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PERL lab

Amy Krain Roy, Ph.D.
Director of PERL


Margaret Benda, B.A. Graduate Student

 Margaret Benda, Doctoral Candidate gave us an exclusive look at the behind-the-scenes of the Pediatric Emotion Regulation Lab from a Graduate Student perspective!

​​Where on the translational spectrum would you place the work you’re doing? How would you describe your research to someone who works in a different field?
Maggie: "We are more on the beginning end of the spectrum, close to basic science than full intervention work I would say. The work we are doing in our lab is mainly looking at developmental populations (children and adolescents) who have mental health disorders, primarily anxiety and severe irritability. We want to see what are the mechanisms, both neural and cognitive that are contributing to their symptoms, we are really on the mechanistic side of things... With the intention that this work will help inform future interventions.

What is a lab project you’re currently excited about?
Maggie: "There are two projects in the lab,
 both of which I really enjoy working on, and I'm trying to figure out which one is my biggest interest at the moment. I'm planning on going down the anxiety route, so we have the TAB Study right now that has data collected for it. This study has a sample of anxious adolescents, and we have neuroimaging data, resting state, as well as some task-based data on attention bias. Being able to look at cognitive mechanisms as well as anxiety, is something that I'm super interested in at the moment. The other project that I'm excited about is on a sample of kids who have severe temper outbursts, and severe irritability. I'm currently working on data for that one right now and I am very excited about that! We have different studies that are happening in our lab but they all are getting at the same question of how can we understand what's going on in the brain in youth people who have some of these mental health disorders that are related to cognitive biases. This lab is such a great place for me to be in because it has all this data that is incredibly interesting to me."

What types of tasks do you do in the lab on a typical day?
Maggie: "We are not currently collecting data, we collected most of it for our two big studies prior to COVID, therefore a lot of what I'm doing right now, especially in the summer, is working on manuscript writing, as well as data pre-processing or imaging analysis. At the moment is more on the manuscript preparation side of things rather than the data collection... But hopefully, in the next few years, we're going to get more kids into the lab and be able to collect more data for them."

What past experiences prepared you for working in your lab?
Maggie: "I did a research position at PENN State after graduating from undergrad, I was a project coordinator for three years for a developmental and neuroimaging study there. That was super cool, I feel like I learned an invaluable amount and really got experience on a lot of different elements of running a study. Since I was coordinating this study, I was the main point of contact for all the families, we had over 100 families! Another interesting experience at PENN State is that I got to collect neuroimaging data, so I got to walk our adolescents through the MRI machine and through the scans, help them release some anxiety, and practice how to stay still as a statue… that was really cool."

What is a fun fact or a favorite memory from your time in your lab?
Maggie: "I am fairly new to the lab and most of our meetings for the past year have been on Zoom... But this May we had an end-of-the-year lab party that we held outside on campus and it was really nice, I was able to see a lot of people that I had only seen in little boxes for the first time. We even had a few lab alumni, some undergrads who had graduated in the last few years come in and join the celebration. It was really nice seeing how much the lab meant to them and seeing all the amazing things they are doing now after having moved on from our lab. That was really special."

Special thank you to Dr. Roy, and Maggie Benda for allowing us to spread awareness of the world of neuro-translational science!

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