As Miami’s first and only public research university, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, Florida International University is worlds ahead in its service to the academic and local community. Designated as a top-tier research institution, FIU emphasizes research as a major component in the university’s mission. The Stollstorff Lab, Cognitive Neuroscience Department and the Center for Children and Families, are just three of many programs that actively enhance the university’s ability to set new standards through research initiatives.
The Stollstorff Lab studies the neurobiological bases for individual differences in the way we think and feel (cognition & emotion), using a general framework: genes to brain to behavior. Genes that influence neurotransmitter function (e.g., DAT1/dopamine, 5-HTTLPR/serotonin, BDNF) can relate to differences in functional brain activation (e.g., in prefrontal cortex, striatum, amygdala) and in turn, to individual differences in cognition/emotion/behavior (e.g., executive function, reasoning bias, emotional reactivity). Environmental context is an important player in the way our genes influence our behavior. Individuals can respond sometimes in opposite ways, depending on how their genes interact with the specific contextual demands.
The lab’s underlying theme is cognitive control (the ability to maintain and manipulate information towards a goal). Lines of investigation stemming from this theme include: ADHD, emotional regulation, and deductive reasoning bias (see PROJECTS). What role do genes play in the modulation of emotion-cognition interaction? How do genes influence response to treatment in children with ADHD, who often struggle with cognitive control? How do genes that relate to cognitive control contribute to biases in logical reasoning, and how could this interaction influence the brain during legal decisions, especially under highly emotional circumstances? Using the combination of behavioral, fMRI, genetic and pharmacological techniques, the Stollstorff Lab studies both healthy adults, adolescents and children and those with neuropsychological disorders to answer these questions.
The lab uses a variety of complementary techniques, such as…
- fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
We use fMRI to measure task-evoked patterns of brain activation and connectivity.
- Specific genetic polymorphisms have an influence on neurotransmitter systems, brain structure and function and are oftentimes related to neuropsychiatric disorders. We look at how these genes relate to individual differences in functional brain activation and cognition.
- Example genes of interest: DAT1, DRD4, 5-HTTLPR, BDNF, FTO
How does the brain and cognition change with the administration of drugs that target neurotransmitter systems? Do the medication induced effects differ by genotype? How can we use this knowledge to inform treatment for neuropsychiatric disorders, such as ADHD, anxiety or depression?
- Cognitive Tests (e.g., N-back task, Stoop Task, reasoning tasks)
- Self-report Questionnaires