Research Projects in the Lab

Healthy Adolescent Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

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 12-17 years old is ongoing, so please contact us at if you are interested in participating.

Intranasal Oxytocin and Social Cognition in Youths

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 if you’re interested!

Social Cognition and Developmental Psychopathology

ATP research teamAt 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.

ATP Research Newsletter Spring 2014 Issue 1 (Latest issue!)

ATP Research Newsletter Fall 2013 Issue 1

ATP Research Newsletter Fall 2012 Issue 2

ATP Research Newsletter Spring 2012 Issue 1

ATP Research Newsletter Issue 1

ATP Research Newsletter Issue 2

ATP Research Newsletter Issue 3

Social Cognitive Factors and Suicide-related Behaviors in Adolescents

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.

Emotional-behavior problems in children affected by HIV-AIDS in South Africa

HIV/AIDS in South AfricaThe HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa has already orphaned a generation of children, and now seems set to orphan generations more (UNICEF, 2003). There is an urgent need for the development of reliable and valid diagnostic tools for the early detection of psychiatric disorder as a first step towards successful intervention. In this research program we work with Drs. Donald Skinner, Lochner Marais, Michael Ross and Mr. Joe Serekoane and Molefi Lenka to develop diagnostic measures for use in South African children affected by AIDS. This work is funded by NIMH and the NIH Centers for AIDS Research.

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


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. For more information on specific research projects contact Dr. Carla Sharp ( This program of research is funded by NARSAD and the South African Responsible Gambling Foundation.