The neural mechanisms of regulation support socioemotional competence 63,74 and may operate as resilience
factors in the face of developmental risk for psychopathology 13,17. Investigating how these neural mechanisms
emerge and change during infancy may identify critical periods of intervention and individual and contextual
factors that condition neurodevelopmental trajectories. Three major gaps exist in this literature: 1) Neural
correlates of regulation are well established in the adult literature but have not been examined longitudinally
during infancy. 2) The effects of temperament risk, parental psychopathology, and parent-child transactions have
only been linked to cross-sectional studies of neural activity, rather than to neurodevelopmental trajectories. 3)
The neurocognitive mechanisms underlying the socialization of regulation and psychopathology in parent-child
transactions are poorly understood. In this proposal, the first two gaps will be addressed by the dissertation
project, and a plan is presented to address the third gap with the postdoctoral research.
In the F99 phase, four repeated measures of infant electroencephalogram (EEG) from 8 to 24 months
postpartum will be used to map infant trajectories of neural markers implicated in regulation during childhood
and adulthood. The EEG data will provide two neural correlates: delta-beta synchrony and network connectivity.
At each laboratory visit, infant resting-state EEG is collected, and mother-child interactions are videotaped during
a 5-minute free-play task. Additionally, primary caregivers report on their child’s temperament and their own
anxiety at each wave. These repeated measures design will enable the applicant to address three main
questions: 1) How local and global neural mechanisms underlying regulation emerge and change during infancy.
2) How these neural trajectories are influenced by infant negative affect and maternal anxiety. 3) How dyadic
patterns of positive affect and responsivity in the mother-infant relationship impact these neural trajectories. In
the K00 phase, the applicant will use novel techniques to assess dyadic neural and cognitive activity in mother-
child interactions in order to map specific regulation socialization strategies to neural synchrony, joint attention,
and risk for anxiety.
The current proposal entails an integrated pre- and postdoctoral training plan to prepare the applicant as an
independent researcher in developmental neuroscience. There are four overarching training goals: 1) Gain
expertise in the study of infant brain development. 2) Learn and apply advanced quantitative methods and dyadic
analysis to the study of brain development. 3) Expand dyadic analysis of mother-child interactions to the neural
and cognitive systems and. 4) Develop strong scientific writing and teaching skills. These training goals will
effectively prepare the applicant to transition from the predoctoral to the postdoctoral training and build a career
program that can be taken into an independent, tenure-track position as a developmental neuroscientist.