Month: April 2013

Dr. Lynn Miller, PhD, Speaking at CHIP Thursday, May 2, 2013

On Thursday, May 2, from 12:30 – 1:30 pm, we finish the spring lecture series with Lynn C. Miller, Ph.D.,  Professor at the Annenberg School of Communication at University of Southern California who will talk about “Socially Optimized Learning in Virtual Environments (SOLVE): The Promise of Interactive and Intelligent Technologies for Reducing Risky Sexual Behaviors.”  It is co-sponsored by the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and UConn Department of Psychology.

The lecture will be in Video Conference Room 204 on the second floor of Ryan at 2006 Hillside Road at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.  For a map of the area, look at http://www.chip.uconn.edu/about/directions-to-chip/.

You can also view this talk streamed live during or after the lecture at the following link: https://mediasite.dl.uconn.edu/Mediasite/Play/c36cb7201cc14572a444faf3641af0641d.

Lynn Miller Ph.D.Lynn Miller Ph.D. is Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and the Department of Psychology at USC specializing in understanding the dynamics of persons and situations impacting behavior.  With over 74 publications, she is/was PI on grants (i.e., NIMH, NIAID, CDC, UARP), mostly involving HIV prevention, totaling over $11M and a Co-PI/senior scientist on grants exceeding an additional $2M. Starting in 1990 when she received her first grant to develop and test interactive interventions to prevent HIV, she has been using new technologies to understand and change risky sexual behavior for at-risk populations. She is currently PI (Co-PI: S. Read, P. Appleby, S. Marsella, & L. Clark), of an NIMH R01 grant entitled, SOLVE IT- Real Risk Reduction for MSM. The team developed and is testing a longitudinal intervention designed to challenge and change more automatic and deliberative risky decision-making and behavior using intelligent agents (with realistic goals, beliefs, actions, and “theory of mind”) within a gaming environment that simulates “real life.” It was delivered nationally “on line” and follow-up tests are currently being completed on-line. She also explores how evolutionary processes, including attachment processes, may underlie sexual behavior, and has leveraged some of that work in developing and using theoretically and biologically inspired computational methods to test dynamic models of personality and social behavior.

In another current grant funded by NIDA (PI: Stephen Read; Co-PI Lynn Miller) the brain patterns (using fMRI) of different groups of MSM while playing the SOLVE game can be compared (how do differentially at-risk MSM respond to risk situations in the game) and those patterns can be related to Read and Miller’s biologically inspired computational models of the users. Additional interdisciplinary projects with Stephen Read and military/corporate collaborators include: (a) the development of biologically-inspired social computational models/cognitive architectures for intelligent agents with personality and emotion (for games), (b) applications that test/use intelligent agents for individual, military, and organizational decision-making (funded by NPRST/Dept. of Navy), and (c) applications that test/use intelligent agents with biologically inspired personality and emotions for robotics applications (funded by ONR/Dept. of Navy).

Recipient of a series of awards and honors (e.g., Gerald R. Miller Early Career Award from the International Network of Personal Relationships; Provost’s Fellow at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research at USC; Recipient of two interdisciplinary grants at USC with Jerry Mendel that fostered breakthroughs, such as Fuzzy Logic II, in engineering), she was PI on i-SOLVE (Socially Optimized Learning in Virtual Environments), a finalist interdisciplinary team proposal for an NSF Science of Learning Center, and has been an invited speaker, consultant, and/or panelist for the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense (NPRST), Department of Homeland Security, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Testing a Music-based Intervention for Children with Autism

By Beth Krane

Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, recently awarded CHIP Principal Investigator (PI) Anjana Bhat a grant to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of a novel music-based intervention for children with autism.

Anjana BhatDr. Bhat, an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology in UConn’s Neag School of Education and a pediatric physical therapist, will use the two-year, $120,000 pilot treatment grant to design and test an intervention to improve the motor, social, and communication skills of low- to moderate-functioning children with autism between the ages of 3 and 14.

The grant is especially significant because there is little to no evidence on the effectiveness of music-based interventions for children with autism, despite the growing popularity of such interventions in recent years, Dr. Bhat said. Additionally, none of the existing music-based interventions for children with autism incorporate movement activities, which are often impaired, and none of the music interventions are offered more than once or twice a week, which is not often enough for this population to truly benefit, she said.

“Children with autism have great difficulty coordinating complex movements such as planning to dress or tie their shoe laces or dribble a ball due to the abnormalities affecting long-range communication between brain areas,” Dr. Bhat explained. “Movement-based activities within the music-based intervention address these difficulties.”

Most children with autism enjoy music, Dr. Bhat said. In fact, two of Dr. Bhat’s colleagues in autism research at UConn, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Psychology Deborah Fein and Associate Professor of Psychology Inge-Marie Eigsti, have documented that children with autism have enhanced musical abilities, such as pitch perception.

“Embedding an intervention in a music class should make it more appealing to children with autism,” Dr. Bhat said. “We will be addressing impairments of a child with autism within a non-intimidating, enjoyable context.”

The intervention, which Dr. Bhat is developing in collaboration with Associate Professor of Music Linda Neelly, who has joint appointments in UConn’s School of Fine Arts and the Neag School of Education, will include a hello song, beat keeping activities, music making with different instruments, whole body movements, such as marching, and a calming, farewell song.

The study will involve 24 children with autism, half of whom will receive the music-based movement intervention and half of whom will be assigned to a control group.

Children in the intervention arm will attend two sessions a week led by an expert trainer in a classroom setting and three sessions a week led by a parent or caregiver at home.

“Having the parents supplement the intervention at home will enhance its likelihood of success, because children with autism need repeated practice to master new skills,” Dr. Bhat said.

Parents will receive a training manual and a CD with all of the songs to use at home. They will keep diaries tracking the sessions they conduct at home and will be required to conduct at least 75 percent of the recommended sessions to participate in the study, Dr. Bhat explained.

Dr. Bhat’s team will match the level of parent training (and other factors, including the severity of the disorder and other therapies being received) when comparing results. The research team also will video tape some of the parent-led sessions and evaluate for fidelity of the training protocol. For instance, researchers will look for parents to make a certain number of bids for social interaction per session.

Twenty families with children with autism already have been recruited to participate in the study, Dr. Bhat said, and the parents are very motivated to participate because they believe their children will enjoy and respond to this type of intervention.

The intervention includes 40 sessions total and takes 8 weeks. Pre-test measures the first week and post-test measures the final week will include standardized tests of participants’ Joint Attention (JA), turn taking, imitation, praxis, coordination, and balance. The research team will obtain video data during pre- and post-test of synchrony during walking, marching, clapping, and drumming motions, and the researchers also will use eye tracking equipment – bands on participating children’s foreheads that record to backpacks with camcorders in them – to show the focus of the participants’ attention.

Dr. Bhat expects children in the intervention arm will demonstrate improved social performance, such as rates of JA bids, rates of turn taking, and duration of verbalization, as well as improved motor performance, such as rhythmic action praxis, motor coordination, and movement synchrony with the other participants.

“Music-based interventions for children with autism are being used but, due to lack of evidence for their effectiveness, they are still not considered within the standard of care and they are not typically covered by insurance,” Dr. Bhat said. “We are hoping to develop and document an effective music-based movement intervention and ultimately bring it into the mainstream so that it is made more readily available to children with autism who could benefit from them.”

Dr. Annette Stanton, PhD, Speaking at CHIP Thursday, April 25, 2013

On ThursdayApril 25 2013, from 12:30 – 1:30 pm, the lecture series finishes April with a talk by Annette L. Stanton, Ph.D.,  Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry/Bio-behavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, about “How and for Whom?  Toward Developing Maximally Effective Psychosocial Interventions for Adults Living with Chronic Disease.”  This is co-sponsored by the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, the UConn Departments of Kinesiology and Psychology.

The lecture will be in Video Conference Room 204 on the second floor of Ryan at 2006 Hillside Road at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.  For a map of the area, look at http://www.chip.uconn.edu/about/directions-to-chip/.   It is co-sponsored by the UConn Office of the Vice President for Research.

You can also view this talk streamed live during or after the lecture at the following link: http://mediasite.dl.uconn.edu/Mediasite/Play/561a187249ac4e0d9f10867927ca5d311d?catalog=0de1f8d7-92c0-46d9-80e3-e3af6d50b3c5.

Annette L. Stanton, Ph.D.Annette L. Stanton, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry/Bio-behavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, senior research scientist at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, and a member of the Center for Cancer Prevention and Control Research in the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Her research centers on specifying factors that promote psychological and physical health in individuals who confront health-related adversity, including cancer, infertility, and other medical conditions.  She is particularly interested in specifying the conditions under which specific coping processes promote or hinder health and well-being.  In the area of psychosocial oncology, she conducts longitudinal research to understand the influences of personality and contextual resources, cognitive appraisals, and coping processes on the quality of life and health in individuals diagnosed with or at risk for a range of cancers, including cancer of the breast, eye, lung, and prostate.  She then works to translate her findings into effective interventions for individuals living with cancer through conducting randomized, controlled intervention trials of psychosocial interventions.  In 2003, Dr. Stanton received the Senior Investigator Award from Division 38 (Health Psychology) of the American Psychological Association in recognition of her research contributions to health psychology.  Currently, she serves as President of Division 38.  She has received a number of awards for undergraduate teaching and graduate mentoring.  In 2006, Professor Stanton was honored with both the J. Arthur Woodward Graduate Mentoring Award and the Distinguished Teaching Award in the UCLA Department of Psychology.  Current funding for her research is provided by the National Cancer Institute and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Dr. Pouran Fagrhi, PhD, Speaking at CHIP Thursday, April 18, 2013

On Thursday, April 18, 2013, from 12:30 – 1:30 pm, the lecture series offers a talk by Pouran Fagrhi, M.D., M.S., F.A.C.S.M.

Professor of Health Promotion and Allied Health Sciences at UConn on “Worksite Weight Loss Intervention Using Contingency Management of Financial Incentives for Risky Employees.”  This lecture is co-sponsored by the Department of Kinesiology at the NEAG School of Education.

The lecture will be in Video Conference Room 204 on the second floor of Ryan at 2006 Hillside Road at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.  For a map of the area, look at http://www.chip.uconn.edu/about/directions-to-chip/.   It is co-sponsored by the UConn Office of the Vice President for Research.

You can also view this talk streamed live during or after the lecture at the following link: https://mediasite.dl.uconn.edu/Mediasite/Play/708a87487866420194c5f2bc166b568e1d.

Dr. Pouran FaghriDr. Pouran Faghri is a medical doctor and an exercise physiologist with expertise in health promotion, wellness, disease, and disability prevention for healthy individuals as well as neurologically impaired and those with chronic conditions and elderly. Dr. Faghri’s areas of interest are: work-site health promotion programs (design/intervention/evaluation), community health promotion programs (design/intervention/evaluation), health related behavior, intervention strategies, health promotion and secondary disability prevention (neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, and physiological) in disabled and elderly populations, and evaluation of social determinant of health, self-care, self-awareness, and decision making strategies under uncertain or distributed environments.

Dr. Carolyn Aldwin, PhD, Speaking at CHIP Thursday, April 11, 2013

On Thursday, April 11, 2013, from 12:30 – 1:30 pm, the lecture series hosts Carolyn M. Aldwin, PhD,  Professor, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University for a talk entitled “Healthy Aging: Is ‘Common Sense’ Wrong?”

The lecture will be in Video Conference Room 204 on the second floor of Ryan at 2006 Hillside Road at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.  For a map of the area, look at http://www.chip.uconn.edu/about/directions-to-chip/

You can also view this talk streamed live during or after the lecture at the following link: https://mediasite.dl.uconn.edu/Mediasite/Play/296a85620b934b37823057e52d361bb11d.

Carolyn AldwinCarolyn Aldwin is a professor of Human Development and Family Sciences in the School of Social and Behavioral Health, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, at Oregon State University.  She received her doctorate in Adult Development and Aging from the University of California, San Francisco. She is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, as well as both Divisions 20 (Adult Development and Aging) and 38 (Health Psychology) of the American Psychological Association, and recently received the Developmental Health Psychology Award from those divisions.  She is currently Past President of Division 20.  Professor Aldwin is editor of Research in Human Development, a multidisciplinary journal, and has authored or edited five books, including: Health, Illness, and Optimal Aging, 2nd ed. (Springer), Stress, Coping, and Development, 2nd ed. (Guilford), and the Handbook of Health Psychology and Aging (Guilford).  She has authored or co-authored nearly 100 other publications on stress, coping, health, and optimal aging. She currently has funding from NIA, NSF, and the Templeton Foundation to examine factors promoting vulnerability and resilience in late life.

CHIP Featured Employee for April

Donna HawkinsDonna Hawkins is CHIP’s featured employee for the month of April.

Donna, a Program Assistant I, began working at CHIP in April 2011. Donna provides administrative support to CHIP Director Jeffrey Fisher and also provides critical administrative and programmatic support for the entire Center. Donna compiles data from many sources in order to produce reports for the Director, for other University administrators and departments, as requested, and for the CHIP Annual Report.  Donna manages CHIP’s conference and interview room scheduling and the sign-out of computers and telecommunications equipment and she helps coordinate the maintenance of the physical facilities.  Donna also assists the administrative team by processing student payroll, creating monthly CHIP Advanced Interactive Technology Center invoices, and tracking monthly telephone expenses.

In addition, Donna recently began assisting the CHIP IT Department with updating the CHIP website, including the directory and bio page listings, newly-awarded grant announcements, the Lecture Series, and research-related pages.  She also has been assisting with creating and modifying interactive CHIP forms.

Thank you, Donna, for your many contributions to CHIP!