CAT Lab Welcomes New Post Doctoral Researcher Dr. Brendan Ostlund!


We are excited to welcome Dr. Brendan Ostlund as our newest addition to the CAT Lab this summer!

Brendan is coming to us from the University of Utah, after receiving his PhD in Developmental Psychology under the mentorship of Dr. Elisabeth Conradt.

Brendan is interested in the developmental origins of infant temperament and how neural mechanisms may underlie intergenerational transmission or childhood psychopathology risk. Brendan’s research interests are a great fit with the CAT Lab’s multi-method approach for investigating development of childhood psychopathology using behavioral, neural, and cognitive measures.

Welcome to the CAT Lab and to Penn State!

Congratulations to Leigha MacNeill on a Successful Dissertation Defense!


Congratulations to CAT Lab Researcher Leigha MacNeill who has successfully defended her dissertation and will be graduating with her PhD this summer!

Leigha’s dissertation takes a multimethod approach to studying how the family contributes to children's developing attention and whether these processes are dependent on child temperament.

Upon graduation, Leigha will begin her T32 postdoctoral fellowship with the Carolina Consortium on Human Development at UNC Chapel Hill

Congratulations, Dr. MacNeill!

Congratulations to CAT Lab 2019 Graduates!

Top (left to right): Shannon Gavin, Alyssa Bland, Aisha Aliyuu, and Jaclyn Yuro

Bottom (left to right): Luke Vankeuren, Olivia Perone, and Julie Leeds

Congratulations to Shannon, Alyssa, Aisha, Jaclyn, Luke, Olivia, and Julie who have completed their undergraduate degrees at Penn State and are moving forward in their careers!

Shannon Gavin received her B.A. in Psychology, and has been accepted into a M.S. in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. This is a two-year program that includes a 600-hour clinical internship. At the end of her two years, Shannon will have the opportunity to take the Clinical Capstone Examination and become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Shannon was accepted into other competitive programs, but chose Pittsburgh because this program won the 2018 Pennsylvania Counseling Association Outstanding Counseling Program Award!

Alyssa Bland received a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health with minor studies in Psychology. Alyssa has been accepted to Rutgers’ Physician Assistant Program, located in Piscataway, NJ. This is a 33-month program that will prepare Alyssa to become a fully certified physician assistant in her field of choice. Alyssa chose this program because is ranked as a top program in the nation!

Aisha Aliyuu received her B.A. in Psychology, and has been accepted into a M.S. in Industrial Organizational Psychology at Baruch College, in New York City. This is a two-year program where students are trained to understand human behavior in the workplace. Baruch was Aisha’s top choice because it is a nationally recognized program in the field, and many of its faculty members are well known within industry and academia. Additionally, this program offers both teaching and research assistantships to support their graduate students.

Jaclyn Yuro received her B.A. in Psychology and Italian from the Schreyer Honors College, and a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. She plans to work in a research position for the next year or two before pursuing graduate school.

Luke Vankeuren received a B.S. in Information Sciences & Technology. Luke will start a full-time position as a Software Developer for PPG Paints, a company located in Pittsburgh.

Julie Leeds received a B.A. in Psychology and has been accepted into a dual title M.S. and EdS in School Psychology at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. This program specializes in Applied Behavioral Analysis, and paired with the Educational Specialist degree, trains graduate students to provide services in educational and mental health settings to improve children’s development.

Olivia Perone received a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Women's Studies. She plans to apply to an accelerated nursing program to become a RN, and then pursue a M.S. in Nursing. Olivia’s ultimate goal is to become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.

Congratulations to these awesome students! Go change the world!

CAT Lab URA Wins Second Place in 2019 Psi Chi Undergraduate Research Conference


Congratulations to Aisha Aliyu, who won second place in the 2019 Psi Chi Undergraduate Research Conference with her empirical research poster titled Creative Hobbies in Young Children: The Role of Parenting Styles and Child Temperament.

Aisha examined the effects of authoritarian and authoritative parenting on children’s creative hobbies while also considering children’s temperament dimensions. She found that authoritarian parenting had a negative effect on children’s creative hobbies. However, when taking child temperament into consideration, children high in the temperament dimension of Effortful Control were protected from this negative effect.

Her research highlights the importance of investigating individual differences in children’s creativity.

Congratulations Aisha!

Congratulations to Nhi Thai Who Successfully Defended her Dissertation!


Nhi's dissertation research investigated the different stages of biases in human attention. In particular, her research examined how different stages of attention biases could increase the risk for anxiety symptoms among children who were behaviorally inhibited. This was an important question because behavioral inhibition is a temperamental risk for anxiety development. Nhi used a non-invasive technique called Electroencephalograph (EEG) to measure children's brain activity, which allowed her to identify children at greatest risk for anxiety - behaviorally inhibited children who relied more on automatic processes and less so on evaluative processes when attending to faces. These results suggest that we should promote controlled processing of attention as an intervention component when designing treatments for anxiety disorders in at-risk children.

Nhi is now one of our own Teaching Professors in the Penn State Psychology Department.

Congratulations Dr. Thai!

CAT Lab Researcher Awarded Translational Research Training Grant


Congratulations to Elizabeth Youatt who received a CTSI TL1 Translational Research Training Award through the  Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

Elizabeth is a first-year student in the developmental psychology program. She is interested in biological mechanisms and physiological correlates of temperament and self-regulation. Particularly, she conducts interdisciplinary and translational work with human infants and children, as well as animal models, examining multisystem biological functioning in behavioral inhibition and it's implications for developmental outcomes and individual health.

This training award will provide Elizabeth with funding to examine systemic differences between behaviorally inhibited (BI) and non-BI individuals across species. She will focus on genetic, neurological, and cardiovascular components to investigate a developmentally-oriented model of stress physiology to prepare her for continued translational work.

CAT Lab Researcher Awarded Prestigious National Fellowship


Congratulations to Kelley Gunther who was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF)! Only 17% of applicants receive this competitive national grant.

Kelley is a second-year student in the developmental psychology program. She is interested in understanding how inhibitory control may function as a protective or risk factor for the development of anxiety. To answer her research questions, Kelley uses mobile eye-tracking (MET) technology to examine how children attend to their naturalistic social environment. This novel technique allows her to ask questions that have traditionally only be measured via computer tasks, allowing her to consider how inhibitory control may function in the "real world."

The NSF GRF will provide Kelley with funding to continue this line of research as well as to expand into additional methods for assessing naturalistic inhibitory control in young children at risk for anxiety.

Birth complications relate to behavioral inhibition and social anxiety symptoms during middle childhood


Recent work from CAT Lab researcher Santiago Morales examined the roles of temperament and birth complications in social anxiety symptoms during middle childhood. Children (9 - 12 years) who experienced birth complications exhibited higher levels of both fearful temperament (i.e., behavioral inhibition) and social anxiety symptoms. Additionally, analyses suggested that behavioral inhibition acted as a pathway between birth complications and social anxiety symptoms. This study sets the stage for future longitudinal work examining whether childhood temperament is a developmental path by which birth complications lead to social anxiety symptoms.

The full paper can be read in Infant and Child Development.

CAT Lab Researchers Granted Travel Awards to Present at SRCD


Congratulations to CAT Lab researchers Kelley Gunther, Leigha MacNeill and Alicia Vallorani who were awarded travel grants to attend the 2019 Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) conference in Baltimore, MD.

Kelley Gunther is a second-year student in developmental psychology interested in how visual attention may characterize risk or protective factors for anxiety disorders in behaviorally inhibited children. Her talk will describe how levels of naturalistic sustained attention, as measured through mobile eye-tracking, are a risk factor for internalizing symptoms in behaviorally inhibited children.

Leigha MacNeill is a sixth-year student in developmental psychology interested in how the family contributes to children’s developing emotion regulation and attentional control and whether these processes are dependent on child temperament. Her talk will discuss dynamic interaction patterns of parents and behaviorally inhibited children across a challenging, laboratory-based task, using indicators of children's sustained visual attention (captured via mobile eye-tracking) and parenting behaviors.

Alicia Vallorani is a third-year student in developmental psychology interested in how behavior, social attention and neural processing interact to inform the development of social engagement, particularly in the peer context. Her talk will examine how children of varying temperaments attend to social and non-social rewards, as measured by mobile eye-tracking, during a social interaction.

Naturalistic and stationary attention measures reveal temperament-attention-anxiety relations


Recent work from CAT Lab researcher Xiaoxue (Jessie) Fu examined how the use of both traditional stationary eye-tracking paradigms and a novel mobile eye-tracking paradigm could elucidate temperament-attention-anxiety relations. Children between the ages of 5 and 7 completed both the dot-probe task while stationary eye-tracking measures were collected and a stranger approach task while mobile eye-tracking measures were collected. Dr. Fu found that affect-biased attention to threat, as measured by the dot-probe task, was related to naturalistic attention to the stranger, only in children exhibiting high levels of behavioral inhibition. The results suggest that behaviorally inhibited children may exhibit more consistent patterns of affect-biased attention and provide evidence that both naturalistic and stationary measures of attention may be integral for understanding individual differences in socio-emotional processing.

The full paper can be read in Development and Psychopathology.

CAT Lab Researcher Awarded Prestigious Dissertation Award


Congratulations to CAT Lab Researcher Leigha MacNeill who was awarded The Pennsylvania State University 2019 Alumni Association Dissertation Award!

Leigha MacNeill is a sixth-year graduate student in developmental psychology. Her dissertation takes a multimethod approach to studying how the family contributes to children's developing attention and whether these processes are dependent on child temperament. As part of the award, Leigha will have her work highlighted at multiple events throughout the Spring 2019 semester.

After graduating, Leigha will begin her T32 postdoctoral fellowship with the Carolina Consortium on Human Development at UNC Chapel Hill

Congratulations, Leigha!

CAT Lab Researcher Awarded Competitive T32 Fellowship


Congratulations to CAT Lab researcher Leigha MacNeill who accepted a competitive T32 postdoctoral fellowship with the Carolina Consortium on Human Development at UNC Chapel Hill

Leigha is currently a sixth year student in the developmental psychology program at Penn State, studying how the family environment contributes to children's developing emotion regulation and attentional control. After graduating in August 2019, Leigha will begin her fellowship designed to expand her training in longitudinal analyses and neuroscience methods for examining these processes. She will work with Dr. Cathi Propper and Dr. Dan Bauer to study how poverty during infancy influences the development of self-regulation during early childhood though different family experiences (i.e., caregiver distress and relationships, disrupted parent-child relationships). Additionally, she will examine how changes in children's underlying biology (i.e., brain structure and function) as well as child temperament and maternal executive function influence developing self-regulation.

Sensitivity to rejection and attention to threat related to internalizing problems in young children


Recent work from Dr. Santiago Morales in collaboration with Alicia Vallorani and Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar examined relations between neural and affective responses to peer feedback, attention bias to threat and internalizing problems in children ages 5 to 7. Using the novel Playdate task, Dr. Morales and colleagues showed that children expressed greater distress, were slower to report their feelings and exhibited greater mid-frontal EEG theta power (a neural marker of sensitivity to feedback) when rejected by peers compared to when accepted by peers. Furthermore, children's affective responses to rejection and theta power during rejection were related to elevated levels of internalizing symptoms, particularly in children also exhibiting an attention bias to threat. The findings provide valuable information about how young children process social feedback as well as the potential role of heightened sensitivities to rejection and threat in early psychopathology.

The full paper can be read in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.

Using Developmental Approaches to Study Emerging Attention to Threat and Socio-Emotional Functioning


Recent work from Dr. Xiaoxue "Jessie" Fu and Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar examines important methodological considerations for conducting developmental work assessing emerging patterns of attention to threat and their relation to socio-emotional functioning. Much of the previous work examining attention to threat and its relation to anxiety has relied on single, stationary eye-tracking paradigms. While this work has provided researchers with valuable information regarding potential relations between attention to threat and anxiety, it is important that as a field we begin to improve upon our current methods to best assess how attention and socio-emotional development my simultaneously unfold. First, we need longitudinal studies that can examine how patterns of attention may change over time, shaping socio-emotional development. Second, studies must integrate multiple measures of attention to best capture the multifaceted nature of attention to threat and its relations to socio-emotional development. Finally, mobile eye-tracking may provide valuable information about how real-world attention impacts socio-emotional development in ways that less naturalistic paradigms, such as stationary eye-tracking tasks, are unable to capture. The full article appears in Developmental Review.

Novel method reveals spatio-temporal dynamics of face processing in children


Recent work from post-doctoral fellow Dr. Pan Liu and colleagues examined face processing using both fMRI activation data and high density ERP data. By integrating both measures, Dr. Liu showed that early ERP components mapped onto a core visual processing system (occipito-temporal and parietal regions), whereas later components mapped onto a socio-emotional processing system (paracentral, limbic and frontal regions). The current results reveal the spatio-temporal dynamics of face processing in children and suggest that the socio-emotional system processes information transferred by the core visual system.

Read the full report in NeuroImage.

CAT Lab Collaborating in Effort to Characterize Infant Development in 900 Mother-Infant Pairs


The NIH recently awarded Dr. Rick Gilmore (Penn State), Dr. Karen Adolph (NYU) and Dr. Catherine Tamis-LeMonda (NYU) a $6.3 million grant to study infant development between 12- and 24-months. The large scale project will recruit 900 mother-infant pairs who will provide an hour of video data in the home environment. Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar is a collaborator on the project providing expertise in socio-emotional development and behavior coding. Overall, the project will provide researchers with a wealth of data that will be stored in Databrary, supporting the call in developmental science for big data and open science.

Learn more on Penn State News.

CAT Lab Welcomes New Graduate Student


Welcome to Elizabeth Youatt who joins the lab as a graduate student!

Elizabeth is starting her first year in the developmental psychology program at Penn State. She graduated from Washington State University (WSU) in 2016 with a BS in Psychology and minor in Animal Science. After graduating, she worked at WSU as a lab manager and project coordinator on several studies in the WSU Temperament lab, Childhood Cognition Lab, and Biocultural Anthropology lab. Elizabeth is interested in studying temperament and executive function from a biological perspective. 

CAT Lab Welcomes New Research Assistant

12841450_10206547217094726_956481320286835724_o (1).jpg

Welcome to Dara Tucker who joins the lab as a research assistant on the LANT project!

Dara graduated from Tulane University in 2018 with a B.S. in Neuroscience and Psychology. While at Tulane, she worked in the Learning and Brain Development Lab with Dr. Julie Markant, studying the interaction between attention and memory throughout development. Dara's future goals include attending graduate school in psychology.

Visiting Professor Awarded Prestigious VENI Grant


Congratulations to Dr. Evin Aktar, visiting professor in the CAT Lab, for receiving a VENI grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)! She is among 14% of applicants to receive this award. 

Dr. Aktar's research investigates the transmission of anxiety from parents to children. She uses multi-method designs that incorporate both behavioral and biological markers of anxiety in parents and children. With this new grant, Dr. Aktar will examine if a non-anxious parent may buffer children from fear transmission from an anxious parent to reduce generational transmission of anxiety. 

CAT Lab Researcher Named Strumpf Scholar


Congratulations to Alicia Vallorani who was named a 2018 Strumpf Scholar!

The Linda Brodsky Strumpf Liberal Arts Centennial Graduate Endowment recognizes outstanding performance and excellence in graduate studies in areas of research aligned with the mission of the Penn State Child Study Center. The award is designed to promote graduate research productivity and provides selected students with additional support to enhance their research and professional development.

As a Strumpf Scholar, Alicia will further her training in methods for longitudinal data analysis as well as methods for neuroimaging data collection, processing and analysis. She will use her training to examine relations between attention and social engagement in infants and adolescents as well as neural processes underlying social engagement in children at risk for social anxiety.