Developmental Brown Bag
Jillian Wiggins, Doctoral Candidate, Developmental Psychology, University of Michigan
Monday, October 22, 2012,
12:00 pm 1:00 pm
3447 East Hall
Genetic influences on amygdala function in typical development and autism spectrum disorders: A practice job talk
Presenter: Jillian Lee Wiggins
Adaptive social-emotional functioning develops over a protracted time course and requires coordinating and integrating cognitive, social, and affective faculties. Environmental insults, in conjunction with individual vulnerabilities, can alter the trajectory of social-emotional development at multiple sensitive points throughout the lifespan and result in psychopathology. Despite the importance of social-emotional functioning, the neural and genetic mechanisms mediating the emergence of social-emotional processes in both normative development and psychopathology are just beginning to be specified.
Within this developmental neuroscience framework, my research goal is to identify the brain and genetic mechanisms involved in the development of both normal and impaired social-emotional functioning. In Study 1, we examined genetic influences on a brain structure involved in social processes, the amygdala, across childhood and adolescence in healthy participants. We specifically focused on the serotonin transporter-linked promoter region (5-HTTLPR), whose genetic variants code for higher and lower production levels of serotonin transporter in the brain, as 5-HTTLPR has been known to influence social brain function. In Study 2, we investigated how 5-HTTLPR’s influence on the amygdala might differ in an impaired developing population, children and adolescents with autism. Identifying how developmental trajectories diverge in psychopathology, such as autism, is important for our overall understanding of socio-emotional processes.
Jillian Lee Wiggins graduated with her BA in Psychology from Wheaton College and her MS in Social Psychology from Texas A&M University. Jillian is currently a doctoral candidate in the Developmental Psychology with advisors Christopher Monk and Catherine Lord. Her research focuses on the brain and genetic mechanisms of social-emotional processes in development, particularly in developmental psychopathology such as autism spectrum disorders.