Date published: 10/2/2017

Adolescence is a time of ongoing neurodevelopment, as well as a period of risk for development of major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. My laboratory uses neuroimaging to investigate how changes in the brain during this dynamic period may contribute to cognitive function and illness onset.

Schizophrenia, and related psychotic spectrum disorders, are chronic illnesses that can have substantial impacts on many areas of life, including cognitive, social, and occupational function. One particularly devastating aspect of schizophrenia spectrum disorders is that onset frequently occurs during adolescence and early adulthood, just when the affected individual is poised to emerge as an independent adult. However, this mid to late adolescent time period is also a period of substantial neurodevelopment and change, which is associated with the honing of high-level cognitive processes and the sophisticated brain networks that support them. Our goal is to investigate individual differences in the maturation of these brain networks to reveal which processes lead to smooth transitions from adolescence to adulthood vs. which patterns are correlated with illness-related outcomes.

My laboratory uses a combination of neuroimaging, cognitive testing, and clinical assessment to try to understand first how higher level cognitive functions, such as problem solving and decision making, might be related to variability in brain structure and function in general. Second, we are working to understand how cognition is impacted by schizophrenia and other major mental illnesses. Finally, we are striving to understand how adolescent brain development may differ in individuals with schizophrenia, and how those differences may impact cognitive, social, and clinical outcomes.

I was born and raised in San Diego, California, and then attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, as a Psychology major. After college, I moved to Boston as a research assistant at Massachusetts General Hospital before starting graduate school in the Psychology Department at UCLA. I continued training as a Post-doc and Research Scientist in the Semel Institute at UCLA before starting a faculty job at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York. I joined the UCLA Psychology Department as faculty in 2016 and am delighted to be back.