Current and Future Interests
My research philosophy is rooted in an integrative and multidisciplinary approach to scientific research.
Broadly, my research interests include using neuroimaging to answer fundamental questions within neuroscience regarding memory encoding, executive functioning/cognitive control, emotion regulation, and neurobiological mechanisms of the stress response, with clinically relevant applications including, but not limited to, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With regard to these aforementioned topics, I have a keen interest in exploring basic neurobiological mechanisms that can be applied to explain behaviour in both human and non-human animals. My research interests markedly include other avenues within neuroscience, such as how perceived social support affects the development and maintenance of psychiatric illness. Furthermore, from a developmental neuropsychology perspective, I am also interested in examining how phenomena such as executive functioning, cognitive control, and the individual stress response, are influenced and calibrated by neuronal development, and in turn, how this may influence behaviour and psychiatric illness.
The primary focus of my current research is on characterizing the neural circuitry of individuals who have been exposed to extremely traumatic events, in which subsequent psychiatric illness has developed. These research efforts have allowed me to explore a variety of domains pertaining to clinical, behavioural, and computational neuroscience. Taken together, my current research studies largely relate to the neural and behavioural correlates of altered memory and cognitive functioning, in addition to the re-wiring of functional connections within the brain following life-threatening events. Critically memory, attention, and cognitive processes are commonly affected by trauma, yet their neural correlates in relation to trauma are poorly understood.
One of my many passions resides in the application of mathematical and statistical theory in order to implement novel brain-computer interfaces as potential adjunctive treatments. Personally, I find neuroimaging to be a particularly fascinating modality because it provides an intersect by which statistical methods can be “brought to life” by applying them to answer practical research questions that are based in psychology and neuroscience. I have a wide range of experience with both simple statistical approaches such as univariate analyses and statistical parametric mapping, as well as with complex topics related to Bayesian statistical theory, dynamic causal modelling, and machine learning applications. Further reflected in my current research efforts is my interest in characterizing psychiatric heterogeneity and identifying subtypes of illness, such as dissociative symptoms in trans-diagnostic psychiatric populations. More specifically, I am interested in how dissociative responses affect neural correlates of spatial awareness, interoception, consciousness, and proprioception.
POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating psychiatric illness, characterized by symptoms of vivid re-experiencing of traumatic events, avoidance, alterations in cognitions and mood, as well as hyperarousal. Additionally, dissociation involves detachment from immediate somatic or environmental experience and often occurs during trauma, modulating its immediate psychophysiological impact. Recently, a dissociative subtype of PTSD has been recognized, characterizing individuals experiencing significant emotional detachment and hypo-emotionality, including symptoms of depersonalization (out-of-body experiences) and derealization (one's world appears to be dream-like and unreal). Typically, individuals with the dissociative subtype of PTSD have a history of more severe early-life trauma, higher PTSD severity, and single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with dissociation. One of my many research interests include examining differential biomarkers of PTSD and the dissociative subtype of PTSD using neuroimaging (fMRI, real-time fMRI and PET) and EEG, as well as examining trans-diagnostic biomarkers of other psychiatric disorders.