Behavioural Research Unit, Alberta Children's Hospital
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The broad goal of my research is to study the impact of the stress response on the regulation of emotion, particularly in young people. Dysfunction in emotional regulation is at the heart of major depression and bipolar disorder, and there is no doubt that stress often plays a pivotal role in these illnesses. Uncovering the neurobiology of mood disorders is the core of my work. Reward processing (an aspect of emotional regulation) in addictions is a developing interest as well.
I also maintain an interest in other psychiatric disorders found in young people, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, all of which I have worked on in the past.
We use a number of experimental techniques to answer these questions. These include, but are not limited to: (1) volumetric magnetic resonance imaging (manual tracing, voxel based morphometry and cortical thickness), (2) diffusion tensor imaging, (3) magnetic resonance spectroscopy (proton mainly, and phosphorous if possible) and (4) functional magnetic resonance imaging. Obviously, neuroimaging techniques provide only part of the 'whole picture': other tools such as endocrine assessments, behavioral studies and rigorous psychiatric examination must be combined in order to understand the manner in which changes in emotional regulation are related to stress and disease.
The larger, 30,000 feet goal is to have my outcome-focused research have a positive and useful impact upon clinical practice in ways that will better the lives of children affected by mental illness.