Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar Named McCourtney Professor of Child Studies

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Congratulations to Dr. Pérez-Edgar who was among four faculty elevated to named professorships by the College of Liberal Arts at Penn State!

Dr. Pérez-Edgar has been a faculty member in the developmental area of the Psychology Department since Fall 2011. Over the past seven years, she has overseen three NIMH funded projects investigating relations between temperament, attention and anxiety from infancy through middle childhood. Additionally, she has mentored 8 graduate students and 3 post-doctoral fellows. She is also an Association for Psychological Science Fellow and a James McKeen Cattell Fund Fellow.

Read the full announcement here.

CAT Lab Researcher Eran Auday Graduates

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Congratulations to Dr. Eran Auday who graduated from Penn State on May 5th!

Eran was a graduate student in the Child Clinical program. During his time in the CAT Lab, Eran completed projects assessing how parenting behaviors during childhood and adolescence are associated with individuals’ self-perceptions and social information processing. Additionally, he used neuroimaging techniques to examine structural and functional differences in children at risk for social anxiety disorder. Over the past year, he completed his internship at Wellspan Health. This summer he will start a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA.

CAT Lab Researcher Awarded Funding to Attend Workshop on Mixture Models

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Congratulations to Berenice Anaya who received a travel award from the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology to attend a Latent Class/Cluster Analysis Mixture Modeling Workshop from Curran-Bauer Analytics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill!

Berenice is a second-year student in the developmental program interested in how parenting and temperament influence developmental links between maternal anxiety and infant socio-emotional development. The workshop will provide Berenice with tools to examine if interactions between infant temperament and parenting behaviors can help characterize specific subgroups of infants and if these subgroups may change over time. 

When Viewing Threat, Behaviorally Inhibited Children Exhibit Neural Responses Similar to Anxious Individuals

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Recent research from graduate student Eran Auday and collaborators examined neural responses to threat for Behaviorally Inhibited (BI) and Non-Behaviorally Inhibited (BN) children between the ages of 9 and 12. Children were presented with threatening faces subliminally while fMRI data were collected. When BN children viewed the subliminal threat, they exhibited responses in prefrontal brain regions thought to regulate “alarms” triggered by emotion brain regions. Conversely, when BI children viewed the subliminal threat, they exhibited responses in the cerebellum, a brain region linked to the coordination of emotional information processing. The findings suggest that brain-based differences can be seen in children even when minimal information is present. Additionally, the current findings are similar to previous work in anxious teens and young adults, suggesting BI children may exhibit functional neurocircuitry similar to anxious individuals, particularly when viewing threat. 

These findings are to be published in NeuroImage: Clinical

CAT Lab Researcher Receives International Travel Grant

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Congratulations to Alicia Vallorani who received a Penn State Global Programs Graduate Student Travel Grant to present her research at the 2018 FLUX Congress in Berlin, Germany!

Alicia is a second-year student in the Developmental Psychology program interested in how temperament and attention relate to social engagement. Her project for FLUX will look at how affect-biased attention relates to neural sensitivity to rejection in children between the ages of 5 and 7.

CAT Lab Welcomes New Research Assistant

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Welcome to Briana Ermanni who joins the lab as a research assistant on the iTRAC project!

Briana graduated from Michigan State University in 2017 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Bioethics. Previously, she was a research assistant for Dr. Emily Durbin working on projects assessing emotion development. Briana's future goals include pursuing a PhD in Developmental Psychology.

CAT Lab Researcher Earns Grant to Investigate Influences of Parenting on Social Development

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Congratulations to CAT Lab Graduate student Berenice Anaya who received funding from the NIMH Diversity Research Supplement! This grant provides 2-years of support enhancing the current goals of our 5-year longitudinal study. The larger study examines how interactions between temperament and attention impact socio-emotional development during infancy. Berenice's supplement will examine how both parenting and temperament influence developmental links between maternal anxiety and socio-emotional development.

CAT Lab Research on Infant Brain Development and Behavior Highlighted in Penn State News

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Research conducted by CAT Lab graduate student Leigha MacNeill in collaboration with Drs. Pérez-Edgar, Ram, Bell and Fox was recently highlighted in the Penn State News. The work examined how the brain prepares infants to develop new skills. Through new modeling techniques, they showed that even when behavioral changes appear sudden, there may be slower, more linear brain development underlying those changes.

Read the full story here.

Behaviorally Inhibited Children Exhibit Changes in Neural Activation and Reductions in Separation Anxiety After Attention Bias Modification

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Recent research from the CAT Lab to be published in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry investigated how a novel attention training protocol, Attention Bias Modification (ABM), alters neural and behavioral symptoms of anxiety. Children between the ages of 9 and 12 identified as behaviorally inhibited were randomly assigned to complete four sessions of ABM training or a placebo protocol. Children who completed the ABM training exhibited reduced levels of separation anxiety as well as reduced amygdala and insula activation and greater ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activation than did children who completed the placebo protocol. The current results indicate that for behavioral inhibited children ABM may be useful for preventing the emergence of anxiety symptoms.

Nonlinear Change in Infant Cognition Related to Linear Changes in Brain Activity Over Time

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Recent research from graduate student Leigha MacNeill and collaborators Drs. Nilam Ram, Martha Ann Bell, Nathan Fox, and Koraly Pérez-Edgar examined infants' cognitive performance and brain activity monthly from 6 to 12 months of age. They found that infants with faster rates of increases in cognitive skill (i.e., performance on the A-not-B task) had lower occipital EEG power at 6 months and greater linear increases in occipital power. This study used contemporary analytic techniques to assess a classic developmental phenomenon, suggesting that aspects of infants' cognitive skill develop nonlinearly and relate to changes in linear brain activity over time. These data were collected in Dr. Fox's lab at the University of Maryland. The article is to be published in Child Development.

CAT Lab Research on Precursors to Anxiety Highlighted in Penn State News

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Research conducted by CAT Lab graduate Dr. Santiago Morales in collaboration with Drs. Pérez-Edgar, Buss and LoBue was recently highlighted in the Penn State News. The work examined how maternal anxiety predicts affect biased attention in infants ages 4 - 24 months, regardless of age. Now, Drs. Pérez-Edgar, Buss and LoBue are conducting a longitudinal study with infants to determine mechanisms underlying anxiety development, including maternal affect biased attention and anxiety. 

Read the full story here.

CAT Lab Welcomes Visiting Assistant Professor

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Welcome to Evin Aktar who joins the lab as a visiting professor!

Evin, who received her doctoral and post-doctoral training in Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Amsterdam, is currently an Assistant Professor in Clinical Psychology at Leiden University. She is interested in the early transmission of of depression and anxiety from parents to children.

Evin received a Rubicon Grant from De Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek to conduct research with the CAT Lab on the development of anxiety in preschool children. She will asses emotions and attention in parent-child dyads to understand mechanisms underlying intergenerational transmission of anxiety and depression. 

Dr. Pérez-Edgar Explains Why We Don't All View the World the Same Way

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Dr. Pérez-Edgar recently contributed to the Blog on Learning Development to explain why people have varied experiences of the world. After highlighting the role of temperament in determining a person's predisposition to approach or withdraw from the environment, she discusses her work on how people use attention to filter their environmental experiences. She discusses how even in infancy we are already beginning to selectively attend to the environmental cues we deem most important. As we develop, temperament by attention interactions may become more apparent, helping researchers to understand why people have such varied experiences even when placed in the same situation.

Read the full article here.

CAT Lab Welcomes New Graduate Students

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Welcome to Kelley Gunther and Shane Wise who have joined the CAT Lab as graduate students!

Kelley is a first-year graduate student in the developmental program under the primary mentorship of Dr. Pérez-Edgar. During her undergraduate education in psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Kelley worked in the laboratory of Dr. Nathan Fox. She then spent two years as a research assistant for Dr. Dima Amaso at Brown University. Kelley is interested in the interactions between maternal care, attention biases and temperament and the impact of such interaction on the development of anxiety.

Shane is a first-year graduate student in the child clinical program under the primary mentorship of Dr. Cynthia Huang-Pollock. During his undergraduate education in psychology at the University of Maryland, Shane worked in the laboratory of Dr. Andrea Chronis-Tuscano. He then worked as research assistants at the Children's National Medical Center and the University of Maryland. Shane is interested in the relations between ADHD and anxiety and how attention may impact this relation.

Attention Bias to Threat During Infancy Predicted by Maternal Anxiety

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Recent research from the CAT Lab published in Emotion examined how infants pay attention to social cues, especially emotion faces. The findings indicate that infants spend more time looking at angry faces compared to other faces. Moreover, we found that this was particularly the case for infants whose mothers reported higher levels of anxiety. Because age and temperament did not relate to looking time, we think that maternal anxiety, in particular, may impact children’s processing of threat-related information from very early in development.   Maternal anxiety therefore may serve as an early marker to predict socioemotional development.

Read the full report here.

Negative Emotion Impacts Emerging Attention Biases in Infants

Recent research from the CAT Lab to be published in Developmental Psychology looked at how temperament may impact how infants pay attention to social cues, especially emotion faces.  We found that older infants spend more time looking at emotion faces than younger infants. Young infants with low levels of negative emotion were faster to look away from angry faces. Attention, emotion, and temperament have all been linked to anxiety in older children and adults.  This study marks an important first step in understanding how these factors first emerge. 

Read the full report here

Dr. Pérez-Edgar Receives Prestigious Sabbatical Award

Congratulations to Dr. Pérez-Edgar who was awarded the 2017-2018 Cattell Sabbatical Award.

The Cattel Sabbatical Award is a competitive award sponsored by the James McKeen Cattel Fund and awarded by the Association for Psychological Science. The award will allow Dr. Pérez-Edgar to take time away from teaching to study advanced statistical techniques both at The Pennsylvania State University and national statistical workshops. She will apply these techniques to her current research projects which provide rich, nuanced data about how children navigate their social world.

To learn more about Dr. Pérez-Edgar’s plans, please see the Penn State News.

CAT Lab Welcomes Post-Doctoral Fellow

Welcome to Jin Qu who has joined the CAT Lab as a Post-Doctoral Fellow!

Jin joins the team to work on a longitudinal study assessing attention and temperament in infants. During her time in the lab, Jin will assist with data collection across 5 time points as well as lead behavioral coding. 

Jin graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies in 2017. Her research interests include infant socio-emotional development and the impact of caregiving environments on infant behavioral outcomes.

CAT Lab Researcher Eran Auday Defends Dissertation

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Congratulations to CAT Lab graduate student Eran Auday who has successfully defended his dissertation!

Dr. Auday is a graduate student in the Child Clinical Psychology program. His program of research assessesstress and anxiety in children and adolescents in environments of violence (family, community, war) or as a result of parental-emotional deprivation.

In July, Dr. Auday will begin his internship at WellSpan Health in York, PA.