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Children's Health & Discovery Initiative Seminar Series

Thursday, March 28, 2019
Aysenil Belger

The goal of the Children’s Health & Discovery Initiative (CHDI) is to foster multidisciplinary and innovative research that will positively impact childhood and lifelong health. Efforts in four key research focus areas (genes and biology, physical environment, social and economic factors, and health and behavior needs) will inform prevention, risk screening, and treatment, as well as provide training opportunities for the next generation of pediatrician-scientists to learn from Duke’s cadre of experts. As part of our goal of fostering multidisciplinary collaborations, the CHDI is holding seminar/brainstorming sessions, which we’ve termed “Great Minds Think for Kids”. These sessions will include a 40-minute research-in-progress talk from a guest speaker, followed by a 40-minute brainstorming/group discussion session led by the guest speaker and a member of the CHDI scientific leadership.

Details about the April seminar/brainstorming session follow:

Date: April 22, 2019
Time: 8:45 am to 10:00 am
Location: Trent Semans Center, Room 3025 (Classroom 3)

Seminar Title: "Stress, Brain and Cognition in High-Risk Adolescents”
Speaker: Aysenil Belger, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology
Director, Psychiatry Neuroimaging Research
Director, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine

Aysenil Belger, PhD is a professor of psychiatry and psychology, and director of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, and has served as director of the Clinical Translational Core of the UNC Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center since 2003. She holds joint appointments in the Psychology Department at UNC and at the Brain Imaging and Analysis Center at Duke University. Her research focuses on translational and interdisciplinary studies of the maturation of cortical circuits underlying attention, executive function and emotion processing in the human brain, as well as their breakdown in neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders. Dr. Belger combines functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electrophysiological scalp recording (EEG), functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), experimental psychology and neuropsychological assessment techniques to explore the behavioral and neurophysiological underpinnings of sensory and cognitive impairments across disorders. Her integrative research has most recently examined electrophysiological and functional abnormalities in young autistic children, as well as children, adolescents and adults at clinical and familial risk for psychosis. Dr. Belger is part of a large interdisciplinary team of investigators conducting multi-institutional studies exploring the impact of early childhood abuse and neglect on adult brain function, structure and substance abuse outcomes.

Recent studies from Dr. Belger’s laboratory have demonstrated that parents of children with autism share phenotypic and neurobiological markers associated with aberrant social information processing. Additionally, her lab has demonstrated that abnormal neural oscillatory activity in multiple frequency bandwidths are associated with specific higher order cognitive and affective processing impairments in patients with schizophrenia and their unaffected first-degree relatives. She currently examines stress regulation and brain function in adolescence, and risk for severe mental illness in children with anxiety and ADHD.

Dr. Belger has over 100 peer-reviewed publications, has served as a permanent member of multiple NIH study sections since 2000, and on numerous University and National Committees. She eagerly mentors multiple undergraduate, graduate and medical students, postdoctoral trainees and junior faculty, and teaches Cognitive Clinical Neuroscience at UNC.