Rachel Upjohn Building 4250 Plymouth Rd Ann Arbor, MI 48109
My interests include the use of multiple biological and psychological approaches to understand human thoughts and behaviors in mental health and illness – especially with a developmental perspective. Thus, my scholarly interests range from the brain-basis and psychology of social bonding across development and through evolution.
My group is currently focused on the cognitive neuroscience that underlies the risk, resilience and recovery associated with mental health issues. In particular, we are interested in the thoughts, behaviors and brain physiology involved in human attachment. One example of human bonding that we are focusing on is the parent-infant bond. Over the last few years, we have accumulated an extensive database on parents in the early postpartum, which includes interviews, self-reports, video assessments, and brain imaging. We have been conducting functional magnetic resonance imaging while parents attend to emotionally charged baby stimuli. We are beginning to describe the ways that key emotion-regulation brain circuits are activated in parents’ brains by baby stimuli in ways that correlate with parenting thoughts and behaviors in healthy parents as well as vulnerable groups such as parents with postpartum depression and anxiety. We are also investigating the relationship between the activity of key brain circuits and infant development. Furthermore, we are expanding our work to include the effects of the chronic stress of low soceoeconomic status through development on a range of brain circuits, some of which are involved in parental care and may mediate health risk and resilience.
Clinically, I have particular clinical expertise and interest in the assessment, classification and treatment of mental health issues in children and families. I have focused my clinical work child and perinatal mental health clinics that identify and treat child, adolescent and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder, Tourette's disorder and problems that affect pregnancy and early infancy.