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I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and the Institute of Cognitive Science. I work in the labs of Marie T. Banich and Vijay Mittal. I received my Ph.D. in Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Michigan in 2011. I use structural and functional neuroimaging (MRI and EEG) to investigate executive function in healthy populations and in psychopathology. My research is funded by an NRSA award from NIDA.

Research Interests

Neural mechanisms underlying internal control of behavior
In the real-world our behavior is often guided by our internal goals and intentions and cues in the environment. Often we have to shield our internal goals from external influences, such as when we are at the grocery store
and walking past the dessert case. While this is an innocuous case of external information biasing our behavior, failures of overcoming such biases underlie many psychiatric and neurological disorders. For instance, in substance addiction, failing to suppress cues associated with taking drugs can lead to drug seeking behavior and relapse from treatment. However, the neural mechanisms underlying voluntary task choices are not well understood. My research uses multimodal neuroimaging techniques (structural and function MRI, EEG/ERP) to investigate the neural mechanisms that mediate between internal goal-directed behavior and externally directed behavior. 
  • My first fMRI study on this topic was just published in NeuroImage. In this study we compared brain activity on task choices that were guided by internally-maintained goals and for task choices that were externally determined by the experimenter. We found that the frontal pole, or the most anterior portion of the prefrontal cortex was specifically activated by internal task choices. Further, we asked whether this same region was activated when overcoming external biases on goal-directed task choices. Indeed, the frontal pole was more more active when participants overcame the external biases than when they succumbed to such biases.


Brain connectivity supporting executive functions
Over the last decade, the field of human functional neuroimaging has shifted from a focus on identifying the function of individual brain regions to identifying the functional role of coordinated networks of brain regions. Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) is a technique that can be used to identify the specific white matter pathways that connect brain regions, as well as examining the health or strength of these connections. As part of the ADAPT program at the University of Colorado Boulder, I am interested in identifying disrupted brain connectivity in individuals at a risk for developing psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Psychotic symptoms develop during late adolescence, which is a critical time period for the development of white matter pathways. 

  

Attention CU-Boulder Undergraduates: I am currently looking for enthusiastic psychology and neuroscience students to assist in my research. There are opportunities in experimental task development, subject running, and data analysis. Experience in statistics and computer programming (e.g., R, Matlab, python) is a plus.

Links
Banich Lab

ADAPT Program