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 BDIL@sdsu.edu

Directors

Ralph-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, which became Brain Development Imaging Laboratories in 2016. He is also one of the founding members of the SDSU Center for Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN).


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

Dr. Fishman’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). Dr. Fishman’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 scan.sdsu.edu.


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

Dr. Carper 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) Dr. Carper 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.

Principal Investigators & Faculty

 


R. Joanne Jao Keehn, Ph.D.  Research Assistant Professor
Research Interests:  Neural and Behavioral Development of Multisensory Processing in ASD

Dr. Jao Keehn’s research interests focus on the development of neural and behavioral mechanisms underlying visual, haptic, and multisensory processing in children with and without autism spectrum disorders. Her work involves the use of multimodal methods, including experimental task paradigms, task-based functional MRI, and functional connectivity MRI among others, to examine sensory development, salience detection, and internalizing behaviors in children with autism.

 


Annika Linke, Ph.D. Research Assistant Professor
Research Interests:  Neural Mechanisms of Development

Dr. Linke 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 extensive experience with neuroimaging neonates, infants, children and adults.

 


Janice Hau, Ph.D. Research Assistant Professor 
Research interests: Neural Circuits and Autism

Dr. Hau received her doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Bordeaux in France. Her research interests include neuroanatomy of white matter, brain-behavior relationships, lifespan brain development, and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. She uses diffusion MRI to investigate brain structure at macro and microscopic scales, in combination with other imaging modalities, to gain insight into the structural and functional organization of the human brain. 

Post-Doctoral Fellows

This Could Be You!

 

 

 

Graduate Students

 


 

Michaela Cordova,  — Doctoral Student
Research Interests: Dynamic Functional Connectivity; Multimodal Neuroimaging Methods, Executive Functioning

Michaela Cordova is a Clinical Psychology PhD student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Ruth Carper and Dr. Ralph Axel Müller. After earning her BA at Portland State, she worked as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor before becoming a Research Associate with Dr. Damien Fair’s neuroimaging lab at Oregon Health & Science University. She is excited to continue her work with the BDIL, uncovering the functional mechanisms and anatomical differences of ASD phenotypes using machine learning techniques.


 

Noelle Abbott — Doctoral Student
Research Interests: Brain structure-function relationships, Impaired language processing, Multimodal neuroimaging

Noelle is a third-year joint doctoral student at SDSU/UCSD in the Language and Communicative Disorders program, under the mentorship of Dr. Tracy Love. She received her Master’s degree in 2018 from the University of California, Davis in psycho/neurolinguistics and from that experience became interested in studying impaired speech processing. Although she mainly works with older individuals with aphasia, she is currently doing a lab rotation with Dr. Inna Fishman to investigate the underlying source of aberrant functional brain activity in children with developmental language disorder. 


 

Naomi Meave Ojeda — Master’s Student
Research Interests: 

Naomi is a second-year master’s student in the Psychology department at SDSU and is co-mentored by Dr. Annika Linke and Dr. R. Joanne Jao Keehn. She received her B.A is Psychology from the University of California (UC) Santa Barbara before earning a post-baccalaureate certificate from UC Irvine where she worked in the Working Memory and Plasticity Lab. She is interested in understanding the underlying mechanisms involved in sensory sensitivity across development in autism.


 

Adriana Rios -Master’s Student
Research Interests: 

Adriana is a second-year master’s student in the Psychology department at SDSU and is co-mentored by Dr. Annika Linke and Dr. Inna Fishman. She received her B.A is Psychology from San Diego State University with a double minor in Counseling & Social Change and Interdisciplinary Studies. She is interested in better understanding the underlying mechanisms behind sleep problems and sensory sensitivities in autism in order to facilitate how to best intervene in early life to improve sleep. 

 


 

Judy Mahmalji— Master’s Student
Research Interests: 

Judy is a second-year master’s student in the Psychology Department at SDSU and is mentored by Dr. Inna Fishman. She received her B.S. in Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of California San Diego with a minor in Human Developmental Sciences. She is interested in better understanding the brain-behavior mechanisms underlying language development in autism in order to better inform early language intervention models.


Gabe Garcia  — Master’s Student
Research Interests: 

Gabe is a second-year master’s student in the Psychology department at SDSU and is mentored by Dr. Annika Linke. He is currently researching normative “brain age” as a possible biomarker in Autism utilizing AI modeling. He is also exploring equine therapy treatment modalities for Autism.


Likitha Bommasani — Master’s Student
Research Interests: 

Likitha is a Master’s student pursuing Big Data Analytics at SDSU. Currently, she serves as a Graduate Research Assistant,  under the guidance of Dr. Janice Hau. Her primary focus lies within a project on autism spectrum disorder, where she specializes in data analysis. Leveraging her expertise, she utilizes lifespan neuroimaging data from our lab and various repositories, such as the National Institute of Mental Health Data Archive. 

Research Staff

Madison Salmina — Project Coordinator

Madison graduated from the San Diego State University with her Bachelors degree in Psychology with a double minor in Counseling & Social Change and Child Development. Madison is coordinator of the Toddler project. She works as a Behavior Therapist for children with autism and will be continuing her academic career in the San Diego State University School Psychology Program to become a School Psychologist.


Sara Bock — Project Coordinator

 

Sara graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with her Bachelors degree in biology with a minor in pre-therapeutic psychology. She received her Master’s degree from Maastricht University in psychology specializing in neuropsychology, where she worked on the Genetics of Endophenotypes of Neurofunction to Understand Schizophrenia (GENUS) Consortium Project. Sara is the coordinator of the Sleep Study and the Toy Study. She intends to continue her academic career and attend a clinical psychology doctoral program in the future.

 

 


 

Gioia Toro — Project Coordinator

Gioia graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with an Emphasis in Neuroscience in May 2022. She is the coordinator of the Aging and Gray Matter projects. She is currently applying to Ph.D. programs to become a clinical psychologist and plans to eventually open her own private practice.

 


 

Stephanie Pedrahita— Research Assistant
Research Interests:

Stephanie graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with her Bachelors degree in Psychology and minor in Cognitive Science. She completed her master’s degree in Psychology at San Diego State University. She is interested in researching the neural circuits underlying neurodegenerative diseases and understanding the impact that stress and aging have on cognitive processes.

 

Research Assistants

 


Christian Ong— Undergraduate Research Assistant

Christian graduated from UCLA in June 2020 with a B.S. in Psychobiology. He joined BDIL in October 2021 as a research assistant for the Toy Study. He hopes to gain more knowledge about not only autism but also on how psychological research contributes to clinical care. Christian plans to attend medical school in the future.


Alexis Dozier — Undergraduate Research Assistant

Alexis is in her third year at San Diego State University, working towards her BA in psychology. She joined the BDIL research team in fall of 2021 and is a part of the toy study. Alexis hopes this lab will give her an opportunity to explore all areas of psychology. She is interested in many different aspects of psychology, but more specifically adolescent development and human sexuality. She intends to continue her education and get her Ph.D. after her graduation.


Jessica Vu  Undergraduate Research Assistant

Jessica Vu is an undergraduate Biology student at SDSU with an Honors minor. She joined BDIL in January 2021 and is a research assistant for the Toddler Project. Jessica hopes to gain experience in neuroscience, specifically in understanding the psychological mind and its developmental disorders. She is currently on the pre-med track and plans to attend medical school to study neurology.


Meagan Herrera — Undergraduate Research Assistant

Meagan Herrera is a post-grad research assistant. She received her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis in Neuroscience from SDSU in May 2023. She joined BDIL in August 2022 and is a research assistant supporting the Toddler Project. Meagan hopes to go on to graduate school to study Cognitive Neuroscience, and teach along the way. She is interested in neuroimaging and sensory processing in neurodivergent populations.


Hope Porter — Undergraduate Research Assistant

I’m an undergraduate student at SDSU. I’m Pre-med and am interested in going into the field of reproductive endocrinology. I’m very intrigued by the physiological aspects of psychology, like studying different areas of the brain and seeing what they contribute to. I joined the lab in October 2021.


Kristina Briggs Research Assistant

Kristina Briggs is a post-grad research assistant. She received a B.A. in Child Development with a concentration in pre-medical studies from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2022. Kristina joined the lab in January 2023 and hopes to matriculate into medical school as an aspiring pediatrician.

 


Christine Barseghian Undergraduate Research Assistant

Christine is an undergraduate pre-med student at the University of San Diego pursuing a B.A. in Behavioral Neuroscience with minors in Chemistry and Biomedical Ethics. She joined the lab in January of 2023 and is a research assistant for the aging study. She hopes to gain more knowledge outside the classroom about the interaction between the human brain and behavior, as well as better understand autism spectrum disorder in general.


Anna Ferrante Undergraduate Research Assistant

Anna Ferrante is an undergraduate psychology major at SDSU, completing her BA. She joined the lab early 2023 and is a research assistant for the aging study. She hopes to gain a deeper understanding about the human brain as well as autism spectrum disorder. She will hopefully move on to be a graduate student in 2024 and complete the requirements to become a LPCC to further help others in her community. 

 


Alexis Walker  Undergraduate Research Assistant

Alexis is an undergraduate student at San Diego State University, working toward her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Counseling and Social Change. She joined BDIL in September 2022, and is a research assistant for the toddler and sleep studies. Alexis aims to go to graduate school to study developmental psychopathology. She is particularly interested in better understanding the underlying mechanisms of bipolar disorder and potential biomarkers for suicide.

 


Michelle Budman Undergraduate Research Assistant

Michelle is an undergraduate student at San Diego State University pursuing a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Child Development. She joined BDIL in March 2023 and is a research assistant for the sleep study. Michelle is working towards attending graduate school to study neuropsychology and perform further research on neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.

 


Tess Do Undergraduate Research Assistant

Tess is an undergraduate student at San Diego State University, working towards her B.A. in Psychology, with an emphasis in Neuroscience, and a minor in Child & Family Development. She joined BDIL in June 2022 and is a research assistant supporting the Toddler Project and Sleep Study. Tess hopes to go to graduate school to study and learn more about neurodevelopmental disorders

 


This Could Be You! — Undergraduate Research Assistant

We are always looking for more research assistants to get hands-on research experience.

 

 

Alumni

 

CassPast Post-Doctoral Researchers (and Where Are They Now)

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

A.R. Jac Fredo, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (BHU), Varanasi, India

Mikaela Kinnear, Ph.D. — Clinical Psychologist, West Coast CBT

Jonni Johnson, Ph.D. — Sr. Research Specialist, California Department of Public Health

 

Past Graduate Students (and Where Are They Now)

Molly Wilkinson, Ph.D

Jiwandeep Kohli, M.A, M.S., Ph.D

Bosi Chen, Ph.D

Lindsay Olson, Ph.D Clinical Psychology Intern, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Maya Reiter, Ph.D — Clinical Psychology Intern

Tiffany Wang

Afrooz Jahedi 

Cynthia Ibarra, M.A. — Clinical Research Coordinator at UCSD Stein Institute for Research on Aging

Michael Olson M.A. 

Chris Liu M.A. 

Shiming Zhang M.A. 

Adam Schadler M.A. — Research Associate, UCSD, San Diego, CA

Lisa Mash, PhD — Neuropsychology Fellow, Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital

Feifei Gao, PhD — Pediatric Neuropsychology Fellow, Children’s National Medical Center, Research Affiliate, Georgetown University, Washington DC

Christopher Fong, M.A. — Doctoral student, SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, San Diego, CA

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, MGH/HST Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging

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

Michael Gaffrey, Ph.D. — Assistant Professor, Dept. of Psychology & Neuroscience, Duke University

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

Emily Grenesko, LMFT Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Chicago Center for Evidence Based Treatment, Chicago, IL

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, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow in PTSD, San Francisco VA Health Care System, San Francisco, CA

Brandon Keehn, Ph.D.  Associate Professor, Departments of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences and Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, Indiana

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

Anna Christina Macari, M.A. BSN to DNP Nurse Midwifery Student at Oregon Health & Science University

Samantha Marshall, M.A. Psychology Faculty, Oxnard College

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

Aarti Nair, Ph.D. — Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Loma Linda University, California

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, Director of Outreach and Admissions, UC San Diego Eating Disorders Center

Theo Perrod Uwimana, M.S. (Visiting Graduate Student) Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL)

Colin Porter, M.A. 

Mike Rubio, M.A., BCBA — Case Manager, Psychiatric Centers at San Diego (PCSD)

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. Data Scientist at Seeking My Next Challenge!

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

Vicky Weiqi Zhao, M.A. Doctoral Student in Cognitive Science, UC San Diego

Aina Eill, M.A. — Project Manager, Scripps Health

Fatima Tuz-Zahra

 

Past Research Staff (and Where Are They Now)

Stephanie Peña

Kalekirstos Alemu

Shadia Assi, M.P.H. Dept. of Family Medicine and Public Health, UC San Diego

Sarah Reynolds Graduate Student, Master of Social Work, University of Utah

Mikaela (Mikki) Orner Clinical Operations Associate, Allergan, Irvine, CA

Ian Shryock — Doctoral student in Psychology, University of Oregon.

Vinton Omaleki — Center of Gender Equity and Health

Lindsey Ringlee — Milieu Counselor, The Healthy Teen Project, San Francisco, California

 

Past Undergraduate Students (and Where Are They Now)

Akiko Mizuno, Ph.D. — Postdoctoral Fellow, Geriatric Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute, Pittsburgh, PA

Alexa Davis, B.A. — Post-bacc Research Assistant, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, IL

Alexis Rivkin, B.A. 

Ally LeVine

Aurora Ramos, Ph.D. — Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Coastal Georgia, Brunswick, GA

Becky Bazzill, B.A. 

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

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

Camilla Catignas a senior at SDSU working on Bachelor’s in Public Health Science

Chantal Chaaban — Graduate Student, Master in Occupational Therapy, University of St. Augustine

Cassidy Kinderman, B.A.

Devin Brown, B.A. 

Elisa Mendez 

Elly Pueschel, B.A. Doctoral Student in Developmental Psychology at University of Southern California (USC)

Emma Churchill  — Graduate Student, MA Psychology, SDSU

Fardowsa Hassan, B.A.

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

Halie Shea Doan

Hannah Levine, B.A. — Occupational Therapy Practitioner Assistant, Chicago Speech Therapy, Chicago, IL

Ian Martindale, B.A. — MA Program in Psychology, San Diego State University. Also working at the NeuroCognition Laboratory

Irem Sogutlugil — Special Education Technician, San Diego Unified School District

Irene Demarco, B.A. Traveling the world post-graduation

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

Jeff Treiber, M.D. Neurosurgery residency, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

Jenna Foster, B.A.

Julia Cataldo, B.A. — Undergraduate in Psychology & SACNAS chapter president to promote diversity in STEM, SDSU, San Diego, CA

Julia Pastrana, B.A. 

Katherine Paszek, B.A. — Master student in the Applied Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle WA, Case Manger at STEPPS ABA Company

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

Kimberley D’Aquisto, B.A.

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

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

Mari Arcadio Arce, B.A. 

Mercedes Palacio, B.A. — Applying to graduate programs in Clinical Psychology

Merna Nissan, B.A.

Michael Apostol  — a senior at University of San Diego working on Bachelor’s in Psychology

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

Michelle Gaspar, B.A. 

Michelle Ortega, B.A. — Master’s Student in Special Education with specialization in Autism, SDSU

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

Monica Deyski, B.A. 

Nicholas Ray, M.Ed. 

Nicole Baggett, B.A.  Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology at Pacific University

Nicky Harpster, B.A. — applying to graduate programs in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Nicole Janessari

Omar Maximo, Ph.D.  Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Alabama, Birmingham

Quynn Ton

Ryan Cardinale, Ph.D.  Postdoctoral Fellow in Clinical Psychology, Kaiser Permanente, Sacramento, CA

Ryan Tung, B.A. — Doctoral Student, Neuroscience, University of Michigan

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

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

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

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

Shelly Jones, B.A. 

Tamae Sugiura, B.A. — Graduate student in Speech and Language Pathology Masters Program, SDSU, San Diego, CA

Tamara Pinhassian, B.A. — Masters student in Early Childhood Mental Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

Valerie Posada, B.A. 

Wanda Snell, B.A. — Behavioral technician in San Diego, CA

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

Zoe Damon, B.A. — Project Coordinator, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA