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Personal profile


I study links between mental and physical health from a developmental perspective. My research and knowledge focus on sensitive periods of brain development and puberty. I am interested in psychosocial determinants of health (such as family environments) and how immunological and neural mechanisms influence health outcomes during key phases of development and social learning, such as puberty.  My research uses longitudinal and multifaceted data to show associations between inflammation, hormones, depression, puberty, and brain development during childhood and adolescence. Although previous research has shown that social environments and support play roles in physical health and immune functioning, my work includes evidence suggesting that the family environment and reactivity to peer social stress are both important during adolescence, a time of social reorientation. 

Current Projects:

Identifying Brain Networks Associated with Immunoendocrine Reactivity to Social Stress and Depression During Puberty

Puberty is an important life phase where neurobiological development related to social processing is critical for healthy development. Peer social-evaluative stress becomes especially important during this time, because as children transition to adolescence, they become more concerned with how their peers think of them. One important step is to investigate how the functioning of brain networks necessary for social processing is associated with both endocrine and immune system responses to peer social-evaluative stress and how this, in turn, is associated with depression during adolescence, a sensitive developmental period for social learning. The aim of the proposed study is to determine if brain activity, hormonal and immune reactivity to social-evaluative stress, and depression are related in adolescent girls, and if early pubertal timing may be a risk factor for dysregulated neurobiological responses to social stress and depression. This study will provide unique and comprehensive insight into how brain and biological development in the context of social stress is associated with risk for adolescent depression in girls. It will fundamentally contribute to early intervention and preventative efforts for depression in adolescent girls.


The role of brain activity and connectivity in the association between immune function and depressive symptoms, and the effect of pubertal timing: A longitudinal study of adolescent girls

Recently, researchers have found that the functioning of the immune system, including chronic inflammation, is related to mental disorders such as depression, but the reasons for this are not clear. Because brain and pubertal development during early adolescence might play particularly important roles in this link, this study will look at how puberty, the immune system, brain development, and depression are related across time. Ultimately, this study will help us to understand how levels of inflammation during important times of adolescence can affect mental and physical health, so that we can intervene at the right time to ensure good health outcomes for all children.


PSY3062 - Research Methods and Theory - S2 2020

Research area keywords

  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Psychoneuroendocrinology
  • Depression
  • Adolescence
  • Puberty
  • Developmental Social Neuroscience
  • Mental health
  • Brain development
  • Longitudinal designs and analyses
  • Inflammation


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