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Research Abstracts Online
January 2010 - March 2011

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Education and Human Development
Institute of Child Development

PI: Kathleen M. Thomas

Developmental Neuroimaging

This group uses MSI resources for two purposes. The first is to develop and maintain behavioral and clinical datasets from various projects within their lab. The second involves the management, storage, and processing of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data from these projects. MRI data include anatomical, diffusion, resting-state, and task-related functional MRI scans from various federally funded projects. Brief project descriptions are given below.

Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) Study: This study explores behavioral and brain development in adolescents who experienced early deprivation as a result of international orphanage care prior to age 5. The researchers are specifically interested in the effects of genotypic differences in brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor expression on brain areas involved in learning and memory, such as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. They use DNA assays, structural imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and behavioral data to approach this question.

Faces Study: This study investigates amygdala activity in children and adults when viewing emotional facial expressions. Facial expressions are presented either overtly or when "masked” by a neutral expression (that is, when the image of the emotional face is quickly replaced by a neutral face). The researchers hypothesize that, relative to adults, children will show different patterns of amygdala activation in response to overt, as compared to masked presentations. MSI resources are used in analyzing structural and functional MRI data.

Infants of Diabetic Mothers (IDM) Study: This longitudinal study examines the long-term impact of gestational diabetes on attention and memory function and their underlying neural processes. The group is currently looking at how 9- and 10-year-old children born of a diabetic pregnancy are impacted at both the cognitive and neural level. They are analyzing structural, functional, and diffusion tensor imaging data on these children to further understand the impact of gestational diabetes on the development and function of the hippocampus and prefrontal brain structures.

Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH) Study: This project investigates implicit learning skills in children between the ages of 6 and 9 who experienced perinatal intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH), a form of early brain injury that results in damage to regions adjacent to the ventricles of the brain. The researchers hypothesize that children with more severe forms of IVH will show impaired implicit learning in comparison to both typically-developing children and children with mild IVH, and that reduced implicit learning in this special population will correlate with atypical volumetric development of the basal ganglia and regions to which they project (e.g., prefrontal cortex) as measured via structural MRI.

Group Members

Bonny Donzella, Research Associate
Raquel Gabbitas, Graduate Student
Evren Guler, Research Associate
Madeline Harms, Graduate Student
Amanda Hodel, Graduate Student
Ruskin Hunt, Research Associate
Sara Langworthy, Graduate Student
Jennifer Wenner, Research Associate