Research Team


Our lab members include research faculty, post-doctoral scientists, master’s and doctoral students, post-baccalaureate researchers, and undergraduate students. Our members have expertise and background in neuroimaging, cognitive neuroscience, clinical neuropsychology, developmental psychology, computational science and bioinformatics, linguistics, and neuroanatomy.


Interested in joining our team? Current positions can be found here! We also offer research opportunities to highly motivated undergraduate and graduate students. For more information, email

Principal Investigators

Photo of Ralph-Axel MuellerRalph-Axel Müller, Ph.D. — Professor, Lab Director

Dr. Müller, aka Axel, has specialized in functional brain imaging of neurodevelopmental disorders and typical child development for over 20 years. Following postdoctoral work on functional plasticity in children with early brain damage, he has applied neuroimaging techniques in autism since the late 1990s. He founded the Brain Development Imaging Laboratory in 2001. He is also one of the founding members of the SDSU Center for Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN).




Inna Fishman, Ph.D. —  Research Associate Professor, Associate Clinical Director
Research Interests:  Social Brain Networks in ASD; Early Brain Development in ASD

Inna’s broad research interests lie in understanding neural mechanisms underlying human social behavior. Her current research efforts focus on applying multimodal approaches (EEG, fcMRI, DTI) to examine the connectivity patterns in brain networks associated with social cognition in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Inna’s research has been funded by the Autism Science Foundation (ASF) and NIMH (K01 and BRAINS R01 awards). Her current work is focusing on characterizing structure and function of cortical networks at the time of first behavioral signs of autism (at age 1.5-2 years), and tracking changes in brain network organization through the full symptom manifestation at age 4-5 years. For more information on Dr. Fishman’s current projects, see


Ruth Carper, Ph.D.  Research Associate Professor, Associate Director
Research Interests:  Neuroanatomy of ASD

Ruth has two areas of research focusing on the brain bases and long-term phenomenology of autism spectrum disorders. (1) She uses structural MRI and Diffusion Tensor Imaging to study the neuroanatomy of autism, how it changes during development, and how these structural differences help to explain differences in cognition. She is working with other BDIL members to combine measures of anatomical connectivity (DTI) with measures of functional connectivity (fcMRI) to better understand the brain bases of autism-related behaviors in toddlers, adolescents, and mature adults.  (2) Ruth also has a strong interest in how adults with autism fare as they age.  She currently leads a study examining 40 to 65 year olds with autism.


Post-Doctoral Fellows

jaokeehn_cropR. Joanne Jao Keehn, Ph.D.  Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Research Interests:  Neural Development of ASD

Joanne received her doctorate in Cognitive Science and Psychological and Brain Sciences from Indiana University where her dissertation work focused on the neural development of multisensory visual and haptic processing. Her research interests currently span the neural development of autism spectrum disorders with a focus on sensory processing and functional connectivity through the use of multimodal imaging techniques.


Mikaela Kinnear, Ph.D.  Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Research Interests:  Social Cognition & Behavior in ASD

Mikaela received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from University of Colorado, Boulder where her dissertation focused on understanding social functioning in adolescents and young adults with ADHD and continued her research as a postdoctoral fellow at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, working on studies examining novel assessment and intervention techniques for children and adults with ASD



Annika Linke, Ph.D.  Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Research Interests:  Neural Mechanisms of Development

Annika received her doctorate in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge in England and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Brain and Mind Institute, Western University in Canada. Her main interest is understanding how brain function changes over the course of development, and how it is altered in neurodevelopmental disorders. She has worked with neonates, infants, children and adults


Janice Hau, Ph.D.  Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Research Interests:  Atypical Structural Connectivity in ASD

Janice received her doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Bordeaux where her dissertation work focused on using diffusion MRI to study the connectional anatomy of white matter pathways and their asymmetry and variability. Her current research interests span across the neuroanatomy of fiber pathways and diffusion MRI methods, and focus on understanding atypical structural connectivity in autism spectrum disorder using diffusion MRI combined with other imaging methods



A.R. Jac Fredo, Ph.D.  Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Research Interests:  Neuroinformatics

Jac Fredo received his doctorate in Electrical Engineering from Anna University (India) and continued his research as a Research Associate at the Non-Invasive Imaging and Diagnostics Laboratory, Indian Institute of Technology Madras (India). He received a MANF fellowship to pursue his Ph.D and a SERB-IUSSTF fellowship to pursue his post-doctoral research at BDIL. He continually seeks to broaden his scientific

Graduate Students

Bosi Chen  Doctoral Student

Bosi is a doctoral student in the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. She graduated from New York University with B.A. in Psychology and Economics. She then worked as a Research Associate at the NYU Child Study Center to study the underlying neural mechanisms of autism and ADHD in children and adolescent. Her current research interest is in brain development of autism with a focus on resting state functional connectivity and neural correlates of restricted and repetitive behaviors.


Feifei Gao  Doctoral Student
Research Project: Heterogeneity of Language Network Connectivity in ASD

Feifei is a PhD student in the Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at SDSU and UCSD. She received her bachelor of science in neuroscience from University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research interests include exploring higher cognition and phenomonology of neurodevelopmental disorders using multimodal imaging techniques. Prior to working at BDIL, Feifei studied hallucinations and sensory processing


Afrooz Jahedi, M.A.  Doctoral Student
Research Project:  Diagnostic Prediction in Autism using Conditional Random Forest with resting state fcMRI

Afrooz received her second Masters degree in biostatistics from San Diego State University. She got her first Masters in Mathematical statistics from Shiraz University in Iran. Her research interests include Machine Learning and Data Mining, and analyzing the behavior of high-dimensional learning algorithms. She is particularly interested in the computational aspect of learning and decision making.


Jiwandeep Kohli, M.A.  Doctoral Student
Research Interests:  Cortical Macro & Microstructure in ASD; Multimodal Neuroimaging Methods

Jiwan completed his undergraduate studies in Psychology at UC Berkeley and received a master’s in Psychology with an emphasis in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience at SDSU. He is broadly interested in applications of multimodal neuroimaging techniques to study ASD and other neurodevelopmental pathology. His current focus lies in structural and diffusion MRI modalities, which he applies to investigate differences in the trajectory of both macroscopic and microscopic features of cortical development in ASD.


Lisa Mash, M.S. — Doctoral Student
Research Interests: Dynamic Functional Connectivity; Multimodal Neuroimaging Methods

Lisa is a PhD student in the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. She graduated from Binghamton University with a B.S. in Neuroscience, and then worked at Vanderbilt University studying the neural basis of sensory dysfunction in children and adults with autism


lindsayLindsay Olson — Doctoral Student
Research Interests: Early social and brain development; Health disparities in underserved communities

Lindsay is a PhD student in the Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at SDSU and UC San Diego. She received her BA in Psychology from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington where she studied the effects of socio-economic status on adolescent identity development. After graduating, she studied pragmatic language use in children with and without ASD as a research assistant at Oregon Health & Science University.


Maya Reiter — Doctoral Student
Research Interests: Multi-modal neuroimaging in ASD; Quality of life and psychological well-being

Maya studies the neural substrates of Autism Spectrum Disorder using neuroimaging methods such as fMRI, DTI and MRS. Her research seeks to identify neural mechanisms that are linked to positive outcome and psychological well-being in this population during key stages of life. Maya joined BDIL in August of 2016 as a doctoral student in SDSU/UC San Diego’s Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology


Tiffany Wang — Doctoral Student

Tiffany is a PhD student in the Psychology department at UC San Diego (UCSD). After graduating from UCSD with a B.A/B.S in psychology and biology, she worked with Dr. Aubyn Stahmer at the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center on ways to deliver evidence-based practices into community settings. Tiffany is jointly working with our lab, as well as with Dr. Leslie Carver’s Developmental Neuroscience Lab at UCSD. She is interested in identifying biological or behavioral markers in infants and toddlers at risk for autism.

Aina Eill — Master’s Student
Research Project:  Multivariate Clustering of Multimodal Data

Aina is a Master’s student in the Biomedical Informatics program and graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from SDSU. She joined the BDIL in 2014 and has been working on her thesis topic which consists of a multimodal analysis of the in-house dataset using the machine learning algorithm called Conditional Random Forest. Her area’s of interest are neuroinformatics and machine learning algorithms.



Photo of Chris FongChristopher Fong  Master’s Student
Research Project:  Network Sculpting in ASD

Chris received his B.S. in Psychology from University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and is currently a master’s student in psychology at SDSU. His research interests lie in neuropsychology and neuroimaging throughout lifespan. His current project examines resting-state functional connectivity differences in individuals with ASD.


Samantha Marshall  Master’s Student
Research Interests:  Neuroanatomy of ASD

Samantha Marshall completed her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on developmental neuroscience from California State University, San Marcos and is currently a master’s student in Psychology at SDSU. Her research interests include employing structural imaging methods to understand the behavior



Michael Olson  Master’s Student
Research Interests: Functional Connectivity in ASD

Michael received his B.S. in Neuroscience and Psychology from Regis University in Denver, Colorado and is currently a master’s student in psychology at SDSU. His research interests include using functional and structural neuroimaging methods to better understand behavior and neural mechanisms underlying ASD.



Cynthia Ibarra  Master’s Student

Cynthia is a master’s student in Psychology at SDSU. She graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a B.S. in Psychology. As an undergrad, she investigated the role of interactive media and individual differences in children’s cognitive development. She is interested in examining the neural mechanisms underlying social processes in children with ASD.


Perrod Theo Uwimana  Visiting Master’s Student
Research Interests: Sub-typing ASD using multimodal data

Theo is a Master’s student in the Bioengineering program of Swiss Federal Instute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences and Technologes from there. He joined the BDIL in 2017 and has been working on his thesis topic which consists of  identifying subtype of ASD using the subspace clustering and hierarchical clustering . His areas of interest are neuroinformatics and machine learning algorithms.​



Research Staff

Shadia J. Assi, MPH — Community Outreach Coordinator

Shadia completed her Master of Public Health, with an emphasis in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, at San Diego State University. Before her time at BDIL, she worked in San Diego County in community health programs through outreach, implementation and evaluation. With this past educational and professional experience, she finds it important for community members and organizations to be active participants, contributors and beneficiaries of research projects.


Anna Christina Macari  Project Coordinator

Anna Christina received her B.S. in Cognitive Science from UC San Diego, and completed her master’s in Psychology with an emphasis in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience at SDSU. Her thesis focused on cortico-subcortical functional connectivity in children and adolescents with ASDs. She now works on a variety of projects at BDIL, from coordinating participant recruitment for child and adolescent studies to conducting cognitive assessments for the Adult MRI project.



Nicole (Nikki) Velasco — Project Coordinator

Nicole completed her B.A. in psychology at the University of California, San Diego in December 2016. During her undergraduate career, she interned at Rady Children’s Hospital and assisted on multiple research projects which focused on behavioral intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder. She began working as the project coordinator for BDIL and SCANgroup in November 2016 and is currently coordinating many aspects of the Adult MRI project as well as the Toddler MRI project. She plans to obtain a PhD in Clinical Psychology in the near future.



Research Assistants

Nicole Baggettnicoleb  Undergraduate Research Assistant
Research Project:  White Matter Compromise in ASD

Nicole is an undergraduate student at SDSU majoring in Psychology with the Honors minor in Interdisciplinary Studies. She joined BDIL May of 2015. Nicole’s Senior Honors Thesis focuses on the examination of major white matter tracts in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder after careful group-matching for motion. Outside of the lab, Nicole has received training in Applied Behavior Analysis


Fardowsa Hassan  Undergraduate Research Assistant

Fardowsa Hassan is in her 4th year of undergraduate studies at SDSU. She is a Psychology major and joined BDIL in August 2017. She hopes to work as a therapist in the future and joined the lab to gain experience in research. She is interested in both Neuropsychology and Clinical Psychology with a specific concentration on children with behavioral disorders. She wants to work with children in schools, based on her experience as an after-school program leader visiting schools in the SDUSD. She assists with the adult ASD project at BDIL by scoring and entering data from neuropsychological assessments.


Jingwen Liu  Post Baccalaureate Research Assistant
Research Interests: Early sensory and motor biomarkers for children with ASD
Jingwen has been a research assistant at BDIL since June 2017. She graduated from Case Western Reserve University in August 2015 with a B.A. in Psychology and Biology and department honor in Psychology, where she worked on research on emotional regulation, physiological psychology, cognition, and memory. Before joining BDIL, she worked as an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapist in Boston with individuals with ASDs aged 14-19 years



Elly PueschelElly Pueschel  Undergraduate Research Assistant
Research Project: Sensory Abnormalities & Social Communication deficits in ASD; Standard Brain Template for Toddler MRI Project

Elly is an undergraduate student at SDSU majoring in psychology and minoring in statistics. She joined the lab in January 2016 and has assisted with various projects examining sensory abnormalities in ASD. She hopes to obtain a PhD in Clinical Psychology in the near future.



Sarah Reynolds  Post Baccalaureate Research Assistant
Research Project:  Toddler MRI Project

Sarah has been a research assistant at BDIL since January 2016. She graduated from University of San Diego in May 2017, where she obtained a B.A. in Behavioral Neuroscience and help various leadership roles in Psychology Club, Mortar Board, Active Minds and Climbing Team. Sarah currently works as a Behavioral Interventionist conducting Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She plans to obtain a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. Her career interests include integrative health psychology and outdoor therapy.

Wanda Snell Post Baccalaureate Research Assistant

Wanda has been a research assistant at BDIL since July 2017. She graduated from UC Berkeley in June 2016, where she obtained a B.A. in Psychology. During her undergraduate studies she conducted research at Berkeley’s Auditory Perception Lab, where she investigated semantic and phonetic comprehension for cochlear implant technologies. She is interested in developing expertise in brain imaging methods, and is currently an EEG technician for Grossmont Hospital’s Electrodiagnostic Center. Wanda is planning to apply to medical schools in the near future.

Liat Canes Undergraduate Research Assistant

Liat is an undergraduate student at SDSU and is majoring in psychology. She joined the lab in May 2017 and assists on various projects. Outside of the lab, Liat works as a second grade teacher. She hopes to obtain a PhD in Educational Psychology in the near future.



Chantal Chaaban Undergraduate Research Assistant

Chantal Chaaban is an undergraduate student at SDSU studying Psychology. She joined BDIL in October 2017 and has been assisting with the lab’s adult ASD study by scoring behavioral protocols, entering data, and attending MRI scans. She has a passion for working with children and plans to be a Pediatric Occupational Therapist in the near future. Outside of school and research, she interns for an Occupational Therapist and helps kids improve their cognitive, motor, and social skills.


Michelle Ortega Undergraduate Research Assistant

Michelle Ortega is an undergraduate student at SDSU majoring in Psychology and double minoring in Counseling and Social Change and an Honors Minor in Interdisciplinary studies from the Weber Honors College. She joined BDIL in September of 2017. She mainly works with the Adult ASD Study by scoring neuropsychological assessments and helping with MRI scans. She is also working with the Diffusion Tensor Imaging software “TRACULA” to examine white matter tracts in the brain. In the future, she hopes to pursue a Clinical Neuropsychology program and obtain her PhD. She has a passion for autism and would love to continue to specialize in autism research/treatment.


Past Post-Doctoral Researchers

Katherine Turner, Ph.D.  Associate Director of Psychology Undergraduate Advising, SDSU

Erica Palmer, Ph.D. — Research Scientist, Pacific Science & Engineering Group, Inc.

Monika Kast, Ph.D. — School Psychologist, Zurich School District, Switzerland

Dinesh Shukla, Ph.D. Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, University of Maryland


Past Graduate Students

Angela Abbott, M.A. — Psychometrist, Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, AZ

Surina Basho, Ph.D — Director of Research in Learning Disabilities, Morrisey-Compton Educational Center, San Francisco, CA

Christine Brown, M.A. — Director of Research and Compliance, Pacific Science & Engineering Group, Inc.

Laurie Brenner, Ph.D. — Assistant Professor, Dept. of Neurology, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA

Erin Burns, M.A.  Lab Manager, The Child Language and Cognitive Processes Lab, SDSU

Colleen Chen, M.A. — Doctoral Student in Cognitive Science, UC Irvine

Mike Datko, Ph.D.  Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, Worcester, MA

Janae Deyoe, M.A Study Coordinator, UC San Diego CARE Program

Michael Gaffrey, Ph.D. — Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine

Merage Ghane, B.S. — Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, Virginia Tech

Emily Grenesko, M.A. — Neuroimaging Research Manager, UCSD Eating Disorders Treatment and Research Program

Kai Hwang, Ph.D. — Assistant Professor, Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Iowa

Kiley Hill, M.A.  Research Assistant, Gleeson Neurogenetics Lab, UC San Diego

Amanda Kahn, M.A.  Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, Suffolk University

Brandon, Keehn, Ph.D.  Assistant Professor, Dept. of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, Indiana

Chris L. Keown, M.A. — Doctoral Student in Cognitive Science, UCSD

Alecia Moser, M.S.  Graduate Student at Binghamton University

Aarti Nair, Ph.D. — Postdoctoral Fellow, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior

Sangeeta Nair, M.A. — Doctoral Student in Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Alabama at Birmingham 

Birgit Öttl, Ph.D. — Professional School of Education, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

Erin Parks, Ph.D.  Clinical Psychologist, UC San Diego Eating Disorders Center

Colin Porter, M.A.

Mike Rubio, M.A.  Educational Consultant, MAR Consulting

Sandra Sanchez, M.A.  Study Coordinator, UC San Diego CARE Program

Mark Shen, Ph.D. — Assistant Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Patricia Shih, M.A. Doctoral Student in Cognitive Neuroscience, Brown University

Claire Stewart, M.A. — Research Associate, Affiliated Research Institute


Past Undergraduate Students

Akiko Mizuno, Ph.D. — Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie-Mellon University

Aurora Ramos, Ph.D. — Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychology, Houston Community College, Houston, TX

Becky Bazzill, B.A.

Brad Monk, M.A.  Doctoral Student in Psychology, UC San Diego

Brent Jensen, B.A. — Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistant, Center for Understanding and Treating Anxiety

Francisco Velasquez, Ph.D. Integrated Brain Imaging Center, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Jeff Treiber, M.D. Resident Physician, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

Lancey Pratt, B.A. — Doctoral Student in Speech, University of Colorado, Boulder

Michael Toussaint, B.A. — Master’s Student in Neuropsychology, University of Maastricht

Michele Villalobos, Ph.D. — Assistant Professor and Clinical Director of TEACCH Autism Center, UNC School of Medicine

Omar Maximo, B.A.  Doctoral Student in Developmental Psychology, University of Alabama, Birmingham

Ryan Cardinale, B.A.  Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, University of Michigan

Saba Al-Jawad, B.A. — Research Technician, Johnson & Johnson

Jansyn Spradling, B.A.  PsyD Student, Alliant University, San Diego

Sarah Levy, B.A.  Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, Suffolk University

Kelly Leyden, B.A. — Doctoral Student in Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK

Shae Dinino, M.A.  Doctoral Student in Neurobiology and Behavior, University of Washington

Shelly Jones, B.A.

Valerie Posada, B.A.

Yuliana Cabrera, B.A. — Project Coordinator, UCS Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute (ATRI)

Nicholas Ray, B.A. — Graduate Student at Harvard Graduate School of Education

Laura Alba, M.A.  Doctoral Student in School Psychology at UC Riverside

Seraphina Solders, B.A. — Doctoral Student in Neuroscience at UCSD