Intrinsic Functional Connectivity Correlates of Psychiatric Illnesses and Individual Differences


Intrinsic Functional Connectivity Correlates of Psychiatric Illnesses and Individual Differences

The overarching goal of this research is to investigate how psychological constructs and constellations of symptoms may be represented in the brain and reproducible across groups of individuals, which is a keystone element for furthering understanding on the mechanisms underlying mental illness. To serve this goal the researchers make use of publically available large-scale fMRI datasets as well as neuroimaging datasets collected by their own group. There are three specific projects underway:

  • Investigation of the neural basis of persecutory ideation in schizophrenia, aiming to derive a biomarker of delusional ideation to be used for future translational research in schizophrenia. This project uses Itasca to cross-validate her findings across three datasets, including one publically available large-scale fMRI datasets and two task fMRI datasets using an experimental paradigm developed within the lab.
  • Investigation of the neural correlates of alcohol use across the alcohol use spectrum using resting-state fMRI data from the Human Connectome Project. This project makes use of genetically sensitive designs to examine whether deviations in intrinsic connectivity associated with alcohol use reflect a predisposition to drink or a result of alcohol exposure. Preliminary results showed that increased brain connectivity within the insula, a brain region involved in information integration and salience selection, is a risk factor for increased drinking.
  • Addressing how personality constructs can be mapped onto brain functioning. The focus of this research is on conscientiousness, a personality trait that has been associated with important behavioral outcomes including academic achievements and substance use.

During 2016, these researchers continue to investigate the datasets described above and download new data from these publically available datasets as they are released. This will facilitate efforts to advance knowledge of the ways to understand how brain connectivity in psychiatric samples differ from healthy subjects, and to examine how intrinsic connectivity may be important to individual differences in behavior. Collective insights from these two perspectives will advance a growing understanding of the underlying structure of personality and psychopathology and how this may be represented in the neural signals of the brain. Ultimately, this work could lead to the derivation of biomarkers that could be further examined for their utility in providing earlier detection rates of psychiatric illness, and thus earlier treatment, for these disability conditions.

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