BiographyThe abilities to navigate social interactions and cultivate social bonds are central to healthy, adaptive development. My research utilizes cognitive and affective neuroscience to study the development of social emotions and behaviors and how they may go awry across childhood and adolescence. Specifically, I am interested in externalizing behaviors: acts that are, by definition, directed socially outward and disruptive toward others. Externalizing behaviors range from bullying to aggression capable of causing physical harm. These behaviors can disrupt social relationships and predict negative trajectories for the individual and their communities. Although externalizing behaviors are the single most common reason children are referred for mental health treatment in North America, they remain poorly understood.
My research aims to fill this gap by (1) identifying brain-behavior mechanisms that underlie the emergence of externalizing behaviors, and (2) parsing shared and unique effects of underlying mechanisms on the atypical development of externalizing behaviors. My work examines processes such as empathy, inhibitory control, and social decision making with a specific emphasis on reduced affective empathy linked to callous-unemotional traits and amygdala function as well as impaired cognitive control and associated atypical fronto-parietal circuitry. I focus specifically on adolescence as it is a critical time period for the development of these processes and externalizing behaviors. I utilize a multi-method approach that includes functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), eye-tracking, and behavioral paradigms.