Conte Adolescence Center Overview
Adolescence is a period during which risk for anxiety and mood disorders increases substantially and little is known about the brain mechanisms responsible for vulnerability to these disorders. Photo credit: Jeff Miller/UW-Madison
The Center is the nexus for a major program of highly interdisciplinary research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that uses an affective neuroscience perspective to further our understanding of the underlying neural and behavioral bases of risk for anxiety and mood disorders (internalizing disorders), with a specific focus on the adolescent period. Adolescence is a period of extraordinarily increased risk for these disorders and it is also a period during which dramatic maturational and experience-induced alterations in brain function and structure take place. Moreover, epidemiological evidence indicates a 2-3 fold increased risk in adulthood for these disorders if an individual had a diagnosis as an adolescent. Through a highly integrated and collaborative program of research in non-human primates and humans that involves five Principal Investigators (PI's) all on the faculty at UW-Madison, this Center is producing novel new data on the brain mechanisms and behavioral, endocrine and autonomic correlates of individual differences in emotion regulation and emotional reactivity. A major focus is on early life predictors of adolescent brain circuits that underlie the regulation of emotion and abnormalities in these circuits in individuals vulnerable to internalizing disorders. The research strategies also permit the examination of relations between early diatheses and later vulnerability in adolescence since longitudinal data are available in both human cohorts. In the non-human cohort, an explicit manipulation of early stress is performed. The Center also provides new strategies for parsing the heterogeneity of anxiety and mood disorders using profiles of brain function and structure. Each of the PIs involved in this Center have a long history of collaboration. There are many two, three and four way collaborations among the PIs. All have published with at least one other PI and many have published with many of the Center PIs. Each of the projects involves the collaborative involvement of all of the PIs. This overall program of work is critically dependent upon this entire team and the scope of the work and the multiple levels of analysis would only be possible within a Center. This team is highly experienced, has a demonstrated record of working well together, has been extraordinarily productive in the past, and promises to produce novel insights about the neural and behavioral bases of adolescent internalizing disorders that will directly inform diagnosis and treatment.