The Social and Neurobiological Mechanisms that underlie Adolescent Psychopathology
Adolescence is marked by tremendous social, psychological, and neurobiological maturation. Changes in social cognition, motivational, and affective processes contribute to new social roles, relationships, and an intense preoccupation with peer approval. At the same time, adolescence is a period of peak risk for the emergence of psychopathology, particularly depression and anxiety. I employ experimental (i.e., task-based), neuroimaging, and observational (i.e., digital phenotyping of real-world behavior) approaches to examine the psychological and neurobiological pathways that link social experiences during adolescence with the emergence of psychopathology. Specifically, I examine how adolescents process social experiences in ways that are distinct from children and adults, determine whether these aspects of social processing influence risk for mental health problems, and evaluate how social factors can be leveraged to promote resilience in the face of stress during this developmental period. In my ongoing work, I incorporate advanced quantitative approaches, which include computational modeling of neural responses to examine social learning and machine learning techniques using digital measures of real-world behavior to predict who is at greatest risk of developing psychopathology. Understanding the underlying social and neurobiological mechanisms that give rise to adolescent psychopathology will help identify malleable targets for intervention.