Gabriel S. Dichter, PhD, Principal Investigator
Research Statement: We are dedicated to the use of neuroscience methods to better understand psychiatric disorders. Research methods include psychophysiology, functional MRI, PET/MR, eye-tracking, and behavioral approaches. Our strategy is to first validate methods in non-clinical contexts, then to apply paradigms in psychiatric conditions, and finally to test our measures as potential mechanistic endpoints in clinical trials.
Jessica Kinard, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, Assistant Professor, UNC-Chapel Hill
Research Statement: I completed my PhD in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences at UNC Chapel Hill under the mentorship of Dr. Linda Watson. During my graduate program, I studied parent-mediated interventions for toddlers at-risk for autism, as well as for toddlers and preschoolers from primarily Spanish-speaking families. My research in the CAN Lab focuses on neural mechanisms of reward learning in children with autism in the context of uncertain social and nonsocial rewards.
Erin Walsh, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, UNC-Chapel Hill
Research Statement: My research focuses on exploring the mechanisms by which mindfulness-based interventions alter neural, immune, and endocrine processes in persons with depression, and how such changes affect cognitive and emotional vulnerabilities in depression. I am also interested in examining how early life experiences predict treatment response in depression. I received my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kentucky under mentorship of Dr. Ruth Baer and completed a postdoctoral research position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under Dr. Heather Abercrombie.
Melissa Walsh, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Research Statement: I am interested in using human molecular brain imaging techniques to characterize how sex hormones interact with major neurotransmitter systems to increase susceptibility to mood and stress disorders in women. Eventually, I would like to identify the neurochemical mechanisms by which certain lifestyle choices/holistic treatments enhance psychological well-being in women with hormonally mediated mood and stress conditions. Before joining the lab, I completed my PhD in Auditory and Language Neuroscience at Arizona State University.
Paul Cernasov, Clinical Psychology Graduate Student
I’m interested in the application of neuroimaging techniques to identify predictors of treatment response and monitor outcomes in psychiatric conditions, particularly from a transdiagnostic perspective. I am working on a project using ultra-high field MRI to evaluate biological target engagement in a psychotherapeutic intervention for adults with anhedonia (Behavioral Activation for Anhedonia).
Rachel Phillips, Clinical Psychology Graduate Student
My research interests center around using neuroimaging methods to examine the etiology of mood and anxiety disorders and their comorbidities, with an eye towards the impact of stressful life events. I am also passionate about disseminating research findings and sharing new insights with broad communities. Prior to my graduate training, I received a B.S. in Psychology from UNC Chapel-Hill and completed a post-bacc research position at the Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Center.
Kaitlin Cummings, Clinical Psychology Graduate Student
My research interests lie in identifying the neurobiological correlates of symptom profiles in autism spectrum disorder and other neuropsychiatric conditions to inform the development of targeted therapeutic interventions. By leveraging neuroimaging techniques, I hope to contribute to our understanding of mechanisms that support risk and resilience for psychopathology in different groups and I am passionate about extending this work to include individuals from diverse backgrounds. I am currently working on a project using simultaneous PET-MRI to examine the relationship between neural inflammation, brain dynamics, and reward processing in individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
Megan Hynd, Clinical Psychology Graduate Student
Research Interests: My research interests lie at the intersection of translational research and experimental therapeutics; specifically, in determining how aberrant neuronal functioning contributes to depression symptomatology and using that information to develop novel, efficacious treatments. I am currently working on a project combining PET-MR with hormone treatment to understand reward circuitry in perimenopausal-onset anhedonia and psychosis. Before joining this lab, I earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Iowa and completed an honors thesis under the supervision of Dr. Jan Wessel. Additionally, I completed a post-bac fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health, supervised by Dr. Sarah ‘Holly’ Lisanby.
Delia Kan Dang Dang, School Psychology Graduate Student
Research Interests: I am interested in ways that will allow us to harness knowledge obtained through neuroimaging techniques on learning and motivation and translate them into possible impacts in education that will eventually guide more effective evidence-based practices in schools, particularly in individuals with autism spectrum disorders.