The Conte Center @ UCI, led by PI Dr. Tallie Z. Baram, addresses how early-life experiences, and especially early-life adversity, influence brain maturation and contribute to vulnerability to mental health problems throughout life. We have identified unpredictable, chaotic sensory signals from parents or environment as an important novel type of adversity- which is amenable to prevention.
We employ cutting edge research tools in parallel in infants, children and adults and in experimental rodent models to determine how early-life experiences shape individual brain cells and the development and organization of brain circuits. These carry out the important complex functions of our brain, including behaviors such as risk-taking, drug use and depression.

Tallie Z. Baram, MD, PhD



10/28/22: Save the date for our 10th Annual Conte Center Symposium which will be on Pi Day, March 14, 2023. Check our symposium page for the most up to date information. 

10/2/22: A recent article on featured Conte Center Project leader Dr. Victoria Risbrough. She discussed why having an unpredictable childhood can be traumatizing. Click here to access the full research paper.

6/2/22: The theme of the Conte Center@UCI is now published in Science! The article was written by Dr. Matthew Birnie and Dr. Tallie Z. Baram, and finds parents’ unpredictable behavior may impair optimal brain circuit formation. Click here for the publication or click here for the UCI press release.


6/24/22: Congratulations to Rachael Hokenson for receiving the Gazzinaga Family Award as well as being accepted to participate on a T32 award.

6/22/22: Predictable and consistent parental behavior is key for optimal child brain development was the main takeaway from a recent article from Dr. Tallie Z. Baram, which was featured on The Conversation. Click here to access the full article.

5/6/22: Congratulations to Katharine Simon, PhD, Postdoctoral Scholar within the Department of Cognitive Sciences, for being the second project to receive the 2022-2023 Conte Center Seed Grants. Click here for more information about the project.

5/6/22: Congratulations to Briac Halbout, PhD and Steven Grieco, PhD, Assistant Project Scientists within UCI's School of Medicine, for being the first project to receive the 2022-2023 Conte Center Seed Grants. Click here for more information about their project.

4/27/22: Congratulations Sophia Levis for completing her PhD! She will now be working on completing her MD.
For more information about Sophia's achievements, click here.

3/29/22: UCI Conte Center led study links early life adversity, microglia dysfunction, to aberrant adult stress responses, mental illness. See here for more information. 

3/21/22: The Conte Center 9th Annual Symposium was held on March 23, 2022, 9-3pm at the Beckman Center. The Keynote Speaker was Harvard Professor and depression expert Diego Pizzagalli, PhD. See Symposia Page for keynote recording.

2/9/22: Stemming the Rising Mental Health Crisis: UCI researchers help illuminate the complexities of the mind and find solutions to prevent a twin pandemic, an article by Christine Byrd. Click Here for Link.


2/7/22: Audrey Steele Burnand estate gifts $57.75 million to UCI to fund the creation of a new campuswide center that will pursue research into the causes and treatment of depression and also support the UCI-managed Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center. UCI Press Release Here, LA Times Coverage Here

2/9/22: The Baram Lab is seeking applications for an open Postdoctoral position. Full details here.

1/27/22: The Conte Center @ UCI is soliciting applications for up to 4 grants. Each grant will be funded up to $30,000 for innovative basic or translational research projects focusing on brain plasticity, including how experiences influence the brain and may thus contribute to vulnerability to cognitive and mental illness. Full details here.

12/13/21: Single Cell transcriptomics paper by Dr. Annabel Short, and Project 1 Team published in Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science. The paper identifies new undescribed populations of brain cells expressing the stress-peptide CRH that are uniquely selective to early-life adversity. Read More.

12/10/21: The US Surgeon General's Advisory on Youth Mental Health in the time of COVID prominently cites research performed within the Conte Center @ UCI.  It highlights our recommendations for predictability as a mitigator of the effects of the pandemic on mental health. Read More.

11/24/21: Congratulations to Matthew Birnie for receiving a highly competitive research grant from The British Society of Neuroendocrinology. Read More.

11/24/21: Congratulations to Rachael Hokenson for receiving the ARCS Scholar Award from the ARCS Foundation Inc Orange County chapter. Read More.

Congratulations to Dr. Kristina Uban, Assistant Professor within the Department of Health, Society & Behavior, as she is the final recipient of the 2021 Conte Center Seed Grants.  Read more.

Congratulations to Dr. Justin Shobe and Dr. Elham Ghanbarian, Assistant Project Scientists within the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, who are the first of two recipients of the 2021 Conte Center Seed Grants.  Read more.

Sabrina Liu has received 3 awards this year which include: Award for Outstanding Dissertation in the Field of Trauma Psychology, APA Minority Fellowship Program Psychology Summer Institute, and LEAD Institute Fellow Award. Read more.

Sophia Levis is one of only five MD/PhD and other dual degree candidates who received Travel Awardees for the 2021 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) 60th Annual Meeting. Read more.

Cassandra Kooiker, an MD/PhD candidate received a phenomenal score of top 1% for her individual NIH predoctoral grant application (F30). Read more.

In their new review paper, Cassie and Matt describe the role of the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT) as an encoder and integrator of emotionally salient experiences occurring early in life. This paper is available in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience: The Paraventricular Thalamus: A Potential Sensor and Integrator of Emotionally Salient Early-Life Experiences. Read more.

In a new review paper, Sophie describes the link between early-life adversity (ELA) and addiction vulnerability, summarizing alterations in behavioral phenotypes and reward and stress brain circuits in rodent models of ELA. This paper is available in European Journal of Neuroscience: Neurodevelopmental origins of substance use disorders: Evidence from animal models of early-life adversity and addiction. Read more.

Congratulations to Dr. Baram for receiving an award from the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine for the proposal: “Using Precision Medicine to Tackle Impacts of Adverse and Unpredictable Experiences on Children’s Neurodevelopment.” The team aims to screen 100,000 Orange County children to deliver interventions for those most at risk. Read more.


January 17, 2023 @ 9am | Andrea Danese
Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
King’s College London

Topic: New Directions in Research on Childhood Adversity.
Location: Zoom
More Info


November 29, 2022 @ 9am | Dominik R. Bach
Professor of Cognitive-Computational and Clinical Neuroscience

University College London

Topic: Human action selection under threat:
computing adaptive behaviour
Location: Zoom
More Info


October 25, 2022 @ 1pm | Rajendra Morey
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Duke University

Topic: Leveraging Team Science at a Global Scale to Investigate the Neurobiology of PTSD
Location: Zoom
More Info


September 13, 2022 @ 4pm | Susan Perlman
Associate Professor of Psychiatry

Washington University of St. Louis

Topic: Neuroscientific Evaluation of Risk in Early Childhood Psychopathology: Integrating Proximal and Distal Factors
Location: Gross Hall 4th Floor Conference Room
More Info


June 14, 2022 at 1PM | C. Neill Epperson, M.D.
Professor of
Psychiatry and Family Medicine
Executive Director | Depression Center
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Topic: Enduring Impact of Childhood Adversity: Multimodal Investigations Across the Lifespan
More Info


May 9, 2022 at 4PM | Mathias Schmidt PhD
Research Group Leader
Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry
“Neurobiology of Stress Resilience”, Munich, Germany
Topic: Routes to enhance stress resilience: Manipulation of genes or environment?
Location: Gross Hall 4th Floor Conference Room
More Info


April 5, 2022 at 1PM | Katie McLaughlin PhD
Professor of Psychology
Harvard University
Topic: Neurodevelopmental Mechanisms Linking Childhood Adversity with Psychopathology Across the Life-Course
More Info


March 23, 2022 | 9-3pm
Conte Center@UCI 9th Annual Symposium

Keynote Speaker: Diego Pizzagalli, PhD
Register here: Symposium Registration
See Symposia Page for Updates


February 22, 2022 | 4-5pm
Conte Center@UCI Sponsored Seminar

Garret Stuber, PhD
Professor, Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Washington
"Neurocircuits for Motivation and Reward"
Register here: Zoom Registration
More Info



February 15, 2022 at 1PM |
William A. Carlezon Jr., PhD
Rappaport Chair in Psychiatry
Chief Basic Neuroscience Division
Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience      McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Topic: Enduring effects of early developmental immune activation
More Info


January 11, 2022 at 1PM | Thomas L. Kash, Ph.D.
John Andrews Distinguished Professor
Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies
Vice-Chair for Faculty Development
Department of Pharmacology,
School of Medicine
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Topic: Probing the Role of Serotonin in Alcohol Use Disorders
More Info


November 23, 2021 at 1PM | Susan Tapert, PhD
Professor and Vice Chair of Academic Affairs
Department of Psychiatry
UC San Diego
Topic: Alcohol and the Adolescent Brain
More Info


November 19, 2021 at 3PM |
Sonya Troller-Renfree PhD - Postdoc Researcher
Teachers College, Columbia University

Greg Duncan PhD - Distinguished Professor
School of Education, UCI
Topic: The Impact of a Poverty Reduction Intervention on Infant Brain Activity
More Info


September 14, 2021 at 1PM | Alicia K. Smith
Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Research
Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Emory University, School of Medicine
Topic: Epigenetic Consequences of Trauma
Exposure Across the Lifespan
More Info


June 8, 2021 at 1PM | Fabricio H. Do Monte
Assistant Professor
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy
University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston
Topic: Neural circuits regulating reward-approach vs. threat-avoidance responses
More Info


April 27, 2021 at 12PM | Catherine Jensen Peña
Assistant Professor
Princeton Neuroscience Institute
Topic: Transcriptomic and epigenomic consequences of early life stress
More Info


March 16, 2021: Annual Conte Center Symposium with Keynote speaker, Professor Kerry Ressler from Harvard. More Info.