I am interested in understanding why adolescence is a susceptible period for depression and anxiety and how stress mechanisms contribute to this risk. I utilize cognitive neuroscience methods and apply principles of affective science and developmental psychology to answer questions about adolescent depression. Namely, what are the adolescent-typical brain systems that underlie the core cognitive and behavioral features of adolescent depression? What is the role of stress in shaping the development of these systems during early adolescence? Which patterns deviating from typical neurodevelopment in these systems explain depressive risk and how early can we robustly detect these risk phenotypes? I believe in leveraging information across modalities and interrogating multiple neurobiological systems in order to answer these questions at the level of an individual. My overarching hypothesis is that the most informative neurodevelopmental deviations for predicting disorder will depend on the developmental stage of the individual as well as the behavioral system of interest (e.g., cognitive control, reward processing, etc). I am also interested in understanding meaningful changes in the brain over the course of adolescent depression so that we can potentially identify subtypes of depression or predictors of treatment response; my hope is that this information can ultimately be used to inform other research focused on uncovering novel treatment targets, as well as help guide decisions on the timing and selection of an intervention.
I obtained my B.A. in Cognitive Science from UC Berkeley, where I assisted with EEG/PSG and fMRI research to characterize sleep in clinical (insomniac, bipolar) and non-clinical populations with Dr. Allison Harvey and Dr. Ilana Hairston. I then commuted back and forth across the Bay Bridge to conduct pharmacological research to characterize mechanosensitive ion channels with Dr. Jeff Lansman at UC San Francisco and also to test treatments of rodent models of alcoholism with Dr. Selena Bartlett at the Gallo. I obtained my Ph.D. at UC San Diego under the mentorship of Dr. John Serences, where I examined neural mechanisms of visual attention and perception in healthy young adults using psychophysics and computational fMRI methods. If I could go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing! Each experience has taught me something interesting about the brain and my training at UC San Diego especially has been valuable for my current research. Some of the most cutting-edge fMRI methods are validated in vision neuroscience because the visual system is relatively well-characterized; this affords empirical testing of computational theories linking the brain (whether it be neuronal firing rates or BOLD fMRI responses) to behavior, which is a current gap in clinical neuroscience. I believe the approaches used in vision neuroscience serve as a model for current and future clinical neuroscientists seeking to elucidate psychiatric conditions using computational approaches.
My research program centers around understanding how changes in neural circuits during sensitive periods of development contribute to the susceptibility, recovery, and resilience to depression. I am specifically interested in the period of adolescence because that is when depression commonly emerges but also a time when the brain is especially malleable and likely responsive to effective interventions. Currently, I am a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Stanford Neurodevelopment, Affect, and Psychopathology (SNAP) Lab under the mentorship of Dr. Ian Gotlib in the Department of Psychology, where I use multimodal neuroimaging (fMRI, DTI, MRS) to understand neural predictors of depression and suicidal behaviors in adolescents with depression or who are at risk for depression. Previously, I worked with Dr. Tony Yang in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Francisco using fMRI to understand adolescent depression and suicidal behaviors.