Intimate Partner-Violence Related Traumatic Brain Injury

The Valera Lab uses MRI in conjunction with measures of cognitive functioning to assess the effects of physical abuse resulting in traumatic brain injury (TBI) in women sustaining intimate partner-violence (IPV). IPV-related TBI has  rarely been studied. Nonetheless, in a previous report, we showed that approximately 75% of a sample of 99 women who had experienced IPV sustained at least one partner-related TBI and 50% sustained multiple partner-related TBIs. Additionally, brain injury severity was negatively related to memory, learning and cognitive flexibility.  This work confirmed the critical need for additional research in this area. In our current work, we are using a range of methodologies including neuroimaging, neuropsychological assessment, and interviews to characterize women’s partner-related TBI history and its relationship to neural, cognitive, and psychological functioning.

Cerebellar Psychiatric Research

The Valera Lab focuses on understanding the role of the cerebellum and associated corticocerebellar circuits in psychiatric illness. Although the cerebellum has traditionally been studied in relation to motor function, a plethora of data now show that the cerebellum is involved in a range of cognitive, affective, and motor behaviors. Other data show that there are numerous corticocerebellar circuits, and the study of various psychiatric disorders has implicated disruption of these circuits in such disorders. Motivated by these novel observations, my laboratory is actively exploring cerebellar contributions to psychiatric illness including work on ADHD. Neuroimaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), structural MRI and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI)), neuropsychological, and motor assessment methodologies serve as the basis for these explorations.