College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
The faculty in the Developmental Psychopathology Research Group conduct basic and translational research that encompasses diverse questions, is informed by various theoretical perspectives, and deploys a broad range of methodologies. They share a common goal of elucidating the origins and mechanisms of adaptive and maladaptive developmental trajectories and pathways, as well as identifying biomarkers for neurodevelopmental disorders. Our interests span a wide range of processes, including language, cognition, social-emotional development, social cognition, self-regulation, temperament, and parent-child relationships. These transdiagnostic processes are highly relevant to a range of clinical and developmental disorders, including anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, psychosis spectrum, specific language impairment, dyslexia, and substance use disorders across a wide age range (from infancy to adulthood). Such processes are also relevant to broad developmental phenomena associated with risk and resilience, as well as pathways of positive adaptation, growth, and competence.
Specialized graduate training in developmental psychopathology can be pursued through any of our broad graduate training areas (Behavioral & Cognitive Neuroscience, Cognition, or Clinical Science) or through our Individualized Graduate Training Track. We invite applications from interested candidates with a strong commitment to research. Graduate student applicants with interests in developmental psychopathology should first identify one or more potential mentors. Potential applicants are then encouraged to contact these specific faculty for further information on how to apply. Once accepted into the graduate program, students and their mentors will design individualized, student-centered programs of study that best fit their interests and their future career objectives. Graduate training in Developmental Psychopathology can be pursued both with and without training as a licensed clinical psychologist.
The Developmental Psychopathology Research Group is closely aligned with the Developmental Science Research Group, which focuses on understanding the basic processes and mechanisms of developmental change in language, cognitive, and perceptual-motor skills. Members of the Developmental Psychopathology Research Group are also closely aligned with the Behavioral & Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, with a focus on the neurobiological mechanisms in the brain underlying neurodevelopmental pathologies. Students with interests in these areas should contact potential faculty mentors for further information about opportunities for graduate study.
Participating Developmental Psychopathology Research Group faculty and their interests are described below:
- Bengi Baran studies the role of sleep oscillations in the emergence of neurodevelopmental disorders, and directs the Neurodevelopment and Psychopathology (NAP) Lab. The ultimate goal of their research is to identify sleep-related biomarkers of psychosis spectrum disorders that predict symptoms and cognitive functioning. This work is strongly guided by psychiatric genetics and animal models. Her lab exploits multimodal neuroimaging and electrophysiology techniques to investigate these questions.
- Grazyna Kochanska studies young children’s adaptive and maladaptive socio-emotional developmental trajectories. She emphasizes the interplay of child temperament and multiple aspects of the parent-child relationship, including early attachment, control and discipline, and internal representations. Her laboratory deploys a broad range of observational methods, complemented by interviews, questionnaires, and biological measures, typically using longitudinal designs.
- Bob McMurray studies development and learning in language and reading in children and adults. A great deal of his work examines children with atypical trajectories, such as children with developmental language disability, children with reading disability, and adults and children who face hearing loss and use cochlear implants. His work combines behavioral techniques like eye-tracking and cognitive neuroscientific techniques (electrophysiology) to study a range of developmental outcomes.
- Ece Demir-Lira studies how neural plasticity and parental input work together to shape children’s cognitive and language development. She studies how these processes operate in typically-developing children, children with early focal brain injury, as well as in children from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Dorit Kliemann studies the neuroscience of human social behavior from a basic research perspective, as well as in its applications to psychiatric (e.g., Autism Spectrum Disorders, Anxiety) and neurological (e.g., focal brain lesions due to epilepsy) conditions. A research focus is on compensation and re-organization in the brain with the aim to identify biomarkers for intact and impaired social cognition. The Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab uses a multimodal approach (including behavioral, eye-tracking, lesion studies, structural and functional MRI) to study brain-cognition-behavior relations that produce complex social cognition.
- Amanda McCleery studies the developmental course of schizophrenia-spectrum conditions across the lifespan. Her work is focused on identifying risk and protective factors in vulnerable individuals (e.g., young people with psychotic-like experiences, individuals with a family history of psychosis), and understanding clinical, cognitive, and functional trajectories across phases of psychotic illness (i.e., prodromal phase, early psychosis, and chronic or multi-episode psychosis). The Mechanisms of Adult and Youth Psychopathology Lab (MAYPL) uses a multimethod approach, combining clinical interviews, performance-based assessments of perception and cognition, and electrophysiology.
- Molly Nikolas studies mechanisms that underlie the development of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, with a focus on the interplay between genetic, neurocognitive, and contextual factors. Her work employs multiple analytic methods across genetic, cognitive, and behavioral levels of analyses to understand the onset and maintenance of ADHD and comorbid externalizing psychopathology across development.
- Isaac Petersen studies how children develop externalizing behavior problems with a particular focus on underlying self-regulation deficits. His work uses longitudinal designs to examine bio-psycho-social mechanisms and multiple levels of analysis, including brain functioning (EEG/ERP), stress, temperament, parenting, and language skills.
- Jodie Plumert studies how deficits in children’s attention and self-regulation affect risky decision-making, and the role that parent-child conversations play in the development of self-regulation. The Hank Virtual Environments Lab uses immersive virtual reality technology to create simulated high-risk situations (e.g., crossing roads with traffic) to study these processes in vivo.
Faculty within the Developmental Psychopathology Research Group conduct their interdisciplinary research with collaborators in departments across the university, including Computer Science, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, College of Nursing, and Public Health. For example, recent interdisciplinary student projects have involved:
- Examination of associations between chromosomal telomere length and ADHD symptomatology and impairment.
- Use of virtual environment technology to examine the impact of parent-child conversations about safety on children’s risky behavior when crossing roads.
- Genetic and neurocognitive factors that link risk associated with preterm birth to ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood.
Potential collaborators outside the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences include:
College of Nursing:
Lisa Segre, Ph.D.
Carver College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry:
Hanna Stevens, M.D., Ph.D.
Jacob Michaelson, Ph.D.
Peggy Nopoulos, M.D.
Jatin Vaidya, Ph.D.
Carver College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics:
Kelli Ryckman, Ph.D.
John Dagle, M.D., Ph.D.
In addition to their primary involvement in their mentors’ laboratories, students will engage in interdisciplinary coursework, participate in broader scientific communities (e.g., DeLTA Center), and have access to settings that offer clinical training and/or clinical-research opportunities.
Examples of settings that offer clinical training and/or clinical-research opportunities in child and adolescent psychopathology:
- The Seashore Clinic (the in-house clinic for the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences)
- The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, including the Stead Family Children’s Hospital
- The Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic
For more information about clinical training settings, please visit the Clinical Science area page or contact Dr. Molly Nikolas or Dr. Isaac Petersen.
Faculty in Developmental Psychopathology
Bengi BaranAssistant Professor
Sleep-related developmental biomarkers of psychopathology; Psychotic disorders and individuals at familial/clinical high risk; Sleep electrophysiology; Resting-state functional connectivity MRI; Event-Related Potentials; Sleep-dependent memory consolidation and emotional processing
Ece Demir-LiraAssistant Professor
Developmental cognitive neuroscience; Academic development; Socioeconomic status; Parent-child interactions; Brain plasticity; Typical and atypical development;
Grazyna KochanskaStuit Professor of Developmental Psychology
Social development, Processes of socialization, Development of conscience, Parent-child interaction, Child temperament and its role in social development, Developmental psychopathology
Amanda McCleeryAssistant Professor
Psychosis and psychosis-risk; perception; cognition (social and non-social); neuroplasticity; interventions; community functioning
Bob McMurrayF. Wendell Miller Professor
Speech Perception, Development, Word Learning, Cognitive Neuroscience, Individual Differences and Atypical populations.
Molly NikolasAssociate Professor, Director of Clinical Training
developmental psychopathology and gene-environment interplay; etiology of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and externalizing spectrum behaviors; role of neurocogntiive functioning in developmental trajectories of ADHD; injury and health risks associated with ADHD
Isaac PetersenAssistant Professor
Clinical child psychology, developmental psychopathology, externalizing behavior problems, self-regulation, school readiness, developmental cognitive neuroscience
Jodie PlumertProfessor, Starch Faculty Fellow
Risk taking in typically- and atypically-developing populations, perceptual-motor development, unintentional childhood injuries, parent-child communication, development of spatial memory and communication