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Early Life Stress, Puberty, and Neural Trajectories (ELS)
Early life stress is a significant risk factor for the development of psychiatric symptoms that cut across diagnostic categories. The mechanisms through which ELS confers this heightened vulnerability, however, are poorly understood. Given the enormous number of referrals involving child maltreatment each year, it is imperative that we examine the neurodevelopmental consequences of early life stress and the mechanisms by which changes in brain function increase the risk for psychopathology in boys and girls following puberty. We believe that findings from this project will help us understand of how risk for psychopathology emerges in children who have experienced early life stress, and will inform early interventions aimed at preventing adverse consequence of this early exposure to stress.
COVID-19 and Perinatal Experiences Study (COPE)
COPE aims to investigate the adverse, long-term psychological consequences of the ongoing pandemic on new mothers and their children born during this time. Specifically, COPE is looking at maternal mental health and infant emotional development assessed through online surveys at two time points to analyze both prenatal and postnatal effects. So far, the results of this longitudinal study have shown that both prenatal symptoms of somatization and post natal symptoms of depression in mothers, as well as the number of people in the household with COVID-19 symptoms during this time, were all positively associated with negative affect in infants. Further investigation of these findings is critical if we hope to better understand and mitigate some of the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on such vulnerable populations.
Teen Mood Study
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a prevalent illness and is projected to be the leading cause of disability by 2030. While the prevalence of depression is low during childhood, the cumulative probability of MDD rises dramatically from 5% in early adolescence to 20% by young adulthood. Importantly, the onset of MDD during adolescence adversely affects the course and prognosis of the disorder: early-onset MDD is associated with longer, more severe, and recurring depressive episodes that are often refractory to treatment. Despite the clear role that developmental processes play in the emergence of depression during adolescence, we know little about neurobiological markers that predict the course of depression. We must bridge this gap to effectively pursue brain-based personalized treatments.
Brain and Behavior Infant Experiences Study
B.A.B.I.E.S. is a study that assesses mother-infant pairs in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University in order to learn more about families and how infants develop. Our work may help to improve prevention and early intervention of emotional disorders by understanding how parents help foster infant growth and wellbeing. See more here.
Stanford Preschool Study
In the Stanford Preschool Study, we are interested in how early experiences, including the prenatal environment, may shape the behavioral, emotional, and neural development of 3-to-5-year-old children. This project is a collaboration with a team in the Pediatrics department at the Stanford School of Medicine, which studied pregnant women to gain an understanding of perinatal immunology. We are inviting some of these women to return to Stanford with their now-preschool-aged children for a follow-up visit, in which we use temperament assessments, executive function tasks, and functional neuroimaging (fNIRS) to learn more about their children’s development. See more here.
Intergenerational Transmission of Depression and the Prevention of Psychopathology
Having parents with depressive or anxiety disorders increases the risk of these disorders in children and adolescents. The mechanisms by which this risk is transmitted from parent to child, however, are not well understood. In our lab we are examining a large number of biological, cognitive, and social factors in the young children of mothers who have experienced depression or anxiety. There are two major aims of this project. First, we are identifying specific characteristics of parents and children that help us to understand why many of the children go on to develop a psychiatric disorder. Second, we are using neurofeedback and attention bias training to reduce stress reactivity in a separate sample of children to delay or even prevent the onset of disorder.