Education & Certifications
Bachelor of Science, Brown University, Cognitive Neuroscience (2013)
Individuals with reading disability or individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are characterized, respectively, by their difficulties in reading or social communication, but both groups often have impaired phonological working memory (PWM). It is not known whether the impaired PWM reflects distinct or shared neuroanatomical abnormalities in these two diagnostic groups.White-matter structural connectivity via diffusion weighted imaging was examined in sixty-four children, ages 5-17 years, with reading disability, ASD, or typical development (TD), who were matched in age, gender, intelligence, and diffusion data quality.Children with reading disability and children with ASD exhibited reduced PWM compared to children with TD. The two diagnostic groups showed altered white-matter microstructure in the temporo-parietal portion of the left arcuate fasciculus (AF) and in the temporo-occipital portion of the right inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF), as indexed by reduced fractional anisotropy and increased radial diffusivity. Moreover, the structural integrity of the right ILF was positively correlated with PWM ability in the two diagnostic groups, but not in the TD group.These findings suggest that impaired PWM is transdiagnostically associated with shared neuroanatomical abnormalities in ASD and reading disability. Microstructural characteristics in left AF and right ILF may play important roles in the development of PWM. The right ILF may support a compensatory mechanism for children with impaired PWM.
View details for PubMedID 26949750
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4776338
Depression is among the most common neuropsychiatric disorders. It remains unclear whether brain abnormalities associated with depression reflect the pathological state of the disease or neurobiological traits predisposing individuals to depression. Parental history of depression is a risk factor that more than triples the risk of depression. We compared white matter (WM) microstructure cross-sectionally in 40 children ages 8-14 with versus without parental history of depression (At-Risk vs. Control). There were significant differences in age-related changes of fractional anisotropy (FA) between the groups, localized in the anterior fronto-limbic WM pathways, including the anterior cingulum and the genu of the corpus callosum. Control children exhibited typical increasing FA with age, whereas At-Risk children exhibited atypical decreasing FA with age in these fronto-limbic regions. Furthermore, dorsal cingulate FA significantly correlated with depressive symptoms for At-Risk children. The results suggest maturational WM microstructure differences in mood-regulatory neurocircuitry that may contribute to neurodevelopmental risk for depression. The study provides new insights into neurodevelopmental susceptibility to depression and related disabilities that may promote early preventive intervention approaches.
View details for DOI 10.1093/cercor/bhw250
View details for PubMedID 27578495
An emerging hypothesis in developmental and behavioral disorders is that they arise from disorganized brain messaging or reduced connectivity. Given the importance of myelin to efficient brain communication, characterization of myelin development in infancy and childhood may provide salient information related to early connectivity deficits. In this work, we investigate regional and whole brain growth trajectories of the myelin water fraction, a quantitative magnetic resonance imaging measure sensitive and specific to myelin content, in data acquired from 122 healthy male children from 3 to 60months of age. We examine common growth functions to find the most representative model of myelin maturation and subsequently use the best of these models to develop a continuous population-averaged, four-dimensional model of normative myelination. Through comparisons with an independent sample of 63 male children across the same age span, we show that the developed model is representative of this population. This work contributes to understanding the trajectory of myelination in healthy infants and toddlers, furthering our knowledge of early brain development, and provides a model that may be useful for identifying developmental abnormalities.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.09.058
View details for Web of Science ID 000328868600068
View details for PubMedID 24095814
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3895775
Etiological studies of many neurological and psychiatric disorders are increasingly turning toward longitudinal investigations of infant brain development in order to discern predisposing structural and/or functional differences prior to the onset of overt clinical symptoms. While MRI provides a noninvasive window into the developing brain, MRI of infants and toddlers is challenging due to the modality's extreme motion sensitivity and children's difficulty in remaining still during image acquisition.Here, we outline a broad research protocol for successful MRI of children under 4 years of age during natural, non-sedated sleep.All children were imaged during natural, non-sedated sleep. Active and passive measures to reduce acoustic noise were implemented to reduce the likelihood of the children waking up during acquisition. Foam cushions and vacuum immobilizers were used to limit intra-scan motion artifacts.More than 380 MRI datasets have been successfully acquired from 220 children younger than 4 years of age within the past 39 months. Implemented measures permitted children to remain asleep for the duration of the scan and allowed the data to be acquired with an overall 97% success rate.The proposed method greatly advances current pediatric imaging techniques and may be readily implemented in other research and clinical settings to facilitate and further improve pediatric neuroimaging.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s00247-013-2752-8
View details for Web of Science ID 000329357300010
View details for PubMedID 23917588
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3889986
Does breastfeeding alter early brain development? The prevailing consensus from large epidemiological studies posits that early exclusive breastfeeding is associated with improved measures of IQ and cognitive functioning in later childhood and adolescence. Prior morphometric brain imaging studies support these findings, revealing increased white matter and sub-cortical gray matter volume, and parietal lobe cortical thickness, associated with IQ, in adolescents who were breastfed as infants compared to those who were exclusively formula-fed. Yet it remains unknown when these structural differences first manifest and when developmental differences that predict later performance improvements can be detected. In this study, we used quiet magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to compare measures of white matter microstructure (mcDESPOT measures of myelin water fraction) in 133 healthy children from 10 months through 4 years of age, who were either exclusively breastfed a minimum of 3 months; exclusively formula-fed; or received a mixture of breast milk and formula. We also examined the relationship between breastfeeding duration and white matter microstructure. Breastfed children exhibited increased white matter development in later maturing frontal and association brain regions. Positive relationships between white matter microstructure and breastfeeding duration are also exhibited in several brain regions, that are anatomically consistent with observed improvements in cognitive and behavioral performance measures. While the mechanisms underlying these structural differences remains unclear, our findings provide new insight into the earliest developmental advantages associated with breastfeeding, and support the hypothesis that breast milk constituents promote healthy neural growth and white matter development.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.05.090
View details for Web of Science ID 000324568400009
View details for PubMedID 23721722
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3777218