Professional Education


  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Connecticut (2005)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of California Davis (2017)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications


  • Hippocampal volume indexes neurobiological sensitivity to the effect of pollution burden on telomere length in adolescents. New directions for child and adolescent development Miller, J. G., Buthmann, J. L., Gotlib, I. H. 2022

    Abstract

    Exposure to environmental pollutants has been associated with cellular aging in children and adolescents. Individuals may vary, however, in their sensitivity or vulnerability to the effects of environmental pollutants. Larger hippocampal volume has emerged as a potential index of increased sensitivity to social contexts. In exploratory analyses (N=214), we extend work in this area by providing evidence that larger hippocampal volume in early adolescence reflects increased sensitivity to the effect of neighborhood pollution burden on telomere length (standardized beta =-0.40, 95% CI[-0.65, -0.15]). In contrast, smaller hippocampal volume appears to buffer this association (standardized beta =0.02). In youth with larger hippocampal volume, pollution burden was indirectly associated with shorter telomere length approximately 2 years later through shorter telomere length at baseline (indirect standardized beta =-0.25, 95% CI[-0.40, 0.10]). For these youth, living in high or low pollution-burdened neighborhoods may predispose them to develop shorter or longer telomeres, respectively, later in adolescence.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/cad.20471

    View details for PubMedID 35738556

  • Aberrant brain network and eye gaze patterns during natural social interaction predict multi-domain social-cognitive behaviors in girls with fragile X syndrome. Molecular psychiatry Li, R., Bruno, J. L., Lee, C. H., Bartholomay, K. L., Sundstrom, J., Piccirilli, A., Jordan, T., Miller, J. G., Lightbody, A. A., Reiss, A. L. 2022

    Abstract

    Girls with fragile X syndrome (FXS) often manifest significant symptoms of avoidance, anxiety, and arousal, particularly in the context of social interaction. However, little is currently known about the associations among neurobiological, biobehavioral such as eye gaze pattern, and social-cognitive dysfunction in real-world settings. In this study, we sought to characterize brain network properties and eye gaze patterns in girls with FXS during natural social interaction. Participants included 42 girls with FXS and 31 age- and verbal IQ-matched girls (control). Portable functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and an eye gaze tracker were used to investigate brain network alterations and eye gaze patterns associated with social-cognitive dysfunction in girls with FXS during a structured face-to-face conversation. Compared to controls, girls with FXS showed significantly increased inter-regional functional connectivity and greater excitability within the prefrontal cortex (PFC), frontal eye field (FEF) and superior temporal gyrus (STG) during the conversation. Girls with FXS showed significantly less eye contact with their conversational partner and more unregulated eye gaze behavior compared to the control group. We also demonstrated that a machine learning approach based on multimodal data, including brain network properties and eye gaze patterns, was predictive of multiple domains of social-cognitive behaviors in girls with FXS. Our findings expand current knowledge of neural mechanisms and eye gaze behaviors underlying naturalistic social interaction in girls with FXS. These results could be further evaluated and developed as intermediate phenotypic endpoints for treatment trial evaluation in girls with FXS.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41380-022-01626-3

    View details for PubMedID 35595977

  • Dimensions of Early Adversity and the Development of Functional Brain Network Connectivity During Adolescence: Implications for Trajectories of Internalizing Symptoms Chahal, R., Miller, J. G., Yuan, J. P., Buthmann, J. L., Ho, T. C., Gotlib, I. H. ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC. 2022: S48
  • Sex-specific vulnerability to depressive symptoms across adolescence and during the COVID-19 pandemic: The role of the cingulum bundle. JCPP advances Chahal, R., Ho, T. C., Miller, J. G., Borchers, L. R., Gotlib, I. H. 2022; 2 (1): e12061

    Abstract

    Background: Females are at higher risk for developing depression during adolescence than are males, particularly during exposure to stressors like the COVID-19 pandemic. Examining structural connections between brain regions involved in executive functioning may advance our understanding of sex biases in stress and depression. Here, we examined the role of the cingulum bundle in differentiating trajectories of depressive symptoms in males and females across adolescence and during the pandemic.Methods: In a longitudinal study of 214 youth (121 females; ages 9-13years at baseline), we examined whether fixel-based properties of the cingulum bundle at baseline predict changes in females' and males' severity of depressive symptoms across four timepoints (4-7years) in adolescence, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also tested whether cingulum properties predict self-reported resilience and stress during the pandemic.Results: Females had lower fiber density and cross-section (FDC) of the cingulum than did males, a neural pattern that predicted greater increases in depressive symptoms, lower resilience, and higher stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cingulum morphometry predicted changes in depressive trajectories in females, but not in males; specifically, females with lower FDC had significant increases in symptoms throughout adolescence, whereas females with higher cingulum FDC did not. Conversely, males had low, stable depressive symptoms throughout adolescence and higher resilience and lower stress during the pandemic compared to females. Higher cingulum FDC predicted higher resilience and lower stress in both sexes.Conclusions: In adults, the cingulum has been implicated in sex differences in stress reactivity. We show that in adolescents, the cingulum reflects sex differences in reports of stress and resilience that might contribute to the increased risk of stress-related mood disorders in females. Adolescent females might benefit from cognitive interventions that strengthen the structural properties of the cingulum and increase their perceived resilience during periods of adversity and disruption.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/jcv2.12061

    View details for PubMedID 35572852

  • Census tract ambient ozone predicts trajectories of depressive symptoms in adolescents. Developmental psychology Manczak, E. M., Miller, J. G., Gotlib, I. H. 2022; 58 (3): 485-492

    Abstract

    Exposure to ozone is a well-documented risk factor for negative physical health outcomes but has been considered less frequently in the context of socioemotional health. We examined whether levels of neighborhood ozone predicted trajectories of depressive symptoms over a four-year period in 213 adolescents (ages 9-13 years at baseline; 57% female; 53% of minority race/ethnicity). Participants self-reported depressive and other types of psychopathology symptoms up to 3 times, and their home addresses were used to compute ozone levels in their census tract. Possible confounding variables, including personal, family, and neighborhood characteristics, were also assessed. We found that higher ozone predicted steeper increases in depressive symptoms across adolescent development, a pattern that was not observed for other forms of psychopathology symptoms. These findings underscore the importance of considering ozone exposure in understanding trajectories of depressive symptoms across adolescence. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

    View details for DOI 10.1037/dev0001310

    View details for PubMedID 35286107

  • An exploration of dimensions of early adversity and the development of functional brain network connectivity during adolescence: Implications for trajectories of internalizing symptoms. Development and psychopathology Chahal, R., Miller, J. G., Yuan, J. P., Buthmann, J. L., Gotlib, I. H. 1800: 1-15

    Abstract

    Different dimensions of adversity may affect mental health through distinct neurobiological mechanisms, though current supporting evidence consists largely of cross-sectional associations between threat or deprivation and fronto-limbic circuitry. In this exploratory three-wave longitudinal study spanning ages 9-19 years, we examined the associations between experiences of unpredictability, threat, and deprivation with the development of functional connectivity within and between three brain networks implicated in psychopathology: the salience (SAL), default mode (DMN), and fronto-parietal (FPN) networks, and tested whether network trajectories moderated associations between adversity and changes in internalizing symptoms. Connectivity decreased with age on average; these changes differed by dimension of adversity. Whereas family-level deprivation was associated with lower initial levels and more stability across most networks, unpredictability was associated with stability only in SAL connectivity, and threat was associated with stability in FPN and DMN-SAL connectivity. In youth exposed to higher levels of any adversity, lower initial levels and more stability in connectivity were related to smaller increases in internalizing symptoms. Our findings suggest that whereas deprivation is associated with widespread neurodevelopmental differences in cognitive and emotion processing networks, unpredictability is related selectively to salience detection circuitry. Studies with wider developmental windows should examine whether these neurodevelopmental alterations are adaptive or serve to maintain internalizing symptoms.

    View details for DOI 10.1017/S0954579421001814

    View details for PubMedID 35094729

  • Early Life Stress and Neurodevelopment in Adolescence: Implications for Risk and Adaptation. Current topics in behavioral neurosciences Miller, J. G., Chahal, R., Gotlib, I. H. 2022

    Abstract

    An alarming high proportion of youth experience at least one kind of stressor in childhood and/or adolescence. Exposure to early life stress is associated with increased risk for psychopathology, accelerated biological aging, and poor physical health; however, it is important to recognize that not all youth who experience such stress go on to develop difficulties. In fact, resilience, or positive adaptation in the face of adversity, is relatively common. Individual differences in vulnerability or resilience to the effects of early stress may be represented in the brain as specific patterns, profiles, or signatures of neural activation, structure, and connectivity (i.e., neurophenotypes). Whereas neurophenotypes of risk that reflect the deleterious effects of early stress on the developing brain are likely to exacerbate negative outcomes in youth, neurophenotypes of resilience may reduce the risk of experiencing these negative outcomes and instead promote positive functioning. In this chapter we describe our perspective concerning the neurobiological mechanisms and moderators of risk and resilience in adolescence following early life stress and integrate our own work into this framework. We present findings suggesting that exposure to stress in childhood and adolescence is associated with functional and structural alterations in neurobiological systems that are important for social-affective processing and for cognitive control. While some of these neurobiological alterations increase risk for psychopathology, they may also help to limit adolescents' sensitivity to subsequent negative experiences. We also discuss person-centered strategies that we believe can advance our understanding of risk and resilience to early stress in adolescents. Finally, we describe ways in which the field can broaden its focus to include a consideration of other types of environmental factors, such as environmental pollutants, in affecting both risk and resilience to stress-related health difficulties in youth.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/7854_2022_302

    View details for PubMedID 35290658

  • Vagal flexibility to negative emotions moderates the relations between environmental risk and adjustment problems in childhood. Development and psychopathology Ugarte, E., Miller, J. G., Weissman, D. G., Hastings, P. D. 2021: 1-18

    Abstract

    Neurobiological and social-contextual influences shape children's adjustment, yet limited biopsychosocial studies have integrated temporal features when modeling physiological regulation of emotion. This study explored whether a common underlying pattern of non-linear change in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) across emotional scenarios characterized 4-6 year-old children's parasympathetic reactivity (N = 180). Additionally, we tested whether dynamic RSA reactivity was an index of neurobiological susceptibility or a diathesis in the association between socioeconomic status, authoritarian parenting, and the development of externalizing problems (EP) and internalizing problems over two years. There was a shared RSA pattern across all emotions, characterized by more initial RSA suppression and a subsequent return toward baseline, which we call vagal flexibility (VF). VF interacted with parenting to predict EP. More authoritarian parenting predicted increased EP two years later only when VF was low; conversely, when VF was very high, authoritarian mothers reported that their children had fewer EP. Altogether, children's patterns of dynamic RSA change to negative emotions can be characterized by a higher order factor, and the nature by which VF contributes to EP depends on maternal socialization practices, with low VF augmenting and high VF buffering children against the effects of authoritarian parenting.

    View details for DOI 10.1017/S0954579421000912

    View details for PubMedID 34866568

  • Parent-child physiological synchrony: Concurrent and lagged effects during dyadic laboratory interaction. Developmental psychobiology Armstrong-Carter, E., Miller, J. G., Obradovic, J. 2021; 63 (7): e22196

    Abstract

    This study investigated whether parents and kindergarten children show concurrent and time-lagged physiological synchrony during dyadic interaction. Further, we tested whether parent-child behavioral co-regulation was associated with concurrent and time-lagged synchrony, and whether synchrony varied by the type of interaction task. Participants were 94 children (Mage =5.6 years, 56% female) and their parents. We simultaneously measured parent and child respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) during four dyadic interaction tasks: free play, clean up, problem-solving, and puzzle teaching. We found that synchrony varied by task. Concurrent synchrony occurred only during the puzzle teaching task, such that parent and child RSA were significantly and positively associated with each other simultaneously. Time-lagged synchrony occurred only during the problem-solving task, such that parent RSA was positively associated with child RSA 30 seconds later, and child RSA was negatively associated with parent RSA 30 seconds later. Although behavioral co-regulation and physiological synchrony have been conceptualized as markers of responsive parent-child interactions, our study finds no evidence that physiological synchrony is associated with between-dyad differences in behavioral co-regulation.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/dev.22196

    View details for PubMedID 34674249

  • Neuroanatomical Profile of Young Females with Fragile X Syndrome: A Voxel-Based Morphometry Analysis. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991) Lee, C. H., Bartholomay, K. L., Marzelli, M. J., Miller, J. G., Bruno, J. L., Lightbody, A. A., Reiss, A. L. 2021

    Abstract

    Fragile X syndrome is a genetic condition associated with alterations in brain and subsequent cognitive development. However, due to a milder phenotype relative to males, females with fragile X syndrome are underrepresented in research studies. In the current study, we investigate neuroanatomical differences in young females (age range: 6.03-16.32years) with fragile X syndrome (N=46) as compared to age-, sex-, and verbal abilities-matched participants (comparison group; N=35). Between-group analyses of whole-brain and regional brain volumes were assessed using voxel-based morphometry. Results demonstrate significantly larger total gray and white matter volumes in girls with fragile X syndrome compared to a matched comparison group (Ps<0.001). In addition, the fragile X group showed significantly larger gray matter volume in a bilateral parieto-occipital cluster and a right parieto-occipital cluster (Ps<0.001). Conversely, the fragile X group showed significantly smaller gray matter volume in the bilateral gyrus rectus (P<0.03). Associations between these regional brain volumes and key socio-emotional variables provide insight into gene-brain-behavior relationships underlying the fragile X syndrome phenotype in females. These findings represent the first characterization of a neuroanatomical phenotype in a large sample of girls with fragile X syndrome and expand our knowledge about potential neurodevelopmental mechanisms underlying cognitive-behavioral outcomes in this condition.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/cercor/bhab319

    View details for PubMedID 34546362

  • The Development of Frustration Regulation Over Early Childhood: Links Between Attention Diversion and Parasympathetic Activity EMOTION Kahle, S., Miller, J. G., Troxel, N. R., Hastings, P. D. 2021; 21 (6): 1252-1267

    Abstract

    Diverting attention away from negative emotional stimuli has been associated with calmer physiological states in the moment, but little is known about the potential long-term effects of this emotion regulation strategy on physiology. Similarly, how physiological states, in turn, may contribute to the development of regulatory behaviors has seldom been examined. The current study investigated the concurrent and prospective associations between children's parasympathetic activity and attention diversion during a frustrating experience over 2.5 years. At 3.5 (n = 83) and 6 years (n = 58), children participated in age-appropriate frustration inductions. Multiphase latent growth curve models were used to model dynamic changes in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) reactivity to and recovery from frustration. At 6 years, attention diversion was associated with concurrent increases in RSA (increased parasympathetic influence). However, longitudinal path models showed the opposite association. Attention diversion at 3.5 years predicted heightened autonomic arousal at 6 years in the form of greater decreases in RSA throughout the reactivity phase. Additionally, RSA recovery at 3.5 years predicted less use of attention diversion at 6 years. These findings suggest a developmental process by which earlier emotion regulation behaviors shape later physiological responses, with different short- versus long-term correlates of attention diversion. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

    View details for DOI 10.1037/emo0000947

    View details for Web of Science ID 000728153900016

    View details for PubMedID 34014724

  • Empathy and Anxiety in Young Girls with Fragile X Syndrome. Journal of autism and developmental disorders Miller, J. G., Bartholomay, K. L., Lee, C. H., Bruno, J. L., Lightbody, A. A., Reiss, A. L. 2021

    Abstract

    We tested whether empathy is impaired and associated with anxiety in girls with fragile X syndrome (FXS). We measured parent-reported empathy and self-reported anxiety in young girls with FXS and in a developmentally-matched comparison group. Girls with FXS received higher parent-reported scores on cognitive and affective empathy but also self-reported more severe anxiety symptoms, particularly separation anxiety and phobia symptoms, than girls in the comparison group. Girls with FXS who received higher cognitive empathy scores, however, appeared buffered against risk for separation anxiety and phobia symptoms. Girls with FXS experience elevated empathy and anxiety relative to their developmentally-matched peers. Higher cognitive empathy in girls with FXS may indicate resilience against specific forms of anxiety that are commonly observed in FXS.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s10803-021-05105-6

    View details for PubMedID 34081299

  • Young Children's Prosocial Behavior Protects Against Academic Risk in Neighborhoods With Low Socioeconomic Status. Child development Armstrong-Carter, E., Miller, J. G., Hill, L. J., Domingue, B. W. 2021

    Abstract

    Children raised in neighborhoods with low socioeconomic status (SES) are at risk for low academic achievement. Identifying factors that help children from disadvantaged neighborhoods thrive is critical for reducing inequalities. We investigated whether children's prosocial behavior buffers concurrent and subsequent academic risk in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Bradford, UK. Diverse children (N=1,175) were followed until age seven, with measurements taken at four times. We used governmental indices of neighborhood-level SES, teacher observations of prosocial behaviors, and direct assessments of academic achievement. Neighborhood SES was positively associated with academic achievement among children with low levels of prosocial behavior, but not among children with high levels of prosocial behavior. Prosocial behavior may mitigate academic risk across early childhood.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/cdev.13549

    View details for PubMedID 33594683

  • Aberrant Neural Response During Face Processing in Girls with Fragile X Syndrome: Defining Potential Brain Biomarkers for Treatment Studies. Biological psychiatry. Cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging Li, R., Bruno, J. L., Jordan, T., Miller, J. G., Lee, C. H., Bartholomay, K. L., Marzelli, M. J., Piccirilli, A., Lightbody, A. A., Reiss, A. L. 2021

    Abstract

    Children and adolescents with fragile X syndrome (FXS) manifest significant symptoms of anxiety, particularly in response to face-to-face social interaction. In this study we used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to reveal a specific pattern of brain activation and habituation in response to face stimuli in young girls with FXS, an important but understudied clinical population.Participants were 32 girls with FXS (age: 11.8 ± 2.9 years) and a control group of 28 girls without FXS (age: 10.5 ± 2.3 years) matched for age, general cognitive function and autism symptoms. Functional NIRS was used to assess brain activation during a face habituation task including repeated upright/inverted faces and greeble (nonface) objects.Compared to the control group, girls with FXS showed significant hyper-activation in the frontopolar and dorsal lateral prefrontal cortices in response to all face stimuli (upright + inverted). Lack of neural habituation (and significant sensitization) was also observed in the FXS group in the frontopolar cortex in response to upright face stimuli. Finally, aberrant frontopolar sensitization in response to upright faces in girls with FXS was significantly correlated with notable cognitive-behavioral and social-emotional outcomes relevant to this condition including executive function, autism symptoms, depression and anxiety.These findings strongly support a hypothesis of neural hyper-activation and accentuated sensitization during face processing in FXS, a phenomenon that could be developed as a biomarker endpoint for improving treatment trial evaluation in girls with this condition.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bpsc.2021.09.003

    View details for PubMedID 34555563

  • COVID-19 Pandemic: Mental Health in Girls With and Without Fragile X Syndrome. Journal of pediatric psychology Jordan, T. L., Bartholomay, K. L., Lee, C. H., Miller, J. G., Lightbody, A. A., Reiss, A. L. 2021

    Abstract

    Children and adolescents, who have less developed coping skills, are affected by natural disasters and other traumatic events differently than adults. Emotional and behavioral effects are particularly pronounced during a pandemic-related disaster, when support networks that typically promote healthy coping, such as friends, teachers, and family members, may be less available. Children and adolescents with fragile X syndrome (FXS), who are at increased risk for developing anxiety and depression, may be particularly vulnerable to behavioral or emotional difficulties during a pandemic. This study examined the mental health outcomes of school-aged girls with FXS during the COVID-19 pandemic and associated stay-at-home orders.Participants included 47 school-aged girls with FXS and 33 age- and developmentally matched comparison girls. Associations between COVID-19 behavioral and emotional outcomes and prior academic, adaptive, behavioral, and emotional functioning as well as prior maternal mental health and characteristics of the mother-child relationship were examined. Qualitative data from the parental report of emotional and behavioral responses to the pandemic were also obtained.Results indicate that school-aged girls with FXS demonstrate a distinct profile of COVID-19 related associations compared to the comparison group, such that pandemic-related worries and emotional impact of pandemic restrictions were predicted by prior mental health factors for the comparison group but by prior social, behavioral, and relational factors for the FXS group.Findings provide insight into factors that may confer risk or resilience for youth with special needs, suggesting potential therapeutic targets and informing public health initiatives in response to the pandemic.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/jpepsy/jsab106

    View details for PubMedID 34718672

  • Covid-19 pandemic: Mental health in girls with and without fragile X syndrome Journal of Pediatric Psychology Jordan, T. L., Bartholomay, K. L., Lee, C. H., Miller, J. M., Lightbody, A. A., Reiss, A. L. 2021

    Abstract

    Children and adolescents, who have less developed coping skills, are affected by natural disasters and other traumatic events differently than adults. Emotional and behavioral effects are particularly pronounced during a pandemic-related disaster, when support networks that typically promote healthy coping, such as friends, teachers, and family members, may be less available. Children and adolescents with fragile X syndrome (FXS), who are at increased risk for developing anxiety and depression, may be particularly vulnerable to behavioral or emotional difficulties during a pandemic. This study examined the mental health outcomes of school-aged girls with FXS during the COVID-19 pandemic and associated stay-at-home orders.Participants included 47 school-aged girls with FXS and 33 age- and developmentally matched comparison girls. Associations between COVID-19 behavioral and emotional outcomes and prior academic, adaptive, behavioral, and emotional functioning as well as prior maternal mental health and characteristics of the mother-child relationship were examined. Qualitative data from the parental report of emotional and behavioral responses to the pandemic were also obtained.Results indicate that school-aged girls with FXS demonstrate a distinct profile of COVID-19 related associations compared to the comparison group, such that pandemic-related worries and emotional impact of pandemic restrictions were predicted by prior mental health factors for the comparison group but by prior social, behavioral, and relational factors for the FXS group.Findings provide insight into factors that may confer risk or resilience for youth with special needs, suggesting potential therapeutic targets and informing public health initiatives in response to the pandemic.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/jpepsy/jsab106

  • Fine Particulate Air Pollution, Early Life Stress, and Their Interactive Effects on Adolescent Structural Brain Development: A Longitudinal Tensor-Based Morphometry Study. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991) Miller, J. G., Dennis, E. L., Heft-Neal, S., Jo, B., Gotlib, I. H. 2021

    Abstract

    Air pollution is a major environmental threat to public health; we know little, however, about its effects on adolescent brain development. Exposure to air pollution co-occurs, and may interact, with social factors that also affect brain development, such as early life stress (ELS). Here, we show that severity of ELS and fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) are associated with volumetric changes in distinct brain regions, but also uncover regions in which ELS moderates the effects of PM2.5. We interviewed adolescents about ELS events, used satellite-derived estimates of ambient PM2.5 concentrations, and conducted longitudinal tensor-based morphometry to assess regional changes in brain volume over an approximately 2-year period (N = 115, ages 9-13 years at Time 1). For adolescents who had experienced less severe ELS, PM2.5 was associated with volumetric changes across several gray and white matter regions. Fewer effects of PM2.5 were observed for adolescents who had experienced more severe ELS, although occasionally they were in the opposite direction. This pattern of results suggests that for many brain regions, moderate to severe ELS largely constrains the effects of PM2.5 on structural development. Further theory and research is needed on the joint effects of ELS and air pollution on the brain.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/cercor/bhab346

    View details for PubMedID 34607342

  • Heart rate variability moderates the effects of COVID-19-related stress and family adversity on emotional problems in adolescents: Testing models of differential susceptibility and diathesis stress. Development and psychopathology Miller, J. G., Chahal, R., Kirshenbaum, J. S., Ho, T. C., Gifuni, A. J., Gotlib, I. H. 2021: 1-12

    Abstract

    The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique period of stress, uncertainty, and adversity that will have significant implications for adolescent mental health. Nevertheless, stress and adversity related to COVID-19 may be more consequential for some adolescents' mental health than for others. We examined whether heart rate variability (HRV) indicated differential susceptibility to mental health difficulties associated with COVID-19 stress and COVID-19 family adversity. Approximately 4 years prior to the pandemic, we assessed resting HRV and HRV reactivity to a well-validated stress paradigm in 87 adolescents. During the pandemic, these adolescents (ages 13-19) reported on their health-related stress and concerns about COVID-19, family adversity related to COVID-19, and their recent emotional problems. The association between COVID-19 stress and emotional problems was significantly stronger for adolescents who previously exhibited higher resting HRV or higher HRV reactivity. For adolescents who exhibited lower resting HRV or HRV augmentation, COVID-19 stress was not associated with emotional problems. Conversely, lower resting HRV indicated vulnerability to the effect of COVID-19 family adversity on emotional problems. Different patterns of parasympathetic functioning may reflect differential susceptibility to the effects of COVID-19 stress versus vulnerability to the effects of COVID-19 family adversity on mental health during the pandemic.

    View details for DOI 10.1017/S095457942100033X

    View details for PubMedID 34099071

  • Sympathetic nervous system dominance during stress recovery mediates associations between stress sensitivity and social anxiety symptoms in female adolescents. Development and psychopathology Ho, T. C., Pham, H. T., Miller, J. G., Kircanski, K., Gotlib, I. H. 2020; 32 (5): 1914–25

    Abstract

    Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is commonly diagnosed during adolescence and is associated with psychological stress reactivity and heightened physiological arousal. No study, however, has systematically examined which aspects of autonomic nervous system function mediate likely links between stress sensitivity and social anxiety symptoms in adolescents. Here, we assessed 163 adolescents (90 females; 12.29 ± 1.39 years) with respect to life stress and social anxiety symptoms, and measured respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and skin conductance levels (SCL) during a psychosocial stress paradigm. We operationalized stress sensitivity as the residual variance in subjective stress severity after accounting for objective severity and changes in autonomic regulation using standardized change scores in RSA and SCL. In females only, stress sensitivity and social anxiety symptoms were significantly correlated with each other (p < .001) and with autonomic regulation during both reactivity and recovery (all ps < 0.04). Further, sympathetic nervous system dominance during recovery specifically mediated associations between stress sensitivity and social anxiety symptoms (B = 1.06, 95% CI: 0.02-2.64). In contrast, in males, stress sensitivity, autonomic regulation during reactivity or recovery, and social anxiety symptoms were not significantly associated (all ps > 0.1). We interpret these results in the context of psychobiological models of SAD and discuss implications for interventions targeting autonomic processes.

    View details for DOI 10.1017/S0954579420001261

    View details for PubMedID 33427188

  • Water contaminant levels interact with parenting environment to predict development of depressive symptoms in adolescents DEVELOPMENTAL SCIENCE Manczak, E. M., Miller, J. G., Gotlib, I. H. 2020; 23 (1)

    View details for DOI 10.1111/desc.12838

    View details for Web of Science ID 000501321400020

  • The Development of Generosity From 4 to 6 Years: Examining Stability and the Biopsychosocial Contributions of Children's Vagal Flexibility and Mothers' Compassion. Frontiers in psychology Miller, J. G., Kahle, S., Troxel, N. R., Hastings, P. D. 2020; 11: 590384

    Abstract

    Individual differences in children's prosocial behaviors, including their willingness to give up something of value for the benefit of others, are rooted in physiological and environmental processes. In a sample of 4-year-old children, we previously found evidence that flexible changes in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) were linked to donation behavior, and that these physiological patterns may support greater sensitivity to the positive effects of compassionate parenting on donation behavior. The current study focused on a follow-up assessment of these children at age 6. First, we examined the stability of individual differences in donation behavior and related parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activity from age 4 to 6. Second, we examined associations between donation behavior and RSA at 6 years. Third, we examined whether the association between children's RSA and donation behavior at age 6 varied depending on mothers' compassionate love. We found low to modest stability in donation behavior and RSA reactivity from age 4 to 6. These findings provide preliminary evidence that stable individual differences in altruism, as reflected by generosity, and in some aspects of parasympathetic functioning during opportunities to be prosocial, emerge in childhood. In addition, we found that some of the same associations between donation behavior, RSA, and compassionate love that we previously observed in children at 4 years of age continued to be evident 2 years later at age 6. Greater decreases in RSA when given the opportunity to donate were associated with children donating more of their own resources which, in turn, were associated with greater RSA recovery after the task. Lastly, mothers' compassionate love was positively associated with donation behavior in children who demonstrated stronger decreases in RSA during the task; compassionate parenting and RSA reactivity may serve as external and internal supports for prosociality that build on each other. Taken together, these findings contribute to the perspectives that individual differences in altruistic behaviors are intrinsically linked to healthy vagal flexibility, and that biopsychosocial approaches provide a useful framework for examining and understanding the environmental and physiological processes underlying these individual differences.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.590384

    View details for PubMedID 33224079

  • Neural bases of social feedback processing and self-other distinction in late childhood: The role of attachment and age. Cognitive, affective & behavioral neuroscience Miller, J. G., Shrestha, S. n., Reiss, A. L., Vrtička, P. n. 2020

    Abstract

    Attachment plays a key role in how children process information about the self and others. Here, we examined the neural bases of interindividual differences in attachment in late childhood and tested whether social cognition-related neural activity varies as function of age. In a small sample of 8-year-old to 12-year-old children (n = 21/19), we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure neural responses during social feedback processing and self-other distinction. Attachment was assessed using child self-report. The social feedback processing task presented smiling and angry faces either confirming or disconfirming written information about participant performance on a perceptual game. In addition to observing main effects of facial emotion and performance, an increase in age was related to a shift from negative (i.e., angry faces/bad performance) to positive (i.e., smiling faces/good performance) information processing in the left amygdala/hippocampus, bilateral fusiform face area, bilateral anterior temporal pole (ATP), and left anterior insula. There were no effects of attachment on social feedback processing. The self-other distinction task presented digital morphs between children's own faces and faces of their mother or stranger females. We observed differential activation in face processing and mentalizing regions in response to self and mother faces versus morphed faces. Furthermore, left ATP activity was associated with attachment anxiety such that greater attachment anxiety was related to a shift from heightened processing of self and mother faces to morphed faces. There were no effects of age on self-other distinction. We discuss our preliminary findings in the context of attachment theory and previous work on social evaluation and self-other processing.

    View details for DOI 10.3758/s13415-020-00781-w

    View details for PubMedID 32141028

  • Right Temporoparietal Junction Involvement in Autonomic Responses to the Suffering of Others: A Preliminary Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Study. Frontiers in human neuroscience Miller, J. G., Xia, G. n., Hastings, P. D. 2020; 14: 7

    Abstract

    Functional neuroimaging studies have emphasized distinct networks for social cognition and affective aspects of empathy. However, studies have not considered whether substrates of social cognition, such as the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ), play a role in affective responses to complex empathy-related stimuli. Here, we used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to test whether the right TPJ contributes to psychophysiological responses to another person's emotional suffering. We used a theory of mind functional localizer and image-guided TMS to target the sub-region of the right TPJ implicated in social cognition, and measured autonomic and subjective responses to an empathy induction video. We found evidence that TMS applied at 1 Hz over the right TPJ increased withdrawal of parasympathetic nervous system activity during the empathy induction (n = 32), but did not affect sympathetic nervous system activity (n = 27). Participants who received TMS over the right TPJ also reported feeling more irritation and annoyance, and were less likely to report feeling compassion over and above empathic sadness, than participants who received TMS over the vertex (N = 34). This study provides preliminary evidence for the role of right TPJ functioning in empathy-related psychophysiological and affective responding, potentially blurring the distinction between neural regions specific to social cognition vs. affective aspects of empathy.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00007

    View details for PubMedID 32047426

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6997337

  • Higher Executive Control Network Coherence Buffers Against Puberty-Related Increases in Internalizing Symptoms During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Biological psychiatry. Cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging Chahal, R. n., Kirshenbaum, J. S., Miller, J. G., Ho, T. C., Gotlib, I. H. 2020

    Abstract

    Early pubertal maturation has been posited to be a biopsychosocial risk factor for the onset of internalizing psychopathology in adolescence; further, early-maturing youths exhibit heightened reactivity to stressful events. School closures and enforced social distancing, as well as health and financial uncertainties, during the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to adversely affect mental health in youths, particularly adolescents who are already at risk for experiencing emotional difficulties. The executive control network (ECN) supports cognitive processes required to successfully navigate novel challenges and regulate emotions in stressful contexts.We examined whether functional coherence of the ECN, measured using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging 5 years before the pandemic (T1), is a neurobiological marker of resilience to increases in the severity of internalizing symptoms during COVID-19 in adolescents who were in more advanced stages of puberty at T1 relative to their same-age peers (N = 85, 49 female).On average, participants reported an increase in symptoms from the 3 months before pandemic to the 2 most recent weeks during the pandemic. We found that early-maturing youths exhibited greater increases in internalizing symptoms during the pandemic if their ECN coherence was low; in contrast, relative pubertal stage was not associated with changes in internalizing symptoms in adolescents with higher ECN coherence at T1.These findings highlight the role of the functional architecture of the brain that supports executive functioning in protecting against risk factors that may exacerbate symptoms of internalizing psychopathology during periods of stress and uncertainty.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bpsc.2020.08.010

    View details for PubMedID 33097469

  • Early Life Stress, Frontoamygdala Connectivity, and Biological Aging in Adolescence: A Longitudinal Investigation. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991) Miller, J. G., Ho, T. C., Humphreys, K. L., King, L. S., Foland-Ross, L. C., Colich, N. L., Ordaz, S. J., Lin, J. n., Gotlib, I. H. 2020

    Abstract

    Early life stress (ELS) may accelerate frontoamygdala development related to socioemotional processing, serving as a potential source of resilience. Whether this circuit is associated with other proposed measures of accelerated development is unknown. In a sample of young adolescents, we examined the relations among ELS, frontoamygdala circuitry during viewing of emotional faces, cellular aging as measured by telomere shortening, and pubertal tempo. We found that greater cumulative severity of ELS was associated with stronger negative coupling between bilateral centromedial amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a pattern that may reflect more mature connectivity. More negative frontoamygdala coupling (for distinct amygdala subdivisions) was associated with slower telomere shortening and pubertal tempo over 2 years. These potentially protective associations of negative frontoamygdala connectivity were most pronounced in adolescents who had been exposed to higher ELS. Our findings provide support for the formulation that ELS accelerates maturation of frontoamygdala connectivity and provide novel evidence that this neural circuitry confers protection against accelerated biological aging, particularly for adolescents who have experienced higher ELS. Although negative frontoamygdala connectivity may be an adaptation to ELS, frontoamygdala connectivity, cellular aging, and pubertal tempo do not appear to be measures of the same developmental process.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/cercor/bhaa057

    View details for PubMedID 32215605

  • CHILDREN'S DYNAMIC VAGAL FLEXIBILITY PROTECTS AGAINST ANXIETY SYMPTOMS BUT IS SENSITIVE TO MATERNAL PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTROL Hastings, P., Ugarte, E., Miller, J. WILEY. 2019: S8
  • Water Contaminant Levels Interact with Parenting Environment to Predict Development of Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents. Developmental science Manczak, E. M., Miller, J. G., Gotlib, I. H. 2019: e12838

    Abstract

    Contaminants in drinking water, such as lead, nitrate, and arsenic, have been linked to negative physical health outcomes. We know less, however, about whether such pollutants also predict mental health problems and, if so, the conditions under which such effects are strongest. In this longitudinal study, we examined whether drinking water contaminants interact with negative family environments (parental psychological control) to predict changes in depressive symptoms in 110 adolescents-a developmental period when symptoms often first emerge. We found that for adolescents in psychologically controlling families, levels of drinking water contaminants prospectively predicted depressive symptoms two years later; this effect was not present in adolescents in non-controlling families. Importantly, these associations were not accounted for by family- or community-level socioeconomic resources, demographic features, or by the adolescents' stress exposure. These findings highlight the interplay of physical and psychological environments in influencing depressive symptoms in adolescents. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

    View details for PubMedID 31009144

  • Inter-brain synchrony in mother-child dyads during cooperation: An fNIRS hyperscanning study NEUROPSYCHOLOGIA Miller, J. G., Vrticka, P., Cui, X., Shrestha, S., Hosseini, S., Baker, J. M., Reiss, A. L. 2019; 124: 117–24
  • Resting Heart Rate Variability is Negatively Associated with Mirror Neuron and Limbic Response to Emotional Faces. Biological psychology Miller, J. G., Xia, G. n., Hastings, P. D. 2019: 107717

    Abstract

    Whether neurovisceral integration, reflected by resting high-frequency heart rate variability (HRV), constrains or facilitates neural reactivity to other people's emotions is unclear. We assessed the relation between resting HRV and neural activation when observing and imitating emotional faces. We focused on brain regions implicated in sensorimotor resonance, salience detection and arousal. We used electrocardiogram data to compute resting HRV. Resting HRV measures were negatively correlated with activation in a portion of the inferior frontal gyrus showing mirror neuron properties, the insula and the amygdala in response to observation, but not imitation, of emotional faces. Thus, resting HRV appears to be linked to sensitivity to others' emotional cues, both in terms of the tendency to map others' emotional facial expressions onto one's own motor system and to rapidly detect and mark others' emotions as salient events. Resting HRV may reflect, in part, a threshold for increased processing of others' emotional cues.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2019.107717

    View details for PubMedID 31199946

  • Fine Particle Air Pollution and Physiological Reactivity to Social Stress in Adolescence: The Moderating Role of Anxiety and Depression. Psychosomatic medicine Miller, J. G., Gillette, J. S., Manczak, E. M., Kircanski, K. n., Gotlib, I. H. 2019; 81 (7): 641–48

    Abstract

    Exposure to high levels of fine particle air pollution (PM2.5) is associated with adolescent pathophysiology. It is unclear, however, if PM2.5 is associated with physiology within psychosocial contexts, such as social stress, and whether some adolescents are particularly vulnerable to PM2.5-related adverse effects. This study examined the association between PM2.5 and autonomic reactivity to social stress in adolescents and tested whether symptoms of anxiety and depression moderated this association.Adolescents from Northern California (N = 144) participated in a modified Trier Social Stress Test while providing high-frequency heart rate variability and skin conductance level data. PM2.5 data were recorded from CalEnviroScreen. Adolescents reported on their own symptoms of anxiety and depression using the Youth Self-Report, which has been used in prior studies and has good psychometric properties (Cronbach's α in this sample was .86).Adolescents residing in neighborhoods characterized by higher concentrations of PM2.5 demonstrated greater autonomic reactivity (i.e., indexed by lower heart rate variability and higher skin conductance level) (β = .27; b = .44, p = .001, 95% CI = 0.19 to 0.68) in response to social stress; this association was not accounted for by socioeconomic factors. In addition, adolescents who reported more severe anxiety and depression symptoms showed the strongest association between PM2.5 and autonomic reactivity to social stress (β = .53; b = .86, p < .001, 95% CI = 0.48 to 1.23).Exposure to PM2.5 may heighten adolescent physiological reactivity to social stressors. Moreover, adolescents who experience anxiety and depression may be particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of PM2.5 on stress reactivity.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000714

    View details for PubMedID 31460967

  • Linking autonomic physiology and emotion regulation in preschoolers: The role of reactivity and recovery DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOBIOLOGY Kahle, S., Miller, J. G., Helm, J. L., Hastings, P. D. 2018; 60 (7): 775–88

    Abstract

    Physiological recovery from negative emotions may be important for effective self-regulation, but little is known about recovery processes in children. The current study investigated links between autonomic physiology, anger expressions, and emotion regulation in a sample of eighty-three 3.5-year-olds. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia and pre-ejection period were measured during an anger induction task as parasympathetic and sympathetic indices, respectively. We examined whether preschoolers' anger expressions and emotion regulation behaviors were associated with individual differences in physiology. Autonomic changes were more strongly linked with emotion regulation than with expressed anger. Verbalized regulatory strategies were linked with greater sympathetic reactivity and also with greater recovery. In contrast, attention diversion was associated with blunted patterns of sympathetic reactivity followed by increased sympathetic arousal in the recovery phase. Disengaging from an emotional challenge may be linked with reduced physiological arousal in the short term, this behavior but also appears to have delayed consequences for physiological recovery.

    View details for PubMedID 29926898