Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Department of Medical Social Sciences
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Mechanisms of Health & Disease Research Programs

Browse below to learn about the work our scientists are doing related to the mechanisms of health and disease.

 Donna Bridge, PhD, Research Program

Bridge’s program investigates human learning and memory.

Research Description

Memory involves learning new content (encoding) and accessing stored content (retrieval). Bridge’s research program focuses on the intersection of encoding and retrieval processes. Her studies have shown that retrieval enables incorporation of new information into existing frameworks. This process facilitates learning and causes memory-updating. Memory retrieval also dynamically influences ongoing behavior by dictating how information in the environment is sampled. To study these processes, she uses a combination of strategic behavioral paradigms, intracranial EEG, scalp EEG, fMRI, TMS and eye-movement tracking.

For more information, see Bridge's faculty profile or visit the Bridge Research Program website.


See Donna Bridge’s publications on PubMed.


Program Staff

James Kragel, Postdoctoral Fellow

 Amelie Petitclerc, PhD, Research Program

Petitclerc’s program focuses on the development and prevention of disruptive/antisocial behaviors.

Research Description

Petitclerc studies how behavior problems (i.e., disregard for rules, aggression, callous-unemotional behaviors) develop from the first years of life and examines how a child’s genetic makeup and environmental context — from the parent-child dyadic relationship to the policy environment — affect development. Petitclerc also has interest in testing the impact of public policies on children’s development.

Petitclerc currently directs two studies. The Raising Our Children study, funded by the NICHD, aims to understand resilience mechanisms that foster positive socialization among preschool-aged children of a previously incarcerated parent. The participants are 150 families with a preschool-aged child and a parent who experienced incarceration as a juvenile. We hope that this study will identify protective factors that can be used to develop effective program and policy interventions to prevent the intergenerational transmission of antisocial behavior.

The Impact of Cash Transfers study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, aims to test the impact of income supplements on children’s later health risk behaviors and other outcomes. The study uses a simulation approach based on the Social Genome Project to quantify the potential impact of different income policy options on children’s long-term outcomes. The simulation model uses the data from the Children of the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 and uses information from our meta-analysis of the causal impact of income supplements on children’s development.

For more information, see Petitclerc’s faculty profile.


See Petitclerc’s publications on PubMed.


Program Staff

Makeda Springette, Research Project Coordinator

 Joel Voss, PhD, Research Program

Voss’ program directs the Laboratory for Human Neuroscience, which studies brain mechanisms for learning and memory and novel neuroscience-based interventions for memory impairment.

Research Description

Voss’ laboratory uses human neuroscience methods (fMRI, EEG, TMS, eye tracking) to investigate mechanisms of learning and memory and their impairment in neurologic and neuropsychiatric disorders. They also use noninvasive stimulation methods to modulate distributed networks of the human hippocampus in order to test their roles in memory and to develop novel treatments for memory impairment.

For more information, see Voss' faculty profile or visit the Laboratory for Human Neuroscience at the Feinberg School of Medicine website.


See Voss’ publications on PubMed.


 Lauren Wakschlag, PhD, Research Program

Wakschlag’s program studies how early development (from the prenatal-preschool period) shapes mental health pathways.

Research Description

Wakschlag and her collaborators have generated the first “developmentally-sensitive toolkit” specifically designed to enhance early identification of mental health problems, via 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. 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.

For more information, see Wakschlag's faculty profile.


See Wakschlag’s publications on PubMed.


 Lisa Wu, PhD, Research Program

Wu’s program studies biological and chronobiological mechanisms of the cancer symptom cluster, quality-of-life and survivorship issues in cancer patients and the development of interventions to treat such symptoms.

Research Description

Wu has conducted research examining quality-of-life and survivorship issues in cancer patients, particularly cognitive impairment. In recent years, she has channeled her interest in neurorehabilitation into her research, which is primarily focused on the neurobehavioral and neurocognitive changes associated with cancer and its treatment and the development of interventions to treat such changes. She is also interested in the underlying biological and chronobiological mechanisms of the cancer symptom cluster (including fatigue, cognitive impairment, sleep and mood disturbances) in cancer survivors. Wu's research has been funded by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.

For more information, see Wu's faculty profile


See Wu’s publications on PubMed.


Program Staff

Lauren Walker
Research Study Coordinator

Katrin Bovbjerg
Research Study Coordinator

Amreen Matharu
Research Assistant

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