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The following are key areas of interest for the Cognitive Brain Development Laboratory:

Brain Development in Adolescents (R01 AA018405-01A1)

The goal of this project is to investigate to brain structure and function in adolescent children (13 to 18 years old) of alcoholic parents. The project uses neuroimaging measures and key decision-making tasks to identify underlying characteristics or endophenotypic traits that represent a predisposition to developing problems with substance abuse. This study is funded by the National Institutes of Health-National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Schizophrenia and Marijuana Use (R21 DA026421-01A2)

Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia are significantly more likely to use and abuse certain drugs including marijuana. However, the schizophrenia-marijuana link remains controversial. In this study, we are utilizing our expertise with positron emission tomography (PET) to investigate possible disturbances in the brain’s reward system in individuals with schizophrenia who also use marijuana. This study is funded by the National Institutes of Health-National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Normative Development of Reward Sensitivity and Behavioral Control

Risky and impulsive behaviors often emerge or peak in frequency during adolescence and emerging adulthood. However, the neurodevelopmental changes that contribute to this rise in dangerous behaviors remain poorly understood. This project seeks to better characterize how reward sensitivity and behavioral control change during adolescence and the neural processes that contribute to this shift in behaviors. This study is funded by the University of Iowa Social Sciences Funding Program. 

University of Iowa College Life Study (R01 AA021165)

Recent research has demonstrated that personality and brain development continues well into late adolescence and emerging adulthood. Yet, the specific life experiences and behavioral patterns that track with and possibly cause some of these changes still remain largely unknown. In this longitudinal study, we will collect personality, cognitive, and brain imaging data on college freshmen. Participants will be assessed on the same measures again 2 years later. Detailed information about mental health, substance use, and other lifestyle factors will also be assessed over the 2 year period. Ultimately, we hope to demonstrate how life experiences impact normative patterns of healthy personality and brain development.

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