Faculty Research & Labs

PETER BLAKE (Developmental Science)
Associate Professor
Ed.D., Harvard University

Social Development and Learning Laboratory

Our research focuses on how children come to understand the social world. We conduct cognitive and behavioral experiments with children from 2 to 12 years of age. We study things such as cooperation and competition, ownership and private property, fairness and other social norms, and learning through imitation and communication.

Psy.D., Virginia Consortium for Professional Psychology

Statistical analysis and research methodology (e.g., clinical research applications of new latent variable analytic methods); classification of anxiety and mood disorders; vulnerability/temperament/personality in the development, course, and treatment outcome of emotional disorders; experimental psychopathology research on anxiety/mood disorders; psychometric evaluation and test/interview development.

CATHERINE CALDWELL-HARRIS (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of California, San Diego

Students are invited to join me in investigating foreign language acquisition, bilingualism and cross-cultural psychology. Special projects for the current year are understanding jokes in a foreign language, how deaf children learn to read, differences between reading Chinese vs. English, and how Russian immigrants to the US learn English. Students who speak Mandarin or Russian can use their bilingualism skills in ongoing projects.

CHANDRAMOULI CHANDRASEKARAN (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Princeton University

Neural Dynamics of Cognition Lab

My lab conducts research to better understand how the brain processes complex uni and multisensory input and generates the appropriate action at the right time, a process called decision-making. To study the neural basis of decision-making, we use a combination of electrophysiological, behavioral, modeling, and computational techniques. Specifically, we use a ‘dynamical system’ theoretical framework combined with measurements of activity of populations of neurons using linear multi contact electrodes and utah arrays in animals performing decision-making tasks. By analyzing the average, single trial activity patterns, and differences in neuronal properties across the lamina of cortex, and modeling it with state-of-the-art recurrent neural network models we hope to understand the computational and circuit mechanisms by which the brain guides decisions. My research is guided by the ethos that understanding how decisions emerge in the brain will ultimately help us build better interventions for people with disabilities involving the nervous system. I expect my research career to aid translational efforts that use circuit level treatments and brain machine interfaces for patient populations.

JAMES CHERRY (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Ph.D., North Carolina State University

Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology & Behavior

My research examines the cellular mechanisms underlying cognitive and sensory processes. Our primary interest is to define the functional significance of anatomically distinct chemosensory systems in the mouse, with the overall goal of understanding how odors can influence mammalian reproductive behavior.

ALICE CRONIN-GOLOMB (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition; Clinical)
Professor; Director of Graduate Studies
Ph.D., California Institute of Technology

Vision and Cognition Laboratory

My main areas of interest are: (1) the relation between vision, perception, cognition, gait, and other aspects of daily function in normal aging and in neurodegenerative disease; in particular, visual cognition in Parkinson’s disease (PD); (2) the neural circuitry of perception and cognition in PD; (3) methods to improve cognition in PD, including at-home attentional training and in-lab assessments. We conduct basic research as well as intervention studies in collaboration with investigators at Sargent College and the Boston VA. Some individual student-led projects on PD include studies of the relation of motor to non-motor symptoms (such as the cost of cognitive-motor dual-tasking) and the relative functional integrity of two visual systems. In addition, we collaborate on BUSM-affiliated Framingham Heart Study projects relating neuropsychological function to markers of physical function, such as hypertension and white matter integrity, and on projects based at BUSM and at the Massachusetts General Hospital on biomarkers and function in Alzheimer’s disease.

RACHEL DENISON (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley

Our lab studies visual perception, attention, and decision making. A major current research direction is dynamic attention. We would like to understand how humans attend to specific moments in time (temporal attention), how attention continuously shapes perception, and what neural and computational constraints limit the ability to attend to and perceive visual information across time. Our research combines neuroimaging, computational modeling, eye tracking, and behavior.

MICHAEL E. HASSELMO (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Professor; Director, Center for Systems Neuroscience
D.Phil., University of Oxford, England

Computational Neurophysiology Laboratory

Research in my laboratory concerns the coding of space and time by cortical neurons for episodic memory function, and the regulation of network oscillatory dynamics by neuromodulators such as acetylcholine. Neurophysiological techniques are used to analyze the representation of space and time by cortical neurons including grid cells, head direction cells, and boundary vector cells, and to analyze the local effects of neuromodulation on synaptic and neuronal activity in cortical circuits. Computational modeling at the cellular and network level is used to link the physiological data to behavioral function. Areas of focused research include episodic memory function, memory-guided spatial behavior, and theta rhythm dynamics in hippocampal formation and entorhinal cortex. Research addresses physiological effects relevant to Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and depression.

MARC HOWARD (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Ph.D., Brandeis University

Theoretical Cognitive Neuroscience Lab

Research investigates topics centered on episodic memory, the ability to remember specific events situated in a particular spatiotemporal context. We develop mathematical models of cognition and evaluate them against both behavioral and neurophysiological data, providing a bridge between cognition and systems-level neuroscience. We use a combination of mathematical, computational and behavioral tools to evaluate our hypotheses. At present, our efforts are focused on developing and evaluating a unified mathematical framework to describe how the brain constructs the spatial and temporal context believed to underlie episodic memory. This model appears to have far-ranging implications, leading to research interests in statistical learning, semantic memory, time perception, and reward systems.

MARK HOWE (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Assistant Professor
Ph.D,  Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Howe Lab

The goal of my laboratory is to identify neural circuit principles responsible for adaptively motivating, selecting, and learning actions in changing environments.  We focus on the basal ganglia, a set of brain regions implicated in regulating motor and cognitive functions on multiple timescales.  A range of techniques are employed including two-photon microscopy, fiber photometry, and electrophysiology in behaving mice as they perform tasks in virtual environments.  These approaches enable us to investigate neural computations at multiple spatial scales, from large scale networks to subcellular compartments of single neurons.  Basic principles derived from these studies can be applied to better understand neural disorders of the basal ganglia such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease.

KATHLEEN KANTAK (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Ph.D., Syracuse University

Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience

My research uses animal models to conduct translational research related to drug addiction. Using intravenous drug self-administration procedures in rats, I investigate how cognitive-enhancing therapeutics may be useful for facilitating extinction learning for drug-conditioned cues to attenuate drug relapse. Other preclinical studies focus on the role of inhibitory control mechanisms in compulsive drug use.  In the context of this research, I collaborate with other investigators who examine the molecular or genetic correlates of these disorders and their treatment and who translate the findings in animals to human subjects.

DEBORAH KELEMEN (Developmental Science)
Ph.D., University of Arizona

Child Cognition Laboratory

Research in the Child Cognition Lab focuses on cognitive development. Our studies explore conceptual influences on intuitive, religious, and scientific theory-formation, object categorization, social and moral cognition, sociocultural and individual differences in cognition, and the development of children’s causal and purpose-based reasoning about the natural world. A significant emphasis of current work is the application of basic cognitive developmental research to elementary STEM education.

MELISSA M. KIBBE (Developmental Science)
Assistant Professor
PhD, Rutgers University

Developing Minds Laboratory

The world is rich with information, but our brains process and store only a small fraction of the information available. How do we decide which information we should keep track of, and how do we store and use this information efficiently? My research focuses on how infants, children, and adults represent objects and people, the kinds of computations they can do with those representations, and how they use that information to guide behavior. I also look at how cognitive systems (such as working memory, attention, social cognition, and decision-making) interact during complex tasks. My research relies on both behavioral methods and computational modeling of cognitive processes.

SAM LING (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Assistant Professor; Brain, Behavior, and Cognition Program Director
Ph.D., New York University

Visual Neuroscience Laboratory

Sensation is easy—even a camera can sense light. For a camera, light simply falls onto film, creating a photograph of what was seen; the story ends there. For humans, however, the moment light falls on our retina is but the beginning of an exceedingly complex process, culminating in our rich perceptual experiences. It is this remarkable process that sets our visual system far apart from simple devices such as cameras: our brain’s ability to perceive and consciously experience the visual world. My lab’s work centers on that pivotal stage of cognitive processing—the stage at which sensation becomes perception. My research combines a variety of techniques, including psychophysics, computational modeling, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)—all aimed towards understanding how the brain mediates between the ‘buzzing confusion’ of the visual environment and our limited processing power.

QIMIN LIU (Clinical)
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

My research focuses on the application and development of novel statistical methods/software to study development of severe emotional disturbances, especially among marginalized adults. We conduct both human subjects research and Monte Carlo simulation studies. My current projects include (1) adult irritability in depression, as related to suicide risk; (2) novel Bayesian Markov model and software development; (3) machine learning approaches to study intersectionality in LGBTQ+ health. I particularly welcome students with interdisciplinary interests/experiences in data science, statistics, computer science, or public health to join me.

Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University Pittsburgh

Child & Family Health Laboratory

My research focuses on (1) reciprocal influences between a person’s medical illness or disability and his/her family and cultural context, (2) health disparities in autism diagnosis and treatment, and (3) the development and evaluation of psychosocial interventions for individuals with chronic conditions and their families. The majority of my work is carried out within the context of cancer (childhood) and autism (across the lifespan).

JOSEPH MCGUIRE (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Princeton University

Cognition & Decision Lab

My group conducts basic research on decision making. Our goal to understand the information processing operations that enable people to make good decisions in uncertain environments. We study how people decide what future rewards to pursue and how long to persist in the face of setbacks. Our methods include behavioral experiments, computational modeling, psychophysiology, and neuroimaging.

HEIDI MEYER (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Dartmouth College

Meyer Lab

Our lab uses behavioral, systems, and molecular neuroscience techniques to examine the cognitive and neurodevelopmental underpinnings of affective regulation. We take a multi-level approach to neuroscience, setting a solid foundation in learning theory and behavioral assays in mice upon which we apply ever-advancing neuroscience techniques to address a critical gap in knowledge regarding the intersection between neural and affective regulation. We strive to inform the causes and consequences of psychiatric illness, particularly that caused by deviations in brain development, leading to new avenues for treatment.

Ph.D., University of Mexico

My research focuses on the investigation of the etiology and treatment of anxiety, mood, and substance-use disorders. Of particular interest to me is the development and testing of new treatments, including the combination of pharmacologic and cognitive-behavioral strategies for treatment-refractory and substance abusing patients. In addition, I am pursuing a number of translational research agendas, examining potential mediators and moderators of the efficacy of exposure-based treatments, as well as novel approaches for the promotion of health behaviors, including the role of exercise in treating mood and anxiety disorders.

Ph.D., Yale University

My primary research interest is the role of cognitive-motivational processes in health risk behavior, including problem drinking, smoking, and eating. Specific areas of research include, (1) understanding the processes underlying successful and failed self-control attempts and (2) developing approaches to reduce health-risk behaviors among college student and medical populations.

DONNA B. PINCUS (Clinical)
Professor; Master’s Program Director
Ph.D., SUNY Binghamton

Child and Adolescent Anxiety Research Program at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders

My research focuses on advancing our understanding of the etiology, assessment, and treatment of child and adolescent anxiety disorders, with a particular focus on the most understudied, underserved, and impaired subpopulations of anxious youth.  A central focus of my work examines parents’ roles in the development, maintenance, prevention and treatment of child and adolescent anxiety disorders. Because considerable gaps persist between supported treatments developed in experimental settings and the quality of services available in communities, I also investigate novel methods of disseminating and implementing evidence-based practices in non-mental health settings, including community, school, and primary care settings, with a focus on enhancing the uptake and long-term sustainability of evidence-based practices for youth.

STEVE RAMIREZ (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Ramirez Group

Our research focuses on artificially manipulating and imaging memories in healthy and maladaptive states. Our lab utilizes a breadth of tools to tease out the causal relationship between cellular activity and memory including large-scale imaging technologies, optogenetics and chemogenetics, as well as transgenic and virus-based strategies to identify neuronal ensembles active during learning and recollection.

ROBERT REINHART (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition) (Not accepting student researchers AY 21/22)
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

Visual Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory

My research examines how the brains of healthy people and those with neuropsychiatric disorders selectively extract, store, and use information from the external world. We employ visual perceptual and cognitive tasks, and noninvasively measure the electrical brain activity and behavior of participants performing these tasks. We also use transcranial electrical stimulation to safely and reversibly manipulate participants’ brain activity and behavior. Active areas of study include visual attention, visual working memory, long-term memory, learning, and cognitive control.

Clinical Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

My primary clinical and research interest address neurobehavioral sequelae of a variety of acute and chronic conditions among adults, including: HIV disease, depression, traumatic closed head injury and substance abuse. Current interests also include assessment of cognitive abilities and personality functioning, clinical judgment, and ethnicity and culture as risk- and protective factors in psychopathology.

Research Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Boston University

Optimizing Prediction of Anxiety & Depression Laboratory

My research uses clinical psychological and epidemiological methods to identify and understand emotional (e.g., personality/temperament) and environmental factors (e.g., stress/adversity) that influence the development and persistence of anxiety and depression. My current work involves using machine learning methods to develop optimized prediction tools that identify individuals at risk of anxiety and mood disorder onset and chronicity. I am also interested in improving the assessment and classification of anxiety and mood psychopathology.

KIMBERLY SAUDINO (Developmental Science)
Ph.D., University of Manitoba

Boston University Twin Project

My primary research area is infant and child temperament with a focus on activity level. I am particularly interested in etiology of individual differences in the development of temperament, and much of my research involves the study of twins in an effort to disentangle the contributions of genetic and environmental factors to the development of temperament and related behaviors. A second focus of my research is on the measurement of temperament in childhood; specifically, the factors that influence the validity of parents’ ratings of their child’s temperament.

BENJAMIN SCOTT (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Assistant Professor 
Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Laboratory of Comparative Cognition

My research interest is to develop and apply new technologies to study the neural basis of cognition and complex learned behavior. My approach involves a combination of two fields. The first is biomedical engineering, particularly the development of novel optical imaging and genetic methods to observe and perturb the activity of neurons in their native habitat – the intact brains of living organisms. The second is neuroethology, the study of brain circuits that underlie natural behaviors in order to elucidate basic principles of brain function. My current work brings together high-throughput behavioral training with advanced techniques for imaging brain activity in order to identify and characterize the neural circuits involved in evidence-based decision making.

DAVID SOMERS (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Ph.D., Boston University

Neuroimaging, Perception & Attention Laboratory

The Neuroimaging, Perception & Attention Laboratory employs functional MRI, psychophysics, and computational modeling to investigate the mechanisms underlying perception, attention & working memory. Our studies focus on basic science questions about the functioning of the normal human brain. We are particularly focused on questions of how we perceive, attend to, and remember multiple objects at the same time. Studies examine perception and cognition in the visual, auditory, and tactile modalities.

Assistant Professor
Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin

Sexual, Reproductive, and Mental Health Disparities Program

The goal of my lab is to reduce sexual, reproductive, and mental health disparities in marginalized and minoritized populations, domestically and globally. Specifically, we aim to (1) identify psychological barriers to optimal sexual and reproductive health and (2) develop psychosocial and test interventions that mitigate the influence of these barriers among populations at risk for poor sexual and reproductive health.

CHANTAL E. STERN (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Professor and Chair
Director, Cognitive Neuroimaging Center

D. Phil., University of Oxford, England

Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory

My lab uses neuroimaging methods coupled with behavioral and computational techniques to examine short-term and long-term memory processes, context-dependent rule learning, and spatial navigation. Basic science work in the lab focuses on the medial temporal lobe and prefrontal cortex, and collaborative work aims to integrate our understanding of how memory interacts with attention and perception. In addition, translational work in the lab focuses on aging, including work on Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and the effects of exercise on brain function.

HELEN TAGER-FLUSBERG (Developmental Science)
Ph.D., Harvard University

Center for Autism and Research Excellence

Our research focuses on 5 questions (1) What are the early brain and behavioral risk signs for ASD before the onset of the disorder? (2) Can we assess variability in ‘mirror neuron system’ functioning in toddlers and preschoolers with ASD and will a brief targeted intervention lead to changes in neural and behavioral markers of the MNS; (3) Why do about one-quarter of all children with ASD fail to acquire spoken language? (4) How do sensory symptoms impact the transition to adulthood for ASD youth? and (5) Can we develop novel, efficient, language and social communication outcome measures that can be used in the context of clinical and interventions trials. These research programs involve collaborations with colleagues at BU, UCLA and at neighboring universities and involve a range of methods covering brain and behavioral functioning.

AMANDA TARULLO (Developmental Science)
Associate Professor; Developmental Science Program Director
Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Brain and Early Experiences Laboratory

My research focuses on the effects of early experiences on the neural and behavioral development of infants and young children. Currently, we are conducting an intervention study for toddlers with sleep and behavior problems, to determine what intervention approaches are most effective and engaging for low-income, culturally diverse families. We are seeking students to assist with recruitment, coding, and remote assessments of families. Fluent Spanish speakers are especially needed. We also study the effects of early life stress on the developing brain. A current project uses electrophysiology (EEG) to examine neurodevelopmental trajectories of infants in South Africa who received a public health home visiting intervention.

Associate Professor; Clinical Program Director
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Family Development & Treatment Laboratory

My research focuses on the role of the family in promoting individual mental health. I have examined adults and children with a variety of mental disorders and their families. I am particularly interested in family processes and family treatment among individuals with depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The goal of this work is to identify strengths and deficits in family systems, which may impact on the course of mental disorders, and to develop programs for helping families cope with theses disorders. My most recent projects include: 1) designing and implementing family-based treatment for preadolescent children with depressive disorders; 2) examining the role of maternal depression and family relationships in the development of depression vulnerability in youth; and 3) understanding the impact of family psychoeducationally-focused treatment for adults with bipolar affective disorder.

NICHOLAS JAMES WAGNER (Developmental Science)
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Biobehavioral and Social-Emotional Development Lab

My research examines the enduring impact of early experiences and relationships (e.g., parent-child relationships, sibling relationships) on children’s social and emotional development. I am particularly interested in the processes through which psychobiological and environmental factors promote psychosocial adaptation or contribute to the emergence of psychopathology. Key to this work is elucidating how young children’s self-regulatory capacities influence associations between early experiences with parents and emotional, cognitive, and social development. One line of ongoing research examines early experiential and biological processes that contribute to later behavioral and emotional problems, with a specific focus on callous-unemotional traits. A second line of research broadens my focus to include anxiety, behavioral inhibition, and social withdrawal. Cutting across the entirety of this program of research is an appreciation for the influence of the social environment (e.g., peer relationships, school contexts) on patterns of biobehavioral adaptation or the emergence of both externalizing and internalizing psychopathology.

ARASH YAZDANBAKHSH (Brain, Behavior, and Cognition)
Research Assistant Professor
MD, Tehran Medical University
PhD, Boston University
Postdoc, Harvard Medical School

Computational Neuroscience & Vision Lab

Research in Computational Neuroscience & Vision Lab focuses on: a) computational modeling of biological neural systems by combining systems-level neuroscience, mathematical techniques, and computer simulation, b) anatomical, physiological, and psychological neural data through neural modeling, and c) studying visual perception by computer generated visual stimuli, including 3D psychophysics, and eye tracking. Current ongoing areas of research in the lab use machine learning (ML), deep neural network (DNN), and neural networks based on biophysical properties of neurons. In collaboration with other labs, we get neuroanatomical data of normal and ASD brains to incorporate in neural models and share the modeling outcomes. We also consider psychophysical and modeling approaches to clinical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and the oculomotor correlates of motor and sensory conditions in PD.