top of page

The purpose of this study is to determine best processes to disrupt the return of conditioned fear through spontaneous recovery after it has been extinguished. We are hoping to  better understand individual differences in how people process fear and anxiety.

Interested in participating? Text 313-451-4683 and a study member will be in touch shortly!

Characterization of the Return of Conditioned Fear in Psychiatric and Healthy Study Samples

The AURORA study represents a major national initiative to improve the understanding, prevention, and treatment of posttraumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae. Five thousand participants who present to the emergency department for evaluation after trauma exposure, meet screening and eligibility criteria, and consent to the study will undergo a brief baseline assessment of trauma-related, psychosocial, neurocognitive, and biological factors. Participants will then receive ecological monitoring, and will complete physiologic, biologic, neurocognitive, symptom, and health outcome assessments during one-year follow-up. Subsamples of study participants will undergo in-person deep phenotyping at 2 weeks and 6 months, consisting of biologic collection, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and psychophysical evaluation. The wealth of first-in-kind information gained from this study will be used to overcome critical barriers to the prevention and treatment of common, morbid posttraumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae, and will allow the development of urgently needed preventive/treatment interventions for civilian and veteran populations that experience tremendous suffering.

The AURORA Study: Longitudinal Assessment of Posttraumatic Syndromes

Very few studies have captured the effects of ongoing trauma during development, as most are based on retrospective data. The proposed longitudinal study is well-positioned to address this gap in knowledge given our recruitment from a high trauma risk population. The proposed research will combine neuroimaging and fear physiology methods to examine critical periods for trauma-related correlates of brain development. Recruitment of male and female children will allow for exploratory analyses of sex differences during development. Retrospective research on trauma exposure and neural development suggest that ages 9 through 11 represent particularly sensitive periods for fear-relevant neurobiology. In order to target this critical period, 9-year-old children will be recruited from the Grady Trauma Project in inner-city Atlanta, composed primarily of low-income, African American families and followed prospectively for two years. Trauma exposure and startle will be assessed every six months between ages 9 and 11, in order to assess the critical period for trauma exposure. Brain structure and function will be assessed every year, at years 9, 10, and 11. In our previous studies, we have found that the degree of trauma exposure significantly increases between 9 and 11 years of age. The unique prospective longitudinal design will allow for analysis of the effects of both pre-existing trauma and new trauma exposure on the neurobiological phenotypes.

Impact of Trauma Exposure on Critical Periods in Brain Development and Fear Processing in Children 
bottom of page