My current research is focused on advancing our understanding on ‘how the human brain works’ by studying the relationship between brain structure and function using multimodal imaging approaches (e.g., MRI, DTI, rsMRI, fMRI) in healthy and degraded brain systems.
HEALTHY AGING AND AGING WITH DISEASE: One research focus is on the cognitive and motor neurofunctional changes in healthy aging, neurodegeneration in people living with HIV infection (PLWH) and Parkinson’s disease (PD). Despite the many challenges, some HIV patients manage to age successfully, most likely by redistribution of neural network resources to enhance function, as occurs in healthy elderly; such compensation could be curtailed by emerging Parkinsonism. This collaborative research between SRI International, Stanford Psychiatry, and Stanford Neurology aims at gaining a better understanding of the neurodegenerative and neuroadaptive processes that occur with healthy aging, PLWH and PD, risk for cognitive decline and functional impairment.
ALCOHOL ADDICTION: Another research focus is on the effects of chronic alcoholism on brain structure and function. Executive control functions are disturbed in addiction, and interact with attention, emotion, and reward functions. This research focuses on the neurofunctional mechanisms of automatic attentional bias (toward salient events, emotional and alcohol cues) and negative priming, and their role for relapse and the treatment of AUD. Recovered drinkers can remain compromised in their ability to perform routine daily tasks, such as driving or operating machines that rely on integrating information from multiple sensory channels for efficient performance. My research uses multimodal neuroimaging derived connectivity measures to identify structural and functional neurocircuits compromised in AUD, and those that may serve functional recovery with abstinence.
ADOLESCENT BRAIN DEVELOPMENT: A recent research focus is on adolescent brain functional development. The transition from adolescence to adult cognitive maturity and emotional control is marked by dynamic neurodevelopmental plasticity. In collaboration with the sleep lab at SRI International, my research aims to identify specific patterns of altered neural responses in adolescent girls and boys with depressed mood and whether socio-emotional peer interactions and sleep disturbances moderate the association between neural responses and depressive symptom severity. I am part of two consortium projects about adolescent development: The National Consortium on Alcohol and NeuroDevelopment in Adolescence (NCANDA) and the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study (ABCD).