News from the Lab

We’re glad you’re interested in learning more about the Neuroinformatics and Brain Connectivity (NBC) Laboratory at Florida International University (FIU)! Our team likes to keep busy. Members from the lab participate in outreach events throughout the community, present research at scientific conferences and meetings, and much more. Here, you can learn about these activities, read about recent news and scroll through photos. Would you like to know more? Feel free to contact us with questions about the stories found here!

Lauren Hill-Bowen and Ranjita Poudel were awarded $5,000 in pilot seed funding for their project titled, “Altered reward processing and chronic nicotine use: Training, preprocessing, and analysis of an existing simultaneous EEG-fMRI dataset”. This project will leverage an existing electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) dataset to provide enhanced understanding of the brain processes linked with chronic nicotine exposure and acute therapeutic administration.

Jessica Flannery was awarded $5,000 in pilot seed funding for her project titled, “Behavioral approach toward electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) stimuli and future use intentions among middle schoolers.” This project will supplement data collection efforts of The ACE Project, an ongoing, large-scale, longitudinal study by developing a new behavioral task to assess adolescents’ attitudes toward ENDS-related stimuli.

Pilot project seed funding was provided by FIU’s Center for Children and Families.

NBC Lab personnel and colleagues have published a noteworthy empirical article entitled “Habenular and striatal activity during performance feedback are differentially linked with state-like and trait-like aspects of tobacco use disorder” to Science Advances’s Special Issue on Addiction. Dr. Matthew Sutherland(corresponding author) and Jessica Flannery(first author) have worked to distribute the publication’s scientific findings and significance for public health efforts regarding nicotine use to University and other news outlets. Specifically, the empirical findings reported in this publication have been covered by an article in Florida International University news, an article in the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) “Hot Off the Press” news outlet, NIDA Science Highlights news outlet, NIDA Notes news outlet, by a segment on Univision television network news and by a Youtube video.

The outcomes of this study highlight a dissociation between neurobiological processes linked with the dependence severity trait and the nicotine withdrawal state. Interventions simultaneously targeting both aspects may improve currently poor cessation outcomes.

Dr. Michael Tobia (Principal Investigator), Dr. Matthew Sutherland (Mentor), and Dr. Angela Laird (Co-Investigator) were awarded funding from The Research Center in Minority Institutions at Florida International University to investigate health disparities among aging individuals.

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related dementias among racial/ethnic minority groups represents a national health disparity, which is particularly relevant to the population of South Florida. Olfactory loss, defined as reduced sensory acuity and cognitive functioning involving the sense of smell, is a well-established prodromal biomarker of cognitive impairment associated with AD and other dementias. Research has shown there is a significant racial/ethnic disparity in olfactory ability such that the age of onset and rate of decline among Hispanics and African Americans parallels the disparity with respect to AD prevalence. A brain-based assessment that probes the integrity of olfactory-related brain regions and brain networks may provide prognostic insight into olfactory dysfunction or disease trajectory which pre-dates the onset of overt sensory and/or neurocognitive impairments, and would allow for early/preventive health programs to intervene more successfully. This pilot project represents the first step in a research program aiming to discover the impact of health disparity on brain function, with the ultimate goal of identifying prognostic brain-based biomarkers for AD and dementia among the racially and ethnically diverse aging population residing in the South Florida region.

Dr. Matthew Sutherland and Dr. Michael Riedel were awarded funding from the National Institute of Health’s Loan Repayment Program.

Dr. Sutherland was awarded a continuing renewal for his ongoing research investigating the neurobiological antecedents and consequences of substance use. Dr. Riedel is a first-time recipient and will investigate reward processing in youth populations as part of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study.

Dr. Laird, Katie, and Taylor attended the 2019 BRAIN Initiative Investigators Meeting in Washington D.C. on April 11-13. Katie and Taylor were both awarded Trainee Travel Awards.

Katie presented a poster on the metaCurious package, and gave an elevator pitch as part of the Trainee Travel Award.

Taylor presented two posters: one on the NiMARE package and one on the ATHENA project. He also gave an elevator pitch as part of the Trainee Travel Award.

Dr. Michael Riedel (Principal Investigator), Dr. Matthew Sutherland (Mentor) and graduate student Jessica Flannery (Key Associate) were awarded funding from The Center for Research on US Latino HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse (CRUSADA) Supplemental Pilot Studies Program to support their supplemental pilot project: “Sociocultural factors impacting reward processing and electronic nicotine delivery system use among Latino teens”.

The CRUSADA Supplemental Pilot Studies Program funds grant applications for pilot studies that focus on substance abuse, HIV, obesity, mental health, and violence/trauma health disparities with Latino and other vulnerable populations that are supplemental to an existing NIH-funded research grant. The funded two year pilot project will aim to expand the focus of the parent project, the ACE Project, by characterizing neurocognitive mechanisms linked with ENDS use among the rapidly growing and understudied population of adolescent ENDS users and delineating the degree to which sociocultural factors impact neurocognitive characteristics and/or nicotine use motivations, particularly among Latino teens.

The ACE Project Team alongside Miami-Dade County public school (M-DCPS) Curriculum Support Specialist, Gladys Duran, hosted a professional development workshop designed for M-DCPS teachers, counselors, and administrators to provide the most recent information regarding electronic nicotine delivery system (e.g., e-cigarette) use and trauma-informed care. ACE Project principal investigators, Dr. Elisa Trucco and Dr. Matthew Sutherland presented on e-cigarette use/vaping among adolescents. Dr. Nicole Fava, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work within the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work at FIU and an affiliate of the CCF provided the presentation on trauma-informed care for the second portion of the workshop. The ACE Project team looks forward to additional upcoming events in collaboration with MDCPS!


Pictured above from left to right: Brigitte Madan, Dr. Elisa Trucco, Dr. Nicole Fava, Dr. Matthew Sutherland, Nasreen Hidmi, and Gladys Duran.


Pictured above from left to right: Paige Goldman, Benjelene Sutherland, Jessica Flannery, Sarah Troya and Gladys Duran.

09 Jan 2019

Dr. Jessica Bartley (Postdoc, FIU) participated in the Florida International University commencement ceremonies last month. Dr. Angela Laird, her graduate mentor, was also there. Congratulations to them both!

Dr. Jessica Bartley successfully defended her dissertation, titled “Exploring the Neural Mechanisms of Physics Learning”, last November. Currently, she’s a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Florida International University’s Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging Center (Miami, Florida). Would you like to know more about Dr. Bartley’s work?

Learn more about the Physics Learning Project

As of this semester, each of the NBC Lab’s cognitive neuroscience graduate students have successfully defended their masters theses, and progress along their respective paths to the PhD! Congratulations, grad students!

A big congrats to Dr. Sutherland for being honored as one of the 2018 Faculty Senate Awardees for Excellence in Research & Creative Activities. Faculty Senate Awards were conferred at an awards ceremony and dinner with FIU President Dr. Mark B. Rosenberg, Provost & Executive Vice President Dr. Kenneth G. Furton, and Faculty Senate Chairperson Dr. Joerg Reinhold.

Read more about FIU’s Faculty Senate Awards here.