Our primary research interests center around using neuroimaging methodologies, particularly structural and functional MRI, to examine the role of the prefrontal cortex, as well as other brain regions, in executive function. To this end, the majority of our work employs an interdisciplinary approach, using structural and functional MRI techniques in conjunction with genetics, neurocognitive assesment, and computational modeling methods, to evaluate the neural substrate of executive control with an emphasis on the contributions of complex brain networks to behavioral performance. Examples of this work include Banich et al. 2000, and Milham et al . 2002, 2003 (CITE more)
In addition to studying executive function, we also have a research program aimed at understanding the interface between cognition and emotion (see for example Compton et al. 2003). These studies have two foci. One is to investigate how attentional regulation is the same or different for emotional as compared to non-emotional materials, while the other is to investigate how personality influences executive functioning and emotional processes. For examples of publications from our lab addressing these issues, please see Andrews-Hanna et al. 2013, Stollstorff et al. 2013, Crocker et al. 2012, Herrington et al. 2010).
To best understand the neural mechanisms supporting executive function and emotional processes, it is important to characterize how these systems change over the course of development. Thus, we are currently pursuing a line of research interrogating both the behavioral and neurodevelopmental changes that occur during adolescence. Through collaborations with the MacArthur Foundation Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice and Dr. Ben Hankin's Genes, Environment, and Mood study at the University of Denver, among others, we are investigating developmental processes related to a) the ability to self-regulate one's behavior, 2) the ability to make decisions and 3) the ability to understand and plan for the future.
In addition to studying normative executive function in typically developing populations, we are also interested in characterizing the neural mechanisms behind atypical executive functioning often observed in a variatey of clinical populations. Some of our recent projects investigating executive dysfunction in clinical populations have included studies on inhibitory processes in adults with ADHD (CITE), attenional deficits in adolescents with severe substance and conduct problems (CITE), memory and emotion regulation in combat veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries (CITE), atypical cognitive control in adults with Multiple Sclerosis, and attentional dysfunction in individuals with schizophrenia. We have a proven track record of successfully collaborating with a number of treatment providers and clinical researchers, including Dr. Thomas Crowley and Dr. Robert Freedman in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Dr. Vijay Mattal of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado - Boulder, and the Denver Veterans Affairs Hospital, among others, and often work with the Institute of Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado at Boulder to examine the genetic bases of disorders and associated executive dysfunction.