Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Medical Social Sciences

Lauren S Wakschlag, PhD

Lauren S Wakschlag, PhD

Vice Chair for Scientific & Faculty Development, Department of Medical Social Sciences

Professor of Medical Social Sciences/Institute for Policy Research, Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Focus of Work

Bio

As a developmental/clinical psychologist, Dr. Wakschlag's scientific focus is on how early development (from the prenatal-preschool period) shapes mental health pathways. One major line of inquiry is characterizing the phenotype of emergent mental health problems in early childhood. She and her collaborators have generated the first “developmentally-sensitive toolkit” specifically designed to enhance early identification of mental health problems, via by empirically-based differentiation of th...[Read full text]As a developmental/clinical psychologist, Dr. Wakschlag's scientific focus is on how early development (from the prenatal-preschool period) shapes mental health pathways. One major line of inquiry is characterizing the phenotype of emergent mental health problems in early childhood. She and her collaborators have generated the first “developmentally-sensitive toolkit” specifically designed to enhance early identification of mental health problems, via by empirically-based differentiation of the normative misbehavior of early childhood from the onset of disruptive behavior at preschool age. Currently, these tools are being used to pinpoint corollary neurodevelopmental atypicalities, with work underway to ready the tools for clinical use. Most recently, this work has focused on the neurodevelopment of irritability as a shared substrate of common childhood-onset mental disorders. The second major focus of her research is elucidating prenatal origins of disease pathways. In particular, this work focuses on causal modeling of prenatal smoking “effects” on disruptive behavior. This includes the development of novel methods for multi-level characterization of adverse prenatal environments, investigating prenatal environment x gene interactions, and pinpointing the developmental sequence of exposure-related neurobehavioral vulnerabilities from infancy-adolescence. Examination of prenatal smoking effects “within psychosocial context,” has led her to a burgeoning emphasis on the role of early life stress in these pathways. Increasingly her work in this area aims to discover the patterns of brain:behavior atypicality associated with adverse prenatal exposures. The long term goal of these efforts is to serve as an impetus for moving the “dial” of mental health prevention much earlier in the disease sequence, by providing well characterized neurodevelopmental phenotypes of disease susceptibility to serve as core prevention targets.[Shorten text]

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Education and Certification

  • PhD: University of Chicago (1992)