The Ellman Lab, directed by Dr. Lauren Ellman, focuses on risk factors that contribute to the development of psychosis and related disorders. Projects in our lab span across two sensitive periods of development: the pre- and perinatal timeframe, as well as the period from adolescence into young adulthood.
Our lab has several multi-site studies underway that aim to identify individuals showing the first signs of psychosis using targeted questionnaires, cognitive testing batteries, and biological methods, such as neuroimaging. Not everyone experiencing psychosis risk symptoms will go on to develop a psychotic disorder, just like how not everyone who develops a runny nose will end up with a cold or flu. Some of the signs and symptoms we study in adolescents and young adults include bothersome thoughts and experiences, such as suspiciousness or paranoia, perceptual disturbances (such as seeing or hearing things that others do not), decreases in social interactions, sleep disturbances, and increases in mood or anxiety symptoms. Since psychosis affects between 1-3% of the population, and typically emerges in late adolescence and early adulthood, another important facet of our work is connecting individuals with treatment providers in the community to help prevent or treat early psychosis risk symptoms.
The Ellman lab is also interested in pre- and perinatal risk for psychosis and depressive disorders. This line of research targets how factors prior to, during, and after birth may influence risk and predict long-term clinical, neural, cognitive, social, and emotional outcomes for offspring. In this area, lab members have focused how maternal stress and inflammation during pregnancy contribute to outcomes in offspring across the lifespan.
In the lab, we are also very interested in fostering multi-level mentoring and professional development. Undergraduate research assistants play an integral part in helping to keep our many ongoing projects running smoothly and have also been involved in consenting participants and assisting with data collection. We pair undergraduate-level volunteers with current graduate students to help foster professional development. Our lab has a strong track record of mentoring honors program students and those interested in carrying out their own independent research projects. Recent topics have included studying relationships between creativity, marijuana use, and endorsement of psychotic-like experiences in young adults (Ian Ogborn, '22), and examining effects of childhood trauma on cognition through perceived stress sensitivity (Gabbi Tapper, '22). We're always on the lookout for motivated research assistants, and would encourage interested undergraduates to check out our website to learn more about becoming involved!
By combining our two areas of research, we hope that our findings will contribute to the development of enhanced early detection and treatment approaches for severe psychopathology that will ultimately prevent the emergence of serious disorders and promote better mental health outcomes.