2014 Society for Research in Psychopathology Award Winner
S. Alexandra Burt, PhD
Michigan State University
S. Alexandra Burt’s research examines the role of gene-environment interplay in the development of externalizing forms of psychopathology such as conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and ADHD. Her research has led to significant progress in identifying the origins of externalizing disorders and related behaviors such as aggression.
Burt is co-director of the Michigan State University Twin Registry (MSUTR), where more than 24,000 twins have been enrolled to date, with twin participants spanning several developmental stages–including childhood, adolescence, and adulthood–to ensure that genetic, environmental, and biological risk factors specific to particular developmental periods are identified and examined.
Burt has engaged in numerous activities to raise public awareness of the importance of mental health and twin research, including a website to engage twin families in the research process (see http://msutwinstudies.com/). Her work has been featured in the New York Times; CBS and ABC News; The Daily Telegraph; Minnnesota Public Radio, and numerous other media outlets. She is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters.
Burt is co-director of MSUTR, a population-based twin registry housed in the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and behavioral genetics from the University of Minnesota in 2004.
Thomas L. Griffiths, PhD
University of California, Berkeley
Thomas L. Griffiths has been at the heart of a set of ideas that have revolutionized cognitive science. He has used the Bayesian approach to provide deep, novel insights into core topics in cognitive psychology such as semantic memory, causal learning, similarity, and categorization. His work is distinctive in drawing on current work in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and statistics to provide new, formal tools for understanding human cognition.
Griffiths has also explored how Bayesian models of cognition might be applied in the context of cultural evolution. His research provides a formal account of how we might expect cultural universals to be derived from individual cognition — a fundamental question in anthropology and linguistics.
Griffiths also has made important advances in machine learning motivated by considering cognitive problems. In particular, his work on nonparametric Bayesian statistics resulted in the definition of a new class of stochastic processes and his algorithms for inference in topic models are widely used in the information retrieval community.
Griffiths work on probabilistic reasoning was featured in The Economist, and a paper on the reconstruction of ancient languages, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, generated an extended feature on BBC Radio, among other press. Griffiths is currently engaged in writing a book introducing key ideas from computational cognitive science to a popular audience.
Griffiths is director of the Computational Cognitive Science Lab and the Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 2005.
Matthew W. Johnson, PhD
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Matthew W. Johnson’s research has focused on two domains within the behavioral pharmacology of conventional and novel drugs of abuse.
The first research domain is the application of behavioral economic concepts such as delay discounting and demand elasticity to advance our understanding of decision making in addiction. Johnson has pioneered the use of delay-discounting to understand poor decision-making and risky sexual behavior associated with HIV among individuals who abuse psychomotor stimulants.
A second research area concerns the abuse liability and characterization of novel and atypical behaviorally active drugs in humans.This has included the evaluation of drugs not always viewed as having abuse potential. In an influential paper, he assessed the safety of emerging, novel hallucinogens that are under scientific investigation and may have clinical efficacy.
Johnson has appeared on a number of news shows including CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Show and NPR’s Morning Edition, and he has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post and other major national and international media outlets.
Johnson is an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. in general and experimental psychology and bio-behavioral specialization from the University of Vermont in 2004, after which he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit at Johns Hopkins in 2007.
Ethan F. Kross conducts research on a number of important topics in social psychology, including emotion and emotion-regulation, affective and social neuroscience, self and self-regulation, and judgment and decision-making. His scholarship is both novel and integrative, cutting across typical disciplinary boundaries to examine such issues as self-control and emotion using techniques from a broad methodological toolbox, studying varied populations across the lifespan, and using varied levels of analysis. He has explored the pain of heartbreak and social rejection, the role of social media in subjective well-being, differential neural patterns of self-control, and how individuals make meaning out of negative experiences.
Kross’s work has relevance to clinical and developmental contexts, to behavioral medicine and education, and to policy more broadly. By highlighting the value of social psychology across many different arenas, he has successfully taken social psychology into prominence in science and beyond. His work has been cited in hundreds of newspaper, magazine, and television pieces worldwide, and featured as a “choice article” in Science. Kross was also an invited participant at the 2013 White House on Psychological Science and Behavioral Economics in the Service of of Public Policy.
Kross is an assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Michigan. He completed a post-doctoral research fellowship in social and affective neuroscience at Columbia University in 2007. He earned his Ph.D. in social psychology in 2007 from Columbia University.
Sid O’Bryant, PhD
University of North Texas Health Science Center
Sid O’Bryant’s research has focused largely on diagnostics of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment using both neuropsychological and proteomic methods.
O’Bryant has been working on the identification of a blood test that can be utilized by primary care providers to determine which elderly patients should be referred for specialty assessment for possible AD. In 2010 O’Bryant and colleagues published a blood-based proteomic profile that yielded excellent diagnostic accuracy in detecting AD, and in 2011 they were the first group to cross-validate such an approach across independent cohorts. O’Bryant and colleagues refined the algorithm and validated it on an assay platform that is readily available and can be implemented in most laboratory settings. They have translated their method back to the bench-top, validating the approach as highly accurate at detecting AD pathology in human and mouse brain tissue as well as mouse peripheral serum.
His body of research is moving the field toward an algorithm that can yield excellent diagnostic accuracy at detecting even very mild AD, thereby moving closer to the possibility of a point-of-care device.
O’Bryant maintains a very active role in raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease science across all levels including features on English- and Spanish-speaking radio and television; newspaper and magazine articles; outreach to local agencies, particularly those working with underserved populations; and presentations at national and international scientific organizations.
O’Bryant completed his post-doctoral fellowship in neuropsychology at New Orleans VA Medical Center in 2005, and he earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the State University of New York at Albany in 2004.
Greg Hajcak Proudfit, PhD
Stony Brook University
Greg H. Proudfit is interested in emotional and cognitive functioning using neural and psychophysiological measures. Proudfit has examined fundamental neural systems that respond to errors, reward, and other emotional stimuli in relation to anxiety, depression, and psychosis. Proudfit has extended this work into pediatric populations, and is increasingly examining error- and reward-related brain activity in relation to risk for psychopathology and the degree to which psychophysiological measures can prospectively predict changes in symptoms over time using large and longitudinal designs.
As part of various NIMH-funded projects, Proudfit is following multiple cohorts of children into early adulthood to examine neural measures that predict and distinguish trajectories of risk for anxiety and depressive disorders. In this way, his work is contributing to a better understanding of specific biomarkers of risk. The long-term goal of these studies is to better understand mechanisms of risk for anxiety and depression, to identify modifiable biomarkers of risk, and to leverage these biomarkers to inform intervention and prevention efforts.
Proudfit has given lectures all over the United States and internationally, and he has been an invited teacher at a number of NIMH-sponsored trainings, including the Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience. Proudfit has presented his research to committees at both the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Cancer Institute, and his studies enroll more than 1,400 adolescents in the Stony Brook Community, and these families become involved in science—both through hands-on participation and newsletter updates.
Proudfit is an associate professor of psychology at Stony Brook University in New York. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Delaware in 2006.
Yakeel T. Quiroz, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
Yakeel T. Quiroz’s research focus is on characterizing preclinical biomarkers and early diagnosis paradigms in Alzheimer’s disease. There is a consensus in the scientific community that the key to success in treating Alzheimer’s disease is to begin therapies as early as possible before significant brain damage occurs.
Quiroz’s research interests have focused on studying the neural underpinnings of memory dysfunction in the preclinical and clinical stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and in particular, the impact on Hispanic populations. Her doctoral research sought to characterize the earliest pre-symptomatic functional and structural brain changes associated with genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease using a multimodal imaging approach. By applying her efforts to the world’s largest family with a single, early onset AD-causing mutation (E280A in PSENI), she provided evidence of brain imaging abnormalities in young adults at genetic risk for AD decades before the kindred’s average age at clinical onset. These findings promise to help clarify the trajectory of measurable biological changes that precede the onset of symptoms in patients with AD, helping the field to re-conceptualize AD as a sequence of changes that begin decades before cognitive decline, and which may be targeted by promising disease-slowing treatments at a time in which they might have their most profound effect.
Her research has resulted in four first-authored papers published in peer-reviewed journals that have generated considerable discussion in the field. Quiroz received the National Academy of Neuropsychology Outstanding Dissertation Award in the United States and the Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences Prize from the Alejandro Angel Escobar Foundation in Colombia. She has presented her work at multiple national and international conferences and works to educate the public through the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzforum.
Quiroz is a clinical/research fellow in neuropsychology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Boston University in 2013.