Research Projects in the Lab

Healthy Adolescent Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

(Project leader: Will Mellick)

HC Study

In recent years, psychological research has greatly expanded our understanding of just what a vulnerable period adolescence is for the transition into adulthood. Numerous developmental milestones occur during this time including: building and extending relationships with friends, engaging in new experiences, becoming more confident in whom we are, and gaining greater independence from parents. These milestones are underscored by a range of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes. This research project aims to explore a variety of factors associated with these changes in typical adolescents.

Recruitment for adolescents between the ages of 12-18 years old is ongoing, so please contact us at sharplabresearch@gmail.com if you are interested in participating.

Intranasal Oxytocin and Social Cognition in Youths

(Project leader: Carolyn Ha)

ATP research team

In this research project, we are interested in examining how intranasal oxytocin affects social-cognitive functioning in adolescence. Oxytocin is a hormone naturally produced by the brain during social interactions to promote bonding experiences. The study is in collaboration with the Adolescent Treatment Program of the Menninger Clinic. The work is partially funded by several sources including two pre-doctoral training grants through the National Institute of Mental Health awarded to Carolyn Ha and Amanda Venta, funding from the American Psychoanalytic Association, the Child and Family Program of the Menninger Clinic, and a dissertation grant from the American Psychological Association Dissertation awarded to Amanda Venta.

Recruitment for the study is ongoing for healthy adolescents between the ages of 12-19 years old. Please contact us at sharplabresearch@gmail.com if you are interested in participating!

Social Cognition and Developmental Psychopathology

(Project leader: Allison Kalpakci)

ATP research team

At the Adolescent Treatment Program (ATP) of the Menninger Clinic we have developed a research program which has two goals (1) to test a model of social cognition for the development of emotional-behavior difficulties, in particular emerging personality disorder and (2) to test the effectiveness of a mentalization-based treatment approach in an adolescent in-patient setting. We collaborate closely with the treatment team at the ATP under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth Newlin. We also collaborate with Dr. Peter Fonagy at University College London and the Anna Freud Center in the United Kingdom. The work is funded by the Child and Family Program of the Menninger Clinic. Recently, this study expanded to include a collaboration with another investigative team at the Menninger Clinic who run the MIND-MB project. In this study we make use of fMRI technology and molecular genetics to investigate neurobiological correlates of psychiatric problems in adolescents and adults. This project is funded by the McNair Foundation. Use current pic on website

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Social Cognitive factors and Suicide-related Behaviors in Adolescents

(Project leader: Claire Hatkevich)

Harris County Psychiatric Hospital

At the Harris County Psychiatric Center our research investigate models by which social-cognitive and other cognitive vulnerabilities (e.g., implicit bias, problem-solving, etc.) interact with life stress to confer risk for suicide-related behaviors and borderline symptoms in adolescents. At HCPC we collaborate with Dr. Dawnelle Schatte who is at the University of Texas.

Reward-related decision making in social and non-social contexts

(Project leaders: Carolyn Ha, Tanveer Otal, and Samantha Calvetti)

In this program of research we make use of behavioral economics, social neuroscience and neuroeconomics to investigate social cognition, reward and affective processing. We use both behavioral and neuroimaging approaches in this research. Research in this program is conducted across the lifespan and include research on borderline personality disorder, problem gambling, externalizing disorders, externalizing problems and depression. Currently, specific projects include the FACES project where we are developing a novel self-representation task; TRUST study where we are developing a method for assessing the non-verbal cues during a trust exchange; the FTM and FTM Follow-up study where we examining the effect of testosterone on social-cognitive variables.

The interpersonal context of HIV/AIDS

(Project leader: Charles Jardin)

HIV/AIDS in South AfricaIn this line of research we are studying the interpersonal context of HIV/AIDS in the developing and developed world. We completed an NIMH funded study examining the effect of AIDS orphanhood on child outcomes in Mangaung township of South Africa. We are currently seeking new funding to continue this project. We have received a GEAR grant to study the effects of an intervention based on social learning theory to affect adherence and other outcomes in HIV infected adults. This study is in collaboration with Drs. Mike Zvolensky and Clayton Neighbors.

Ecological momentary assessment of feelings and social cognition in relation to psychopathology

(Project leaders: Allison Kalpakci and Ashley Coleman)

In this study we are interested to use new technology to better understand the link between emotions and social cognition in everyday life.

Mentalization-based treatment trial for suicidal adolescents

(Project leaders: Carolyn Ha and Ashley Coleman)

We are collaborating with Dr. Laurel Williams at Baylor College of Medicine to run a RCT to test the efficacy of MBT for adolescents with suicidal behaviors. Patients are recruited at the Legacy Clinic.