Aysenil Belger, Ph.D.
Director of Clinical Translational Research Corp,
UNC Institute for Developmental Disabilities Research Center
Department of Psychiatry
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Research Interests & Goals:
Over the past 18 years, Dr. Belger has served as the Director of Neuroimaging Research in the UNC Psychiatry department. She is the Director of the Clinical Translational Research Core of the UNC Institute for Developmental Disabilities Research Center, and she directs the Neurocognition and Imaging Research Laboratory (NIRL) at the Psychiatry Department, while maintaining a secondary appointment at the Psychology Department and the Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Center. Her research integrates behavioral, brain imaging, electrophysiological, neurocognitive and clinical assessments in children and adults to map the biological substrates of complex neurodevelopmental disabilities, including schizophrenia and autism.
Over the past 2 decades, Dr. Belger’s research has focused on identifying early biological markers of vulnerability for schizophrenia, by studying adolescents in the prodromal phase of this disorder. She studies children between the ages of 9 and 18 with a first-degree family member with schizophrenia to capture a glimpse into the neurobiology of the “risk”. In collaboration with faculty at UNC and Duke she studies adolescent brain and cognition development, integrating novel mobile technologies for more accurate real-time data collection. In collaboration with faculty at FPG and RTI, other current projects in her lab also examine brain activation during executive function tasks in preschool children to ascertain objective real time measures of cognitive capacity using scalable mobile technologies. Her collaborations with Duke, UNC and USC faculty examines neural mechanisms associated with sensory processing deficits in young children with ASD.
A major source of pleasure in Dr. Belger’s academic life are interactions with students and colleagues. She enjoys collaborating with and mentoring undergraduate, graduates, postdoctoral students and fellows, and junior faculty on research projects exploring bio-psycho-social factors that impact brain and cognition development, from prenatal exposure, to early life adversity, to adolescent substance abuse and anxiety. Her current focus on factors impacting adolescent brain and cognition development, and ensuing behavioral and psychopathological outcomes has led me to examine numerous childhood adversities. As a result, She is currently examining the neurodevelopmental implications of early childhood adversities, and their implications for cognitive and psychopathological dysregulations.
- King E, Campbell A, Belger A, Grewen K. Prenatal Nicotine Exposure Disrupts Infant Neural Markers of Orienting. Nicotine Tob Res. 2017 Aug 17. doi:10.1093/ntr/ntx177. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29059450.
- Qi S, Calhoun VD, van Erp TGM, Bustillo J, Damaraju E, Turner JA, Du Y, Yang J, Chen J, Yu Q, Mathalon DH, Ford JM, Voyvodic J, Mueller BA, Belger A, McEwen S, Potkin SG, Preda A, Jiang T, Sui J. Multimodal Fusion With Reference: Searching for Joint Neuromarkers of Working Memory Deficits in Schizophrenia. IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2018 Jan;37(1):93-105. doi: 10.1109/TMI.2017.2725306. Epub 2017 Jul 11. PubMed PMID: 28708547; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5750081.
- Shaffer JJ, Peterson MJ, McMahon MA, Bizzell J, Calhoun V, van Erp TG, Ford JM, Lauriello J, Lim KO, Manoach DS, McEwen SC, Mathalon DH, O’Leary D, Potkin SG, Preda A, Turner J, Voyvodic J, Wible CG, Belger A. Neural Correlates of Schizophrenia Negative Symptoms: Distinct Subtypes Impact Dissociable Brain Circuits. Mol Neuropsychiatry. 2015 Dec;1(4):191-200. doi: 10.1159/000440979. Epub 2015 Oct 17. PubMed PMID: 27606313; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4996000.
- Hart SJ, Shaffer JJ, Bizzell J, Weber M, McMahon MA, Gu H, Perkins DO, Belger Measurement of Fronto-limbic Activity Using an Emotional Oddball Task in Children with Familial High Risk for Schizophrenia. J Vis Exp. 2015 Dec 2;(106). doi: 10.3791/51484. PubMed PMID: 26650392; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4692763.
- Andersen EH, Campbell AM, Schipul SE, Bellion CM, Donkers FC, Evans AM, Belger Electrophysiological Correlates of Aberrant Motivated Attention and Salience Processing in Unaffected Relatives of Schizophrenia Patients. Clin EEG Neurosci. 2016 Jan;47(1):11-23. doi: 10.1177/1550059415598063. Epub 2015 Aug 5. PubMed PMID: 26251457.
- Sabatos-DeVito M, Schipul SE, Bulluck JC, Belger A, Baranek GT. Eye Tracking Reveals Impaired Attentional Disengagement Associated with Sensory Response Patterns in Children with Autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 2016 Apr;46(4):1319-33. doi: 10.1007/s10803-015-2681-5. PubMed PMID: 26816345; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5359772.