Brain Structure & Function

In our lab, we are interested in how psychological traits manifest in individual differences in brain function and morphology.  We primarily use structural and functional MRI methodologies to test our hypotheses about brain-behavior relationships. One brain region of particular interest is the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), a region which is the phylogenetically newest part of the brain and shows the most expansion relative to our closest primate relatives. This region is associated with reward and motivational processing and has been implicated in multiple neurodevelopmental and psychiatric illnesses, including schizophrenia, autism, and attention deficit disorder. Our lab's structural neuroimaging work has built upon and refined a tracing procedure that identifies patterns that form within the H-sulcus of the OFC. Our findings suggest that the OFC patterns may be one risk factor contributing to risk for several brain disorders. We have also identified the distinct spatial locations of reward-selective functional nodes in the OFC and have found that these tend to lie in distinct spatial locations along the H-sulcus. Ongoing work in the lab is exploring whether these patterns confer risk for substance abuse disorders, as well as developing tools that automate the tracing and characterization procedure.