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!


Katie Bottenhorn successfully defended her dissertation, “Understanding individual differents within large-scale brain networks across cognitive contexts”, on June 24, 2021, and has now received her Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience. Her work as focused on developing and deploying user-friendly, open-source data analysis techniques for more rigorous study of the variability within and between individuals using functional neuroimaging, endocrine, physiological, and behavioral data.

In the fall, Katie will be starting a post-doc at the University of Southern California in Dr. Megan Herting’s Herting Neuroimaging Lab, studying the role of air pollution in child and adolescent brain development.

Congratulations Katie!

Ranjita Poudel successfully defended her dissertation, “Neurocognitive Mechanisms Associated with Real-world Financial Savings Among Individuals from Lower Income Households”, on June 21, 2021, and has now received her Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience. She will officially graduate in the 2021-2022 Fall semester.

Congratulations Ranjita!

Dr. Angie Laird, Katie Bottenhorn, and Taylor Salo gave presentations as part of the OHBM educational course on meta-analyses organized by Kendra Oudyk.

Dr. Laird presented “Overview and history of neuroimaging meta-analyses”, a 15-minute lecture.

Katie Bottenhorn presented “Conventional, or manual, meta-analyses”, a 15-minute lecture.

Taylor Salo led a hands-on tutorial with NiMARE, an hour-long interactive tutorial.

Additionally, all three took part in an hour-long discussion panel with other experts on neuroimaging meta-analysis.

Jessica Flannery successfully defended her dissertation, “Neurobiological Impact of HIV Infection and Chronic Cannabis Use”, on May 28, 2021, and has now received her Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience.

Jessica will soon start a post-doc at UNC Chapel Hill in two labs: Dr. Eva Telzer’s Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab and Dr. Kristen Lindquist’s Carolina Affective Science Laboratory.

Congratulations Jessica!

The ABCD-ReproNim Course, a virtual course providing training on reproducible analysis of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study dataset, has completed its final session, a week-long period of group projects, on March 12. The 13-week long free online course hosted 22 ABCD and ReproNim lecturers and offered instruction to 100 Enrolled students and more than 600 Observer students. The concluding Project Week focused on student-led projects that examined various aspects of the ABCD dataset. While the first offering of the course has come to a close, the ABCD-ReproNim Course will be offered again with dates to be announced! In the meantime follow us on Twitter for future announcements and check out the course materials for recordings of the weekly lectures!

Graduate students Katherine Bottenhorn, Jessica Flannery, and Ranjita Poudel were each awarded Dissertation Year Fellowships, from Florida International University’s University Graduate School. This award provides a $16,600 stipend to highly-qualified FIU doctoral students in their final year of graduate school to support the completion and defense of their dissertation research projects.

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.