Ding and collaborators awarded NIH NIMH R01 grant

Mingzhou Ding, PhD

Congratulations to Drs. Mingzhou Ding (PI), Distinguished Professor & J. Crayton Pruitt Family Professor, and Andreas Keil (PI), professor, department of psychology, for their collaborative NIH National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) R01 grant titled, Acquisition, extinction, and recall of attention biases to threat: Computational modeling and multimodal brain imaging.

The $2.3 million project will enable Ding, Keil, and co-investigators to examine the brain’s visual and attention mechanisms underlying the fear acquisition and extinction using multimodal neuroimaging techniques and advanced computational methods. The ultimate goal is to develop neural markers of emotional dysfunction that can be used to diagnose and treat brain disorders.

The learning and unlearning of a fear response through conditioning and extinction learning is a process of interest not only for basic neuroscience research but also for clinical intervention and diagnostic procedures in a variety of psychiatric disorders. The proposal builds on robust preliminary data that suggest a pivotal role of visual and attention systems, along with limbic structures, in aversive learning. The team will use simultaneous EEG-fMRI, combined with computational modeling and advanced analytical techniques including machine learning, to characterize—in time and space—the dynamics and communication within and among the brain’s visual, attention, and limbic networks during the Acquisition and extinction of conditioned fear in healthy populations.

Furthermore, testing of the proposed computational model on a community sample stratified by their cardiac reactivity to threat will advance their understanding of the model’s capability to differentiate individual differences in threat response and lay the foundation for identifying new biomarkers and treatment targets for disorders of fear, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.

Dr. Ruogu Fang, assistant professor pf biomedical engineering (Co-I), will assist with the implementation of machine learning algorithms and the interpretation of analysis results. Dr. Carol Mathews (Co-I), Brooke Professor of psychiatry, and the Vice-Chair for Strategic Development, will help with the individualized establishing and testing of model-based markers of dysfunctional attention biases. She will also facilitate the translation of the proposed basic research project into the clinical arena.

The proposed research breaks new ground by combining novel neuroimaging techniques with advanced computational methods to examine the brain’s visual and attention processes underlying fear acquisition and extinction in humans.