About This Project
Cognitive disorganization (CD) is a symptom of psychosis that often emerges in adolescence and is associated with deficits in working memory capacity and stress regulation. Brain maturation through adolescence is critical for the development of these behavioral constructs, and paves the way for adult cognitive control, affect regulation and psychosocial adaptation. We use brain imaging to map the neural markers of poor stress regulation, working memory and adolescent cognitive disorganization.
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What is the context of this research?
Cognitive Disorganization (CD) is highly hereditary, present in at-risk relatives, predicts onset of psychosis in at-risk individuals better than other dimensions, and therefore is a promising phenotype for genetic studies. Variations in CD are clinically relevant. CD is often accompanied by a decline in domains of cognition and arousal regulation, we posit that the biological mechanisms associated with impaired working memory capacity (WMC) and atypical arousal/stress-regulation (ASR) may play a critical role in the emergence and severity of CD in adolescence. Despite compelling epidemiologic evidence that stress plays a major role in the development or aggravation of psychotic symptoms, the contribution of atypical stress regulation to the severity of CD in adolescence remains unknown.
What is the significance of this project?
Adolescence is no doubt a highly turbulent period of emotional and cognitive maturation. This project will inform about the link between maturation of brain networks during adolescence, stress resilience and severity of CD. it will
will further identify brain mechanisms associated with atypical stress regulation, and biological markers that may correlate with the severity of adolescent CD. By examining individual differences in biological responses to acute psychosocial stressors, the proposed study will allow us to identify links between stress regulation and cognitive impairment.
The use of non-invasive camera sensors to detect stress responses will also inform about long-term outcomes of atypical stress regulation in adolescence, as well as their association with pubertal changes.
What are the goals of the project?
We will measures stress response and recovery in adolescents, and characterize their working memory capacity using brain imaging methods, to understand the impact of stress and cognitive capacity on severity of CD. Using the digital camera, we will measure the construct of ASR in a non-invasive fashion, and link it to fronto-limbic brain circuit function and organization as measured by functional brain imaging methods such as magnetic resonance imaging. This will allow us to better understand the complex association between stress resilience and regulation, and impaired cognition and affect in adolescence.
Finally, we will evaluate the predictive value of aberrant stress regulation and poor cognition on severity of CD and broader affect dimensions at 12 and 24-month follow-ups.
Additional funds would help purchase:
-Digital color video camcorder will be used to record physiological responses such as cardiac and pulse data, non-invasively during a stress protocol. This camera will be controlled by a computer running a custom software to detect pulse signals from visible light through blind source separation.
-Laptop Computer for direct storage and analysis of physiological response video and data.
Meet the Team
Our team includes cognitive neuroscientists Drs. Alana Campbell, Steven Porges, and Gregory Lewis, with over 90 years of combined experience in assessing brain function and physiology. Our research staff is highly experienced and sensitive to the needs of adolescents with neuropsychiatric disorders. We conduct studies ranging from mapping infant brain and behavior to elucidating the complex neural circuits associated with disorders ranging from Autism to Schizophrenia to PTSD.
Dr. Aysenil Belger, PhD is Professor and the Director of Neuroimaging Research in Psychiatry, and Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Radiology Department at Duke University and the Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Center. Her research focuses on studies of the cortical circuits underlying attention and executive function in the human brain, as well as the breakdown in these functions in neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopment disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. Dr. Belger combines functional magnetic resonance imaging, electrophysiological scalp recording, experimental psychology and neuropsychological assessment techniques to explore the behavioral and neurophysiological dimensions of higher order executive functions. Her most recent research projects have focused on electrophysiological abnormalities in young autistic children and children, adolescents and adults at high risk for schizophrenia. Her research also examines changes in cortical circuits and their physiological properties in children and adults at high-risk for psychotic disorders.
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