THE CONTE CENTER ON BRAIN PROGRAMMING IN ADOLESCENT VULNERABILITIES
The Conte Center at UC Irvine is a large collaborative effort addressing the complex developmental mechanisms contributing to adolescent resilience or vulnerabilities to mental illnesses. It focuses on probing the contribution of early life experience to brain programming that governs resilience and vulnerability during adolescence. Our work probes the effects of fragmented, unpredictable maternal signals on neuronal network structure and function using magnetic resonance brain imaging (MRI) in rats and humans. This will enable defining a trajectory of structural and functional alterations and their correlation with fragmentation of maternal care and behavioral outcomes, resulting in potential biomarkers of vulnerability to overt cognitive and emotional pathology. We employ T1-weighted structural images, diffusion tensor imaging, and functional MRI at rest and during cognitive tasks.
For more information on the Conte Center at UCI, please visit our website at: contecenter.uci.edu/
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: BRAIN ORGANIZATION UNDERLYING LANGUAGE PROCESSING
We work closely with collaborators at the University of Chicago to investigate the neurobiology of oral and written language comprehension in typically developing children and children with early brain injury. Little is known about the way the brain changes as oral reading development progresses. Although different children experience very different learning situations, almost all children learn language with relative ease. Language learning also occurs according to a common trajectory, though there are individual differences in the rate and timing of lexical and syntactic growth and acquisition of reading. This is significant, as language skills often lay the groundwork for other non-linguistic cognitive and social tasks. Children with early brain injuries learn language along similar trajectories. In past work we have found a relationship between lesion size and language outcome in young children with brain injury, but not children or adults (Raja, 2006). We are interested in understanding the time course, degree, and mechanisms underlying recovery. In this research, we use advanced imaging techniques to shed light on the brain changes that occur as language development progresses in both typically developing children and children with brain injury. We seek to characterize the biology of emergent language skills, and to relate any individual differences in early language skills with early input to brain activation networks for overall language comprehension.