2024 Sandra G. Wiener Student Investigator Award, Anna Vannucci

Anna Vannucci is a doctoral candidate in Psychology at Columbia University, where she works in the Developmental Affective Neuroscience Lab (DANLab) under the mentorship of Dr. Nim Tottenham. Before pursuing her doctoral studies, Anna received a B.A. in Psychology from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.S. in Clinical Psychology from the Uniformed Services University. She spent a decade conducting research in clinical child psychology. This work inspired her to pursue a career in developmental neuroscience to understand how early environments shape the neurobiology of human emotional development. Anna is currently a D-SPAN Scholar and was previously a Fulbright Scholar. Her work has been supported by the American Psychological Foundation, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and National Institutes of Health. Anna’s research broadly asks: how is brain development influenced by early interpersonal (i.e., caregiving) adversity, and what affective knowledge is represented within these altered circuits? To address these questions, she leverages experimental, neuroimaging, machine learning, and experience sampling methods. Anna’s dissertation aims to determine how adaptations in midline cortico-subcortical circuitry following early adversity represent the interpersonal-affective “attachment” schemas learned during early caregiving experiences. Anna’s long-term goal is to lead an interdisciplinary research team that investigates the developmental neurocomputational mechanisms that link early-life adversity to affective behaviors.

Nicole Walasek, PhD Postdoctoral Researcher University of Amsterdam, Evolutionary and Population Biology, Netherlands

2024 ISDP Dissertation Award Winner – Nicole Walasek, PhD

2024 ISDP Dissertation Award Winner – Nicole Walasek, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher,
University of Amsterdam, Evolutionary and Population Biology, Netherlands. She will give a 10-minute talk at ISDP 2024 related to her dissertation on “The evolution and development of sensitive periods: Theoretical and statistical approaches.”

Research Assistant Position – UConn

The Cognition, Action, and Psychophysiology (CAP) Lab (https://kidcaplab.uconn.edu/, PI: Dr. Kimberly Cuevas) in the Department of Psychological Sciences, at the University of Connecticut, Waterbury Campus is seeking a full-time Research Assistant 1. The successful candidate will play an integral role in managing a NICHD-funded study investigating the development of neural oscillatory rhythms and self-regulatory processes across the first 4 postnatal years; Project BUBBLES (Babies: Understanding Brains and Baseline Longitudinal EEG Study). There will also be opportunities to assist with other lab-related research projects at UConn.

Symposium 6: THE INVESTIGATION OF THE INTERTWINED INFLUENCE OF EARLY-LIFE ADVERSITY AND GENETIC FACTORS THROUGHOUT DEVELOPMENT ACROSS FOUR LONGITUDINAL COHORTS: IMPLICATIONS FOR HEALTH AND BEHAVIORS

Early life adversity has the potential to influence brain development, biological systems, attitudes, and behaviors, which is hypothesized to subsequently affect physical and mental health in adulthood. However, the effects of these experiences vary across different domains of functioning and may not be uniform across individuals, necessitating further investigation into the genetic underpinnings of developmental outcomes through comprehensive, developmentally sensitive research designs. We also need to expand our search into both the endogenous and exogenous causal pathways at play, ranging from molecular mechanisms to the structural and broader social influences that shape life within our society. In the first presentation, Dr Larose will present the contributions of a polygenic score (PGS) for externalizing behaviors and latent profiles of neighborhood deprivation on conduct disorders during adolescence and show that the PGS and neighborhoods with crime and low-quality infrastructures both additively predict conduct disorders. Next, Dr Cantave will offer additional evidence that genetic predispositions for internalizing and externalizing problems are associated with higher risk encounter childhood adversity, although no such association is noted for peri-natal adversity. Delving deeper into the possibility that genetic factors may be confounded with early-life adversity, Dr. Ouellet-Morin will show that childhood maltreatment is more likely to arise among children with a genetic predisposition for aggression and shed light on how these experiences partly explain how the PGS predict developmental trajectories of global and reactive aggression during adolescence. Finally, using advanced genomics and translational animal models, Dr Pelufo Silveira will show that brain-specific gene networks responsive to early stress and insulin, have a sex-dependent modulation of adversity response mediated by brain insulin, particularly in dopaminergic pathways influencing behavior and decision-making.

Symposium 5: BENCH TO BEDSIDE: IMPLEMENTATION OF EXPERIMENTAL AND CROSS-SPECIES RESEARCH TO BENEFIT MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH

This symposium presents a series of studies leveraging the power of experimental rodent work and human randomized clinical trials to develop efficacious large-scale screening and intervention programs to benefit maternal-child health and address needs of marginalized populations. The first presentation, by Dr. Davis, tests the benefits of reducing maternal prenatal depression on both maternal and child outcomes including preterm birth and brain development applying a randomized clinical trial (RCT) design and then presents work leveraging these findings to implement a universal community informed prevention program. The second presentation, by Dr. D’Anna-Hernandez, addresses the effect of racism and discrimination within obstetric care on maternal anxiety and depression and then applies a cross-species approach to explore underlying biological mechanisms. The third presentation, by Howland, explores prenatal psychosis and mania, which are understudied and underdiagnosed in perinatal populations, and evaluates underlying biological mechanisms and plausible tools for screening as well as links to parenting behaviors and child development. The final talk, by Dr. Glynn, presents implementation of a novel screening tool based on experimental rodent work identifying biological pathways by which unpredictability gets under the skin. This presentation then discusses applications of this research to develop screening tools developed with input from parents and community stakeholders to address unpredictability in children’s early environment. Together the talks in this symposium address critical issues in maternal-child health applying cross-species research to better understand causality and mechanisms and to develop prevention and intervention programs to serve the needs of marginalized communities.

Columbia University Department of Psychiatry Symposium 4: ADDRESSING RACIAL DISPARITIES IN MATERNAL HEALTH AND BRAIN RESEARCH: INSIGHTS FROM HUMAN AND ANIMAL STUDIES

This symposium was designed in line with the ISDP DEI Committee’s goals to increase diversity across our society, in both our membership and in our science. This symposium features early-career scientists (two assistant professors and one postdoctoral associate) from Asian, Latina, and multiracial backgrounds. Their research, significantly focusing on women of African descent and Black women, employs neuroimaging, immunobiology, and digital health approaches in both human and animal models. The dialogue will revolve around the research showcased and strategies for organizations like ISDP, developmental psychobiology graduate programs, and individual laboratories to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion among their communities and scientific endeavors.