of perceived social pressure on interest and performance in computer science. In Year 2, we examine how to reduce social pressure by using private learning mechanisms and broadening stereotypes. In Year 3, we partner with the Computer Science Teachers Association to conduct a large-scale field experiment across multiple high schools that tests whether exposure to female computer science role models who are portrayed with their friends reduces perceived social pressure on women and increases their interest in computer science.

A Screen-Refer-Treat (SRT) Model to Promote Earlier Access to ASD Intervention

Project Duration: 08/25/2014 - 06/30/2019
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health
Dept. Investigator(s): Stone, Wendy
Abstract: Click to expand...
Although caregivers often become concerned about their child by 17-19 months of age, children do not typically receive a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) until they are 4½ years old, or older for Hispanic families. It is now well documented that early participation in ASD-specialized intervention can lead to significant improvements in skills and behavior for toddlers with ASD. However, despite the availability of publicly funded Part C early intervention (EI) services, long waits for a formal ASD diagnosis can prevent toddlers from receiving appropriately specialized intervention during the critical birth-to-three years. In addition, caregivers concerned about ASD experience high levels of uncertainty and stress during this waiting period. This project will implement and evaluate an innovative healthcare service delivery model designed to promote earlier access to specialized intervention for toddlers with ASD. The Screen-Refer-Treat (SRT) model provides a coordinated and cost-effective approach to early identification and intervention by involving both medical and EI providers, and represents a practical and sustainable strategy for bridging the gap between ASD concerns and ASD intervention. The SRT model, which builds on the availability of validated ASD screening tools and low-cost behaviorally-based ASD interventions, will be implemented in four diverse communities across Washington State to evaluate changes in service delivery practices for toddlers with Hispanic as well as Non-Hispanic backgrounds. The SRT model comprises three components: (1) universal ASD screening at 16-20 months and prompt referral to EI programs by primary care physicians (PCPs); (2) expedited ASD assessments within EI programs; and (3) use of an inexpensive, evidence-based ASD-specialized intervention by EI providers. An electronic version of the Modified Checklist for Autism (M-CHAT) with automated scoring that incorporates relevant follow-up questions will be provided to PCP practices, and distance coaching via telemedicine will be available to EI providers to support their ASD assessment and intervention activities. A stepped wedge cluster RCT design will be used to evaluate implementation and outcomes of the SRT model. Data on screening, referral, assessment, and intervention practices will be collected from 40 PCPs and 80 EI providers across the state prior to and following SRT implementation to identify practice changes. In addition, separate samples of caregivers of toddlers with ASD concerns (n=245) will be recruited from communities before and after SRT implementation and followed prospectively to measure differences and changes over time in caregiver well-being, parenting efficacy, satisfaction with healthcare systems, and toddler’s social-communicative behaviors. We predict that implementation of the SRT model will be associated with higher rates of ASD screening by PCPs, earlier referral to EI programs, earlier initiation of ASD-specialized intervention, reduced time between ASD concerns and diagnosis, and improved caregiver and child outcomes.

Parent Training and Emotion Coaching for Children with Callous-Unemotional Traits

Project Duration: 07/01/2014 - 05/31/2018
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health
Dept. Investigator(s): Katz, Lynn Fainsilber
Abstract: Click to expand...
Children with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) are at significantly increased risk for a host of negative outcomes in later childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. These outcomes can include delinquency, early and risky sexual behavior, poor academic and occupational adjustment, poor interpersonal relations, and increased risk for various mental disorders. Effective treatment for ODD has typically been based on a social learning-based “parent management training” (PMT) model. Despite strong evidence for PMT, it is not effective with all children, with up to one third failing to show reliable and sustained improvement. Callous-unemotional (CU) traits (e.g., lack of guilt and empathy, callous use of others) appear to be one factor that mitigates the effects of traditional PMT. Children with ODD who have high CU traits present with more severe conduct problems and have poorer behavioral outcomes. It is therefore important to develop empirically based methods to enhance the efficacy of “traditional” PMT for those children with ODD and high levels of CU traits. Recent meta-analytic research indicates that one key component of successful family based intervention approaches involves teaching parents skills related to emotional communication. Given evidence that children with ODD who are high in CU traits have deficits in the awareness/recognition of emotion and in empathy, incorporating an emotion-focused intervention (which has not been a focus of PMT) into traditional PMT should enhance outcomes for these children. Consistent with the aims of the R34 mechanism, the primary goal of this application is to develop and test the feasibility of a brief emotion-coaching (EC) intervention in combination with an evidence-based PMT program, Helping the Noncompliant Child (HNC; Forehand & McMahon, 1981; McMahon & Forehand, 2003), for use with clinic-referred children with ODD who are high in CU traits. The Specific Aims are to: 1) develop and refine an empirically based combined HNC-EC parenting intervention to reduce CP in children with ODD and high CU traits; and 2) assess the viability of a later clinical trial by a) pilot testing the newly developed HNC-EC intervention compared to HNC alone with mothers and their 3-7 year-old children who have been referred for treatment of significant levels of oppositional behavior (and who also have high levels of CU traits) in a community mental health center setting, and b) establishing the treatment feasibility (family and therapist-level feasibility, treatment fidelity, participant satisfaction) and research feasibility of the HNC-EC intervention compared to HNC alone. While pilot studies should not be used to estimate effect sizes, (Kraemer et al., 2006; Sherrill et al., 2009), we will explore trends in the data to facilitate consideration of possible designs for later statistical modeling in a larger trial. Promising findings would form the basis of a research proposal for a randomized clinical outcome study comparing HNC alone and in combination with an EC intervention for children with ODD and high levels of CU traits.

Advancing Human Brain to Brain Communication Capabilities

Project Duration: 07/01/2014 - 07/30/2018
Sponsor: W.M. KECK Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Stocco, Andrea
Abstract: Click to expand...
In August of 2013, the researchers involved in this proposal were the first in the world to successfully develop a brain-to-brain interface (BBI) in humans. This demonstration involved the transfer of the intention to move the right hand from a “Sender” brain to a “Receiver” brain located across campus (see http://goo.gl/ceqkG9). The goal of the current proposal is to advance the methods and science that made this first BBI possible, with the goal of systematically increasing the complexity of thoughts, intentions, and mental states that can reliably be transferred from one human brain to another. To do so, advances in computer science and neuroscience must be made to enhance the “neural bridge” connecting the brains to one another. We have organized our efforts in building this bridge into four aims: (1) To reverse-engineer the neural code for representing complex thoughts, (2) To improve thought decoding capabilities, (3) To advance brain stimulation protocols, and (4) To characterize the unique and invariant features of information representation necessary for translating a meaningful code from one brain to another. Advancing BBI capabilities will have vast implications for transmitting nonverbal information from one mind to another, with possible revolutionary applications in neuroscience, education, and health care.

Collaborative Research: From Ideas to Intellectual Property

Project Duration: 09/15/2013 - 08/31/2018
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Olson, Kristina
Abstract: Click to expand...
Intellectual property disputes are everywhere these days, from debates concerning online pirating of music and videos to questions about whether genes should be patented and whether vaccine and drug patents should be modified to lower health care costs. Intellectual property law, including patent and copyright law, is built on the premise that offering people intellectual property rights will encourage potential inventors and authors to engage in more creative activity and innovation than they otherwise would. Intellectual property law can only work if potential inventors and authors actually know the law and if consumers generally observe it. People cannot be incentivized to innovate if they are not aware of the incentives, and the ease of copying enabled by modern technology means that the law can only work for creators if there is widespread voluntary compliance. Despite the critical importance of knowing how potential creators and users understand intellectual property law, this information has barely been examined. “From Ideas to Intellectual Property” involves a series of studies to research popular understanding of intellectual property rights, test how intellectual property rights should work in various situations, investigate what people understand as the purpose of intellectual property law, and study the role of culture in the development of this understanding. These studies will provide insight into the ability of intellectual property law to function as intended, how people think about the ownership of intangible (versus tangible) property, and the ability of intellectual property law to affect human understanding and behavior. This new knowledge should shed light on how to modify the intellectual property system to better incentivize innovation and generate widespread user observance, as well as how to more effectively negotiate and implement intellectual property treaties with countries that have different intellectual property understandings.

Developmental changes and individual differences in sensitivity to fairness in infancy

Project Duration: 08/01/2013 - 05/31/2018
Sponsor: National Institute of Child Health & Human Development
Dept. Investigator(s): Sommerville, Jessica
Abstract: Click to expand...
The ability to recognize social and moral norms, and use them to guide behavior, is fundamental to social cohesion and harmony. One prominent norm that guides adults’ and children’s actions and evaluations of events is the norm of a fair distribution of goods based on the “principle of equality”: that, all other things considered, goods should be divided equally to recipients. The goal of the proposed experiments is to test a new developmental model regarding the development of fairness sensitivity within infancy, that stresses infants’ interactions with caregivers in the context of sharing games as the source of age-related changes and individual differences in infants’ acquisition of equality norms. The proposed research has 3 specific aims, 1) to characterize the development origins and trajectory of infants’ burgeoning acquisition of equality norms, 2) to investigate the causal role of sharing experience infants’ responses to inequality, 3) to investigate the nature of infants’ responses to inequality, and, more specifically, whether and when such responses become moral intuitions. We test 3 central hypotheses regarding infants’ developing sensitivity to fairness in the context of resource distribution tasks. The first hypothesis is that developmental changes occur between 6 and 9 months of age in infants’ ability to detect inequality, coincident with the onset of sharing experience. The second hypothesis is that individual differences in infants’ inequality responses arise from individual differences in parental dispositional empathy that influence the ways in which parents emphasize principles of equality and reciprocity in infant-caregiver interactions. The third hypothesis is that infants’ inequality responses incrementally, and over time, begin to encompass various affective and cognitive components of more mature moral judgments. Across 10 experiments 6 to 24-month-old infants take part in both implicit tasks (based on looking times and pupil dilation) and explicit tasks (based on infants’ overt social behavior) to investigate developmental changes and individual differences in responses to inequality. The proposed experiments are conceptually innovative because they 1) test a novel theoretical model with respect to infants’ burgeoning fairness concerns that stresses the role of both parental attitudes and everyday experience in early social cognition, 2) seek to establish criteria for investigating the origins of moral judgment in infancy, and 3) investigate the origins of individual differences in early social cognition. The proposed work is also methodologically innovative as it introduces 3 novel experimental tasks and a novel dependent measure (pupil dilation) to study infants’ acquisition of socio-moral norms; the introduction of these methods will have broad-ranging effects on the field or early perceptual and cognitive development by increasing the armory of tools and techniques available to developmental scientists. Finally, the proposed work may have import in the diagnosis and remediation of developmental disorders, such as autism, that are characterized by social deficits, including a recognition and understanding of social norms.

Fear and Natural Risky Decisions in Rats

Project Duration: 07/15/2013 - 03/31/2018
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health
Dept. Investigator(s): Kim, Jeansok
Abstract: Click to expand...
While fear plays a fundamental, protective role in our lives, irrational and uncontrollable fear responses are common features of various anxiety disorders that are detrimental to one’s quality of daily life. Most contemporary views on fear ascribe preeminent importance to learning, and decades of animal research using the Pavlovian fear conditioning paradigm have made tremendous progress in identifying the neural circuits and mechanisms responsible for the acquisition, maintenance and expression of conditioned fear memories, with a general focus on the amygdala. In contrast to learned fear, innate fear and its effects on risky decisions have largely been overlooked in preclinical and clinical fear research despite its evolutionarily-conserved role in survival. We have recently found that the amygdala regulates both innate fear responses and risky behavior in rats foraging in a seminaturalistic environment with a ‘predator-like’ robot that is programmed to surge toward the animal as it seeks food. By applying naturalistic ‘prey-predator’ interactions, the long-term goal of this research is to construct a general experimental and theoretical basis for understanding the functions of fear in ecologically-relevant situations that closely reflect the environments in which fear responses and risky decisions naturally occur. We will incorporate this in a systems-level model that can fill the gaps in knowledge, predict new results, and provide insights into the basic approach-avoid conflicts that are thought to underlie human psychopathologies. There are three specific aims of the project: (1) a BEHAVIORAL ANALYSIS will investigate the basic rules of the rat’s natural foraging decision in highly quantifiable ‘approach food-avoid predator’ situations; (2) a SYSTEMS-LEVEL ANALYSIS will reveal the specific roles that the amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus play in mediating innate fear and risky foraging behavior; and (3) a SINGLE UNIT ANALYSIS will relate specific components of the animal’s behavior to a neural representation of dynamic, affective evaluation in real time. Information generated from this project would be of significance (1) from a basic scientific perspective, providing a more complete picture of fearful behavior in an ecologically-realistic environment; and (2) from an applied perspective, providing insights into developing (and screening the safety of) drug and cognitive-behavioral therapies for generalized anxiety, panic, phobia and posttraumatic stress disorders.

SBE: Electrophysiology of Non-Native Language Acquisition and Attrition

Project Duration: 06/15/2013 - 11/30/2017
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Dept. Investigator(s): Osterhout, Lee
Abstract: Click to expand...
Global changes in transportation and communication have placed a premium on multilingualism. In the United States, many students receive classroom-based instruction in a second and third language, but then gradually lose this proficiency once instruction has ended. The large societal investment in L2/L3 instruction in the U.S. has not resulted in sustained gains in multilingualism, due to language attrition. At present, attrition remains a poorly understood and understudied phenomenon. The goal of the research proposed here, which includes both cross-sectional and longitudinal components, is to study the acquisition, attrition, and maintenance of non-native languages learned in a classroom setting. The proposed work takes advantage of a rich literature showing that event-related brain potentials (ERPs) are uniquely sensitive to central aspects of non-native language acquisition and language attrition. Study participants will be university students who are enrolled in classroom-based instruction in their third language (L3). ERPs will be recorded at various points during instruction to assess linguistic gains and losses over time, in both their previously learned L2 and in their developing L3. We will test hypotheses that predict particular patterns of acquisition and loss, focusing especially on the role of the typological similarity of the L2 and L3. The proposed research represents a novel extension of a well-developed body of research focused on L2 learning, and should provide a clearer understanding of language acquisition and attrition a quintessential real-world learning context.

Women’s HIV Risk: Alcohol Intoxication & Sexual Victimization History

Project Duration: 09/15/2012 - 08/31/2018
Sponsor: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Dept. Investigator(s): George, William
Abstract: Click to expand...
The proposed project is a competing renewal of R01AA016281 and will continue a program of research investigating the relationships among alcohol consumption, sexual victimization history, and STI/HIV-related risk taking in young adult women. The original project investigated the influence of women’s alcohol intoxication, sexual victimization history, and partner characteristics on women’s HIV-related sexual decision making through two alcohol administration experiments. Both extant research and findings from the original project suggest that emotions and emotion regulation constructs may provide a key explanatory linkage between: 1) sexual victimization and increased sexual risk taking and 2) alcohol consumption and increased sexual risk taking. However, because the bulk of the extant research has been descriptive and correlational, little is known about how emotions and emotion regulation constructs operate in-the-moment to affect women’s sexual decision-making processes. Moreover, even less is known about how these emotional factors may mediate or moderate the effects of alcohol and sexual victimization history on risky sexual decisions. The present project addresses this knowledge gap through two methods: a 30 day daily diary assessment and a laboratory-based alcohol administration experiment. After completing a screening procedure and an online baseline survey, women aged 21-30 of elevated sexual risk (n = 600) will complete a 30 day daily diary assessment of their emotions, emotion regulation strategies, and their drinking and sexual risk behaviors in order to evaluate the daily relationships among emotions, emotion regulation, alcohol consumption, and risky sexual behavior. Upon completion of the daily diary period, the same participants will complete an in-lab experiment assessing the in-the-moment effects of alcohol intoxication and emotional context on risky sexual intentions. Generalized estimating equations will be used to examine the daily influence of emotions on alcohol consumption and the daily influence of emotions on sexual risk behavior. Structural equation modeling and other regression-based analyses will be used to examine the experimental effects of alcohol intoxication and experimentally-manipulated emotional context on sexual risk intentions. The proposed research will advance our understanding of daily and in-the-moment dynamics of emotions, emotion regulation, and alcohol on HIV-related decision-making and behavior in women with and without a history of sexual victimization. Findings will greatly inform designers of prevention programs, who remain frustrated in their efforts to stem the spread of HIV in women and eager to learn of new and promising targets for intervention. The information gleaned from the proposed studies could be used to design HIV prevention programs that work for social-drinking women, particularly those with a history of victimization, a substantial but underserved population.

Hormones and Brain Protection

Project Duration: 02/15/2012 - 01/31/2018
Sponsor: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Dept. Investigator(s): Brenowitz, Eliot
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Seasonal regression of brain regions involved in the control of birdsong provides a striking and unique opportunity to investigate the mechanisms regulating neuronal degeneration and protection associated with naturally occuring variation in steroid hormones, and the functional consequences of neuroprotection for a learned sensorimotor behavior. The aims in this proposal address fundamental issues of hormones as neuroprotective agents in adult brains. These include the role of indirect genomic signaling pathways in hormonal neuroprotection (Aims 1-4), the role of neurotrophins in mediating transsynaptic neuroprotective effects of hormones (Aim 3), and whether steroids can have neuroprotective effects in a manner independent of hormone receptors (Aim 2). The birdsong system excels as a model for studies of hormonal mechanisms of neuroprotection. It is a well-defined and tractable neural circuit that shows extreme seasonal patterns of hormone-regulated neuronal regression and protection. These processes of neural degeneration and protection occur with breeding-related hormonal cycles and thus can be studied in vivo without invasive manipulations. This research will advance the field by 1) providing the first evidence in the song system that kinase cascades are “indirect” genomic contributors to hormonal neuroprotection (Aims 1-4); 2) investigating the mechanisms by which hormones act transsynaptically to have neuroprotective effects, and whether neurotrophins mediate this effect (Aim 3); and 3) determining whether the contribution of kinase cascades to the neuroprotective effect of steroids requires hormone receptor activation (Aim 2), an issue of continuing uncertainty.

Improving Practice in Community-based Settings: A Randomized Trial of Supervision

Project Duration: 02/13/2012 - 03/31/2018
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health
Dept. Investigator(s): Dorsey, Shannon
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The primary goal of this R01 proposal is to study the impact of varying supervision strategies on clinician fidelity and client outcomes in a community-based setting. Prior research has established that training approaches that do not include a period of intervention-specific supervision or consultation are ineffective and that implementation efforts that include only an initial period of supervision show an eventual attenuation of gains in knowledge and fidelity in practice. Ongoing supervision may be required for effective and sustained implementation of evidence-based practices (EBPs) in community-based settings. However, supervision is one of the least investigated aspects of training. “Gold standard” elements of supervision from efficacy trials include review of sessions, standardized procedures for monitoring client outcomes and model fidelity, and ongoing skill-building (e.g., behavioral rehearsal). The degree (e.g., frequency, intensity) to which these strategies are used in community-based settings is unknown. There are a growing number of national and statewide efforts to increase the reach of EBPs through dissemination and implementation initiatives. There are 18 statewide initiatives to implement Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), an EBP for child trauma exposure and sequelae. The five-year, state-funded, Washington State TF-CBT Initiative is representative of many of these efforts. Many of the community-based TF-CBT implementation efforts, and those for other EBPs, include a specific focus on supervisors. However, the limited scientific literature provides very little guidance for these efforts. Aims of the current trial include 1) studying supervision with existing implementation supports; particularly presence of gold standard elements; 2) evaluating the effects of varying supervision strategies on fidelity and client outcomes; and 3) testing the mediating effect of treatment fidelity on the relationship between supervision type and client outcomes. We propose a two-phased, within-subjects and between subjects design. In Phase I (9 months), we will examine supervision with implementation support. In Phase II (30 months), we will examine two specific supervision conditions, each including varying EBP supervision elements. We plan to enroll 20 supervisors and 140 clinicians, with randomization to condition occurring at the clinician level (i.e., all supervisors will provide all conditions). We will enroll 1 youth per clinician in Phase I (N = 140) and 3 cases per clinician in Phase II (N = 420). The findings will yield important recommendations for supervision strategies that are effective in promoting high-fidelity implementation and are most feasible in community-based settings.

Evaluation of Training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Project Duration: 06/01/2007 - 12/31/2017
Sponsor: Marie Institute of Behavioral Technology
Dept. Investigator(s): Linehan, Marsha
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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a well established treatment with documented evidence as an effective intervention for individuals with complex and severe disorders such as borderline personality disorder, substance dependence, and suicidal and other life-threatening behaviors. Over the last several years, the demand for training in DBT led to the development of training courses, including DBT workshops, the DBT Intensive Training program, and DBT implementation programs to both teach the treatment and to assist practitioners in implementing the treatment in their own mental health settings. The first DBT Intensive Training was held in 1993 with six teams attending. Since 1994, over 500 teams in 18 countries have received DBT Intensive Training. However, the effectiveness of these training techniques has never been scientifically evaluated. While numerous evidence-based practices (EBPs) have been developed to date, there is a paucity of research identifying effective methods of training frontline clinicians in real-world settings. Therefore, there is little to no evidence identifying factors that contribute to successful transmission of knowledge and deployment of EBPs in the community. To begin to address this gap in research, we aim to evaluate the effectiveness of DBT training models in teaching providers DBT and in effecting the implementation of DBT programs following training. We propose to examine the following four models in this research: 1) DBT Implementation Program, 2) DBT Intensive Training Program, 3) DBT 2-day Workshop Training, and 4) Suicide Skills Training 2-day Workshop. The focus of the research will be on evaluating these models of training as currently provided by Behavioral Tech, LLC., currently the principal provider of DBT training both nationally and internationally. Given the ever-shrinking mental health training budget of providers and provider agencies and the impact to clients who receive EBT from newly trained providers, it is imperative to critically evaluate the both Behavioral Tech’s and as a whole the field’s methods of dissemination.