I work with Dean Jean King, where our research is broadly focused on identifying and studying neurobehavioral mechanisms of mental illness and developing effective interventions. We currently use functional MRI (fMRI) to identify the neural correlates of mindfulness based stress reduction as part of a stage IIa randomized clinical trial, and fMRI data combined with related clinical measures to develop machine learning based early predictors of severe depression and suicidality. I developed a transgenerational social stress based rodent model of postpartum depression/anxiety, and related clinical work explores the role of behavioral hormones, discrimination, and epigenetic changes in postpartum depression/anxiety. Ongoing animal research includes the impact of social stress, alcohol, and air pollution on behavior, immune factors, neural connectivity, neuroendocrinology, and related epigenetic changes. We are also using fMRI to study sex and age related differences in cognition in primates and developing the use of functional ultrasound to study pain related mechanisms and interventions. Many of these projects involve integrative collaborations with a range of schools at WPI, UMass Medical School, Harvard, and other institutions, and we look forward to building additional connections with interested students and faculty at WPI. We currently have opportunities for students to be involved in both animal and clinical research projects in the lab, and are highly supportive of involving students in related publications.
Benjamin Nephew, assistant research professor of biology and biotechnology, talked with Spectrum News 1 about the science of addiction ahead of a $1 billion-plus Powerball lottery drawing.