Dr. Wiggins and the TEND Lab have received a competitive grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), through the Altman Clinical Translational Research Institute, as well as a grant from the SDSU Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Center, to do brain imaging with teenagers with irritability. The purpose of this project is to find out what is working differently in the brains of teenagers who have irritability problems. Irritability may seem like a passing phase, but irritability problems in teens are very important to study as teenagers who have irritability problems are more likely to have mental disorders and financial problems in adulthood, and are also at an increased risk for suicide.
Dr. Wiggins’ project will examine two possible pathways in the brain to irritability: First, it may be that adolescents with irritability are more likely to perceive hostility in people’s facial expressions when people are actually not trying to being hostile, leading those adolescents to react angrily. Second, it may be that children less able to adapt to changing reward conditions (i.e., sometimes you get a reward, sometimes you don’t) may experience more frustration, causing greater irritability. Dr. Wiggins and Dr. Marty Sereno, also faculty at SDSU and director of the new SDSU functional MRI center, will work together to apply cutting-edge neuroimaging analytic techniques to investigate irritability in the brain.