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Postdoctoral Research Fellows | Overview

Wenkang An, PhD

Wenkang An, PhD

I received my Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2021, under the supervision of Prof. Barbara Shinn-Cunningham. My dissertation work sought to study the neural representation of human auditory attention. Specifically, I decoded attentional control from multimodal neuroimaging measures (EEG and fMRI) and fused the information in these modalities through a representational similarity analysis framework. In addition, I designed multiple auditory brain-computer interface paradigms, in which I decoded attention from single-trial EEG signals using machine learning. I joined the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience (LCN) in 2021 as a Rosamund Stone Zander Translational Neuroscience Center Postdoctoral Fellow. My goals in the LCN are to understand the neural mechanism underlying impaired abilities in patients with a rare genetic condition and build computational models that can reliably predict autism and developmental outcomes from EEG.

 

Caitlin Clements, PhD

Caitlin Clements, PhD

I joined the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience (LCN) in 2020 as a fellow in the Translational Postdoctoral Training Program in Neurodevelopment. I received my PhD in Psychology (with Clinical Training, child track) from the University of Pennsylvania under the mentorship of Robert Schultz, PhD. My doctoral work focused on autistic symptoms in 22q11.2 Duplication and Deletion Syndromes, reward processing in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and the psychometrics of cognitive assessment in individuals with ASD.  During graduate school, I also completed a Fulbright grant in Sweden at the Karolinska Institutet Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics where I studied genome-wide association approaches to understanding psychiatric genetics. At the LCN, I am studying the development of reward processing and social cognition in young children with rare genetic disorders or at risk for ASD using EEG and other tools. My favorite part of my job is working with families, and clinically I have expertise in ASD, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and managing challenging behaviors.

 

Kelli Dickerson, PhD

Kelli Dickerson, PhD

I joined the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience (LCN) in 2021 after receiving my PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of California, Irvine.  My doctoral work sought to identify mechanisms linking early life stress (e.g., child maltreatment) and risk for socioemotional impairments in children and adolescents and test methods of altering those mechanisms to improve developmental outcomes. In the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, I use a range of modalities (e.g., EEG, eye-tracking, behavioral assessments) to understand the effects of early experiences on brain and behavioral development.  I am currently working on an ongoing project examining biological and bio-behavioral markers of early stress exposure in infants.  In other work, I am investigating how early life stress (e.g., unpredictable maternal care, maternal psychopathology) alters neurodevelopment and behavior in ways that confer risk for later socioemotional problems.

 

Caroline Kelsey, PhD

Caroline Kelsey, PhD

I received my Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Virginia in 2020, under the supervision of Dr. Tobias Grossmann. My dissertation research explored the role of the gut microbiota in infant brain and behavioral development. As part of my research, I used functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to characterize resting state functional brain networks in newborn babies. I was thrilled to join the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience in 2020. Here, I work on an ongoing longitudinal project examining neural, cognitive, and behavioral predictors of emotion processing. I am interested in using fNIRS and eye-tracking to identify early-emerging markers of later social-emotional functioning.

 

Cora Mukerji, PhD

Cora Mukerji, PhD

I received my Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Harvard University in 2020. My dissertation work applied functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and behavioral methods to study neurocognitive processes supporting social functioning in healthy child development and how these processes may go awry in atypical neurodevelopment, contributing to poor social and mental health outcomes. During graduate school and my clinical internship at Boston Children’s Hospital, I became increasingly interested in studying how early experiences interact with unfolding developmental processes to shape risk and resilience for adverse psychosocial outcomes. I was delighted to return to the Nelson Lab as a post-doctoral fellow in the fall of 2020. My current projects focus on mapping pathways by which early life experiences impact development, setting children on paths to maladaptive or resilient social and mental health outcomes.  I am currently leading projects examining how early environmental exposures can “get under the skin,” exerting enduring effects on children’s brain maturation and behavioral development. Through this work, I aim to identify modifiable targets for interventions to improve social functioning and reduce psychiatric risk.

 

Virginia Peisch, PhD

Virginia Peich, PhD

I received my Ph.D. in Developmental and Clinical Psychology from the University of Vermont (UVM) in 2020, under the mentorship of Dr. Keith Burt and Dr. Rex Forehand. I completed my predoctoral clinical internship at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University (2019-2020). In my research, I am interested in identifying risk and protective factors – as well as their dynamic interaction – in predicting psychopathology as well as competence. In my dissertation study, I examined the structure and function of coping in emerging adulthood. I am now working as a postdoctoral clinical and research fellow in the Nelson and Arnett labs. I was drawn to the work of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience for many reasons, one of them being the depth and breadth of research methodologies. I am excited to consider EEG/ERP data when asking questions related to risk and resilience in typically developing children as well as in clinical populations.

 

Valentina Pergher, PhD

Valentina Pergher, PhD

I received my Ph.D. in Biomedical Science from the University of KU Leuven (Belgium) in 2019 under the mentorship of Prof. Marc Van Hulle. My PH.D. focused on the identification of the EEG-ERP signatures of cognitive training during a working memory task, in both healthy individuals and patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer's Disease. From 2019 until 2021, I was a postdoctoral research fellow at KU Leuven University (2019) and Harvard University (2020-2021) with Prof. Lorella Battelli, in the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuropsychology. Furthermore, I completed my bachelor’s degree at the University of Padova (Italy)  in 2013 and master’s degree in 2014, in Developmental Psychology and Clinical Psychology respectively. In 2015 I concluded my clinical internship at the University of Padova and received my attestation as a certified Psychologist. As part of my research in my previous postdoctoral position, I focused on investigating the role that multi-session working memory training coupled with brain stimulation (transcranial random noise stimulation, or tRNS) plays in boosting memory, attention and other executive functions. I also studied the impact of the frequency distribution of the training sessions in modulating cognitive functions, such as memory, attention and fluid intelligence. Beginning in September of 2021, I started working as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Nelson Lab. Here I am working on an ongoing longitudinal study examining neural, cognitive and behavioral responses in children. Long term, I am interested in identifying neural signatures using electroencephalogram (EEG) and Event-related Potentials (ERP), to identify early markers of later cognitive functioning in typically developing children.

 

Laura Pirazzoli, PhD

Laura Pirazzoli, PhD

I received my PhD in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (CBCD), Birkbeck College London, under the supervision of Prof. Mark H. Johnson, Dr. Teea Gliga and Dr. Sarah Lloyd-Fox. My dissertation work focused on the mechanisms involved in social touch processing in infancy. Specifically, I investigated cortical activation and autonomic responses to a particular type of social touch (slow velocity stroking) shown to activate a particular type of skin afferents and elicit affective responses. In my research I applied a variety of tools to answer my research question including fNIRS, EKG, eyetracking and behavioural measures. Given my extended fNIRS training at the CBCD and my interest in the development of this technology, I have been working with Gowerlabs since 2018 where I have been involved in their fNIRS courses and research support program. I joined the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience in January 2019 as a postdoctoral research fellow to work on the Bangladesh Early Adversity Neuroimaging (BEAN) project. This project aims to investigate the impact that early biological and psychosocial adversities have on brain development, using multiple neuroimaging tools (EEG, fNIRS and fMRI). My focus will be on the fNIRS component of the project. My current research investigates how exposure to different forms of early adverse experiences may derail the development of brain regions that support social cognition, and I am also interested in identifying potential protective factors.

 

Kelsey Quigley, PhD

Kelsey Quigley, PhD

I received my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University in 2020 under the mentorship of Dr. Ginger Moore. In my doctoral work, I examined psychophysiological mechanisms by which features of the early environment become biologically embedded to influence later functioning. In particular, I became interested in ways in which parent-infant interactions might shape children’s rapidly-developing self-regulatory systems. This work focused on the autonomic nervous system, which is a central regulator of a variety of psychological and physical processes and whose functioning provides a biomarker of mental and physical health in adulthood. I was thrilled to join the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience (LCN) as a postdoctoral research fellow in August 2020. Here, I work primarily on the Emotion Project, an ongoing longitudinal study of neural, psychophysiological, and psychosocial risk factors for development of anxiety in the first seven years of life. As part of the Emotion Project team, I contribute to preparation and analysis of both autonomic and clinical data. I am particularly interested in the autonomic nervous system’s role as a mediator of early-life environmental conditions and development of psychopathology. Outside the LCN, I also contribute to projects examining bio-behavioral pathways by which childhood trauma might impact mental health in parenthood and factors that might tune the autonomic nervous system for health-promotion, even in the context of adversity.

 

Ran Wei, PhD Ran Wei, PhD
 

Prior to joining the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience (LCN) in the fall of 2021, I received my Ph.D. in Human Development, Learning and Teaching from Harvard University under the mentorship of Dr. Meredith Rowe. Situated at the crossroad of psychology, linguistics, and early childhood education, my doctoral research investigates how the family environment, especially caregivers’ communicative input and beliefs, shapes young children’s language and cognitive development. I have used a wide range of modalities and paradigms (such as eye tracking, behavioral experiments, fine-grained analyses of verbal and nonverbal communication) to examine how early language acquisition unfolds across cultures and languages. My current research in the LCN focuses on understanding the neural circuitry underlying infants’ and toddlers’ executive functions (EF) and identifying the home environment factors that contribute to EF development.

Wanze Xie, PhD

Wanze Xie, PhD

I joined the Nelson Lab and the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscince (LCN) in October 2017 after receiving my Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from University of South Carolina. My dissertation work focused on the development of brain functional connectivity and its relation to infant sustained attention under the supervision of John E. Richards. I am now working as a postdoc research fellow in the Nelson lab in two ongoing studies. In one study, the team members and I are investigating the effect of early adversity on child development by measuring the behaviors and brain development of children who grow up in a poor urban neighborhood in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We use different neuroimaging tools including EEG/ERP, cortical source analysis, fNIRS, structural MRI, and fMRI. I also work on a study examining the development of children’s facial emotion perception using psychophysiological and behavioral measures. In my current role as research fellow in the two projects, I oversee the ERP, cortical source analysis, and connectivity analysis of the data. To learn more about him and his research, please visit his website at www.wanzexie.com.

 

Lisa Yankowitz, PhD Lisa Yankowitz, PhD

I received my PhD in Psychology with Clinical Training from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020, working under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Schultz.  My doctoral research had two arms.  In the first, I investigated structural brain differences associated with autism, and applied newly developed methods to examine the nature of structural differences.  The second arm of my research examined infant vocalizations (e.g., crying, babbling, laughing) in infants at high risk for autism.  I identified features of vocalizations which differ in the first year of life in autism and associated these with functional connectivity (as measured by fMRI).  I completed my predoctoral clinical internship at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.  I was thrilled to join the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience in 2020 as a Clinical-Research Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital.  Here, I work in the Wilkinson and Nelson labs, and am interested in identifying early predictors of autism using EEG and behavioral measures.