PI: Kate Fitzgerald, Soo-Eun Chang
Funding: Rauner Pilot Study

Persistent developmental stuttering is a speech disorder that affects ~1% of the general population and is notoriously difficult to treat, often with life-long psychosocial and emotional consequences. In adults who stutter, approximately 50% report debilitating social anxiety disorder. While negative emotional reactions commonly result from persistent stuttering, it is not clear whether general levels of anxiety in children close to symptom onset predict persistent stuttering. To determine objective behavioral and brain markers of risk for persistent stuttering in young children, we will test early anxiety and brain response to errors, or “error-related negativity” (ERN), as predictors of stuttering severity at 1 year follow-up in an existing longitudinal sample of preschool-aged children who stutter (Chang R01 DC011277). The proposed research considers the established relationship of ERN with high anxiety in our work (Fitzgerald pilot data) and others to apply a developmental perspective to the “vicious cycle” model of stuttering, which posits a hypersensitivity to speech-errors drives stuttering disfluency. Extending this model, we suggest that early anxiety couples with age-related increases in stuttering awareness in young children to heighten sensitivity of the error-monitoring system to lead to persistent speech difficulties. To test this hypothesis, we will collect clinical measures of anxiety, ERN and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRs) in twenty 3-5 year old preschoolers who stutter as they perform an error-eliciting task, designed for young children. Data from fNIRS will allow us to determine how blood flow in neural substrate for error processing (preSMA) correlates with ERN. Ultimately, we expect that the successful completion of this research will position us to submit an R01 application to NIDCD (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders) to establish clinically informed, mechanism-based biomarkers of early stuttering course to guide the identification of children at highest risk for persistent symptoms and to serve as targets for novel interventions to prevent chronic stuttering and related functional impairment.

PI: Henry M. Wellman, Ph.D.
Collaborators: Fei Xu Ph.D., Marjorie Rhodes, Ph.D..
Funding: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the Templeton Foundation

The Infant Cognition Project encompasses multiple studies of children age 6 months to 2 years, examining infants understanding of the social world of self and others. Current studies include: Infants understanding of human intentions, Infants understanding of social allegiances, Infants understanding of sharing, Infants learning about and from others.

Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to explore developmental differences in prefrontal cortex activity of adolescents and adults with ADHD during simulated driving with peer passengers
PI: Anuj K. Pradhan, M.S., Ph.D.; Lisa Buckley, Ph.D.
Collaborators: C. Raymond Bingham, PhD; Christopher Monk, PhD; Bruno Giordani, PhD; Bruce G. Simons-Morton, PhD.
Funding: University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development (Rauner Pilot)

Crash statistics show that adolescent drivers are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes than adults; with the presence of peer passengers being an additional risk factor for crashes. Experimental and observational studies show an association between ADHD drivers and risky driving outcomes. There are differences in brain activity between adults and teens with ADHD in the performance of various cognitive and decision making tasks, especially in regions associated with impulse control, response inhibition and risk taking. In order to study differences in brain activation in male adults and adolescents with ADHD peer passengers we are undertaking an innovative experimental approach. We are using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) technology, a non-invasive optical brain imaging method that allows in vivo measurements of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin in cortical tissue, to study regions in the prefrontal cortex of drivers performing an ecologically valid driving simulation task. Driving related risk-taking behaviors will simultaneously be measured. In addition, participants will undertake a well-validated computerized measure of risk taking (Balloon Analogue Risk Task) as an additional assessment of risk-taking behavior. We hypothesize that for ADHD adolescents the presence of a peer passenger while driving will show different activation in the selected brain regions associated with reward sensitivity, cognitive control, and response inhibition as compared to when driving alone, and that the activation will be different for ADHD adults compared to ADHD adolescents.

PI: Henry M. Wellman, Ph.D.
Collaborators: Lindsay Bowman Kiernan, Ph.D., Ioulia Kovelman, Ph.D, Silvia Bisconti, Ph.D.
Funding: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

PI: Henry M. Wellman, Ph.D.
Collaborators: Margaret Evans, Ph.D., Jonathan Lane Ph.D..
Funding: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the Social Sciences Research Council

PI: Henry M. Wellman, Ph.D.
Collaborators: Candida Peterson, Ph.D., Susan Gelman, Ph.D..
Funding: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICH;p Wellma PI) and the Australian Research Council (Peterson, PI)