Monica Luciana

Biological Bases of Behavior, Perception, and Cognition: Exploring the Building Blocks in Psychology at Minnesota
Dr. Monica Luciana

Monica Luciana, PhD, has a deep-rooted interest in the biological bases of human behavior; in particular, executive functions of the brain. As a graduate student in Psychology at the U of M in the 1990’s, Luciana examined the nature of executive functions and how they are influenced by neurochemical variations. As a faculty member at Minnesota, Luciana has built on that early research, exploring links between executive functions, their neural underpinnings,  and psychopathology. According to Luciana, “deficits in [executive function] have been linked to almost every form of psychopathology that we know about, so I want to better understand the mechanisms through which these functions naturally express themselves. By understanding what goes wrong, we might be able to structure either prevention strategies or interventions that allow those aspects of behavior to be more adaptively expressed.”

Many researchers, including Luciana, believe that the adolescent period is a vulnerable stage for brain and behavioral development. It is a time when individuals take more risks, experiment with alcohol and drugs, and when symptoms of psychopathology, including substance abuse, tend to emerge. Through the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Consortium project, Luciana and colleagues are trying to understand what is special about adolescence as a biological period in development, and how adult behavior is shaped by earlier experiences. Specifically, they are exploring whether experiences during adolescence (e.g., alcohol and drug use; environmental adversity) disrupt the expected trajectory of brain functioning and whether that disruption has a lasting impact on behavior. Luciana hopes that the answers she finds will help determine if there is a “sensitive period” during adolescent development in order to predict and explain when experiences may have a bigger impact on the biological aspects of an individual’s behavior—and if we can intervene to prevent problems from developing and worsening over time. 

Luciana, Monica, Paul F. Collins, Ryan L. Muetzel, and Kelvin O. Lim. “Effects of Alcohol Use Initiation on Brain Structure in Typically Developing Adolescents.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 39, no. 6 (2013): 345–55.

Luciana, Monica, and Paul F. Collins. “Neuroplasticity, the Prefrontal Cortex, and Psychopathology-Related Deviations in Cognitive Control.” Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 18, no. 1 (May 9, 2022): 443–69.

Silverman, Merav H., Kelly Jedd, and Monica Luciana. “Neural Networks Involved in Adolescent Reward Processing: An Activation Likelihood Estimation Meta-Analysis of Functional Neuroimaging Studies.” NeuroImage 122 (November 15, 2015): 427–39.

Thijssen, Sandra, Paul F. Collins, and Monica Luciana. “Does Pubertal Stage Mediate the Association between Family Environment and Structure and Function of the Amygdala-Mpfc Circuit? A Replication Study of the Longitudinal ABCD Cohort.” Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 56 (December 2022).

Urošević, Snežana, Paul Collins, Ryan Muetzel, Kelvin O. Lim, and Monica Luciana. “Pubertal Status Associations with Reward and Threat Sensitivities and Subcortical Brain Volumes during Adolescence.” Brain and Cognition 89 (August 2014): 15–26.

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