Ongoing Projects

Building Regulation In Dual Generations (BRIDGE)
Effects of Acute Stress on Young Children
Interactions Between Brain Function and Stress Physiology
Individual Differences in Neurocognitive Function

Building Regulation In Dual Generations (BRIDGE)
The BRIDGE program is under development as a novel intervention designed for mothers with mental illness and their preschool-age children. It is tailored to meet the needs of needs of families managing chronic stress, who are at particular risk for intergenerational mental illness. The program is built on best-practice approaches for improving self-regulation, the effortful control of emotion and behaviour, a transdiagnostic factor implicated in a range of psychopathologies. The long-term goal of this research is to develop targeted and scalable programs that can improve health, achievement, and well-being outcomes for families of young children. Our intervention work aligns with principals from the Frontiers of Innovation Network at the Harvard Centre on the Developing Child, where Dr. Roos consults on program evaluation.

 

Effects of Acute Stress on Young Children
We have developed a laboratory-based induction of acute stress for preschool-aged children, shown to modulate cortisol and indices of parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system activity (Roos, Giuliano, Beauchamp, Gunnar, Amidon, & Fisher, 2017). During the acute stressor, children perform a measure of executive function. Performance on this task varies as a function of gender, socioeconomic adversity, and stress reactivity, such that being female, coming from lower adversity, and exhibiting stronger stress reactivity are associated with better performance during the stressor (Roos, Beauchamp, Giuliano, Zalewski, Kim, & Fisher, 2018).

 

Interactions Between Brain Function and Stress Physiology
Recently, we have shown that individual differences in Event-Related Potential (ERP) measures of selective attention covary with autonomic nervous system activity. In young children, heightened activity of the sympathetic nervous system as measured by pre-ejection period (PEP) is associated with greater ability to ignore distracting sounds during a story-time listening task — moreover, we found that children with blunted PEP levels may be particularly at risk for the pernicious effects of socioeconomic risk on the development of distractor suppression (Giuliano, Karns, Roos, Bell, Petersen, Skowron, Neville, & Pakulak, in press). Similar results observed amongst adults demonstrate that heightened sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity are both associated with more robust effects of selective attention as measured by ERPs (Giuliano, Karns, Bell, Petersen, Skowron, Neville, & Pakulak, 2018). These findings demonstrate that both branches of the autonomic nervous system make unique contributions to brain function underlying selective attention, with different profiles seen earlier and later in life.

 

Individual Differences in Neurocognitive Function
Across studies, a major goal of our research is to characterize variability in performance and biological function across individuals. This research has tended to focus on factors associated with individual differences in attention and executive function, including brain function as measured by fMRI and ERPs, stress physiology as measured by Cortisol and autonomic nervous system activity, environmental influences such as exposure to poverty and chronic stressors, and differential responsivity to interventions.