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Emotional and Developmental Branch Emotion and Development Branch (E & D)

Emotion and Development Branch - Current Research

Current Research


Anxiety and depression are serious conditions in children that carry an increased risk for later anxiety or depression in adulthood. The section on Development and Affective Neurosciences (SDAN) seeks to understand how information processing in the brain is different among children, adolescents, and adults who have anxiety and/or depression across the lifespan and compared to healthy volunteers. SDAN uses this information to develop better treatments for these conditions.

Over the last decade, brain circuitry that plays a major role in fear and reward emotions has been linked to several different brain structures/regions. The work of the Section is to understand how this circuitry relates to impairment and recovery from anxiety and depression.

Some youth with anxiety disorders continue to manifest such disorders as adults; others develop mood disorders; and still others have no psychopathology as adults. It is important to understand how brain circuitry plays a role in these outcomes. For this reason, a second line of investigation also seeks to understand how this circuitry changes and functions over time in those at the risk for development of these conditions.

SDAN uses Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to identify altered brain circuitry in those with Social Anxiety, Generalized Anxiety, and behaviorally inhibited temperament in order to inform treatment development and outcome prediction in pediatric anxiety disorders.


BSD focuses on two severe pediatric mood disorders with significant public health impact: bipolar disorder (BD) and chronic, severe irritability. Our studies of irritability include both youth with the DSM-5 diagnosis of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) and those whose irritability is more mild but still impairing. Our work consists of studies on the brain mechanisms underlying BD and irritability, and on testing novel treatments for DMDD. We conduct pathophysiological research, based on systems neuroscience principles and techniques, with the goal of informing novel treatment development.