The long-term goal of the Social-Emotional Neurodevelopment (SEND) research program led by Barbara Thompson is to understand the development and functional consequences of disrupted affective processing in young children. The program is unique, as we utilize model systems and clinical studies in an integrated fashion, ultimately to discover new approaches to intervention in children with special needs.
Affective processing is known to influence attention, motivation, and emotional regulation, all of which are essential for healthy brain and child development. Yet, there is a major knowledge gap in understanding affective processing in young children. This gap is even more pronounced for young children with neurodevelopmental disorders and those characterized by language impairments. Adding to this complexity is the fact that affective processing is driven by internal states that directly impact, and probably even drive, specific behavioral output of children.
Though challenging to assess, skill-sets in domains influenced by affective processing are critical for establishing capacity in developing executive function, which directly influences adaptive capacities, resilience, problem-solving, and academic and practical skill building. All of these are major determinants of quality of life. To better understand the neurobiological processes that underlie affective processing, utilization of animal models becomes critical for the comprehensive analysis of molecular, cellular, and circuit components supporting affective behavior.