Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience


Dr. Charlotte Boettiger: Human Neuroimaging Techniques Guide Drug and Alcohol Treatments
In recent decades, the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging in behavioral research has led to rapid advances in our knowledge of the functional organization of the brain and how alterations in brain organization affect behavior. Dr. Boettiger’s laboratory is applying human neuroimaging techniques to the study of addictive behavior. These techniques represent a promising avenue for guiding future treatment strategies for drug and alcohol use disorders.

Dr. Sylvia Fitting: Behavior and Neurocognition in HIV-1
Using state-of-the-art live cell imaging, electrophysiology, and behavioral techniques, Dr. Fitting’s laboratory is developing a better understanding of how cellular function is affected by drug abuse ± HIV/HIV-1 protein infection. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infects the brain and many individuals suffer from HIV-1 associated neurocognitive disorders. Dr. Fitting determines the role of endocannabinoids in neuroAIDS and her experiments increasing endocannabinoid signaling will determine if it will be protective in models with neuronal damage.


Dr. Donald Lysle: Morphine and Its Preventive Effect on PTSD
Dr. Lysle and his research team established the first animal research that supports the use of morphine as a prophylactic pharmaceutical treatment for PTSD. In these studies, rats were exposed to the stress-enhanced fear learning (SEFL) paradigm, an animal model of PTSD, and administered morphine at different times following the initial traumatic stress. The results showed that morphine completely blocks the development of SEFL when administered 48 hours, but not immediately, following the initial trauma.

Clinical Psychology

Dr. Stacey Daughters: Stress, Reward, and Substance Use Outcomes
Stress and other forms of negative affect often precede relapse to substance use. Using a computerized behavioral task, Dr. Daughters examine indvidiual differences in the ability to tolerate stress and negative affect. Individuals with a substance use disorder – who can tolerate stress and negative affect during this task – are significantly more likely to stay in substance use treatment and maintain successful abstinence.

Dr. Deborah Jones: Temper Tantrum App
Current estimates suggest that less than half of individuals in need of mental health treatment receive services. Technology is always evolving, but in Dr. Deborah Jones’ lab, her team is working to use smartphones as a delivery vehicle for treatment. Smartphones are a cost-effective option to provide access to functionality that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. By capitalizing on the increased use of smartphones among low-income consumes, Dr. Jones can help provide support and feedback for early onset problem behaviors.

Dr. Margaret Sheridan: Deprivation and Threat Underlying Adversity
Early adversity profoundly affects child development, including brain development, physiological reactivity to stress, and long-term risk for mental illness. Most models of these effects focus on the number, rather than the character of adverse childhood experiences. Dr. Sheridan examines how deprivation and threat increase risk for psychopathology through separable neurobiological pathways by measuring executive function.

Cognitive Psychology

Dr. Jessica Cohen: Neural Flexibility Changes Throughout Typical Development
Human are remarkably adaptable – we can instinctively change a planned course of action when the unexpected occurs, rapidly learn new skills, and deftly compensate for loss of functioning. This flexibility in behavior and control is present throughout the lifespan. Dr. Cohen investigates how distinct brain networks interact and reconfigure when confronted with changing contexts and how neural flexibility contributes to flexibility in control and the ability to learn.

Dr. Kelly Giovanello: Relational Memory, Concussions, and Neuroimaging
Dr. Giovanello is interested in specifying the cognitive and neural processes mediating relational memory and examining how these processes change with healthy aging, mild cognitive impairment, and concussion. Both concussion history and football participation history contribute to differential neural recruitment. In her study, concussion history had a stronger association than cumulative football participation history. History of concussions, rather than cumulative burden of sub-concussive impacts, may have a stronger effect on later-life neural efficiency.

Dr. Peter Gordon: Rapid Responses Assess Reading Skills and Literacy Gains
Dr. Gordon aims to increase understanding of how the coordination of component processes contribute to individual differences in reading ability and cognitive function and why tasks that require rapid responses to a series of items have been valuable tools for assessing reading skill and future literacy gains. In collaboration with a colleague at USC, Dr. Gordon conducted the first-ever investigations of rapid naming using Real-Time Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Electrocmagnetic Articulography.

Developmental Psychology

Dr. Carol Cheatham: Nutrition Throughout the Lifespan
Dr. Carol Cheatham’s research focuses on effects of nutrition on brain development and function throughout the lifespan. In her work, she is exploring the importance of certain nutrients and foods to the development, maintenance, and lifelong integrity of the hippocampus and frontal brain areas. Dr. Cheatham’s Nutrition and Cognition lab has active studies in four age groups to discover why nutrition is important at any age.

Dr. Eva Telzer: Adolescent Neural Responses to Reward for Healthy Development
During adolescent brain development, there is heightened activity in the reward system that orients teens towards risky behaviors. Dr. Telzer examines neural responses to prosocial decision making in adolescence and how teens perceive risks. Her research reveals that heightened activity in the reward system can actually lead adolescents away from risks and motivate adolescents to engage in more thoughtful behaviors.

Quantitative Psychology

Dr. Katie Gates: Heterogeneity in Temporal Processes
Emerging evidence suggests that much heterogeneity exists in temporal processes across individuals. This has been seen in daily diary studies as well as brain imaging studies, and within clinical populations as well as typically developing controls. Motivated by these findings, Dr. Katie Gates and her research team develop, evaluate, and utilize novel statistical methods for modeling heterogeneity in human processes. Their work culminates in freely disseminated statistical packages and toolboxes that are used worldwide.

Dr. David Thissen: How Much Change is a Change?
Patient-reported outcome (PRO) measures have become increasingly important in medical research and drug trials. PRO measures are usually psychological questionnaires with the patients as respondents, so they benefit from the application of modern psychometric theory. Dr. Thissen’s group in the Psychometric Lab has collaborated for over a decade with colleagues in the UNC Schools of Medicine and Public Health, and at other institutions, on the interdisciplinary NIH-initiated Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System® (PROMIS®). One recent task was to determine an answer to the question “how much change is a change?”.

Social Psychology

Dr. Kurt Gray: The Mind Club
No issues are debated more fiercely that issues of morality. At root of many debates is an innocuous-seeming question: what has a mind? It may seem obvious to you that other people have minds, but what about animals, or fetuses, or teenagers? Do they belong in the “mind club,” that collection of entities that can think and feel? Dr. Kurt Gray examines how people decide who belongs in the mind club—and how these decisions can be matters of life and death.

Dr. Keely Muscatell: Neural and Physiological Responses to Stress
Stressful experiences are processed by the brain and translated into bodily changes that can impact our health. Using fMRI and measuring physiological processes, Dr. Muscatell investigates how stress can impact the brain and body and lead to the development of chronic diseases and psychological disorders. Recent studies examine stress in breast cancer survivors and how the brain reacts to social feedback as it is processed across the racial divide.