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

Director

 

6/20/24: Check out our latest publication from our group, "Individual longitudinal changes in DNA-methylome identify signatures of early-life adversity and correlate with later outcome." Learn more here.

6/5/24: The UCI California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine, an offshoot of the UCI Conte Center, had its research highlighted by the CA Governer's Office of Planning and Research. Learn more here.

6/5/24: Congratulations to Dr. Tallie Z. Baram for being award the Senior Investigator Award from the International Society of Developmental Psychobiology (ISDP). Additionally, Dr. Baram was awarded the UCI School of Medicine Lifetime Research Achievement Award.

Registration and Call for Abstracts are now open for the Conte Center 11th Annual Symposium on March 26, 2024. Learn more here.

9/7/23: Congratulations to UCI Conte Center Member, Nora Harhen, on being awarded an F31 grant. Learn more here.

8/31/23: Congratulations to UCI Conte Center Members, Yuncai Chen, Stephen Mahler, and Tallie Z. Baram for being awarded a new R01 Grant titled, "On circuit mechanisms of reward behaviors after early-life adversity."  Learn more here.

7/26/23: UCI Conte Center Seed award winner Katharine Simon, a pediatric psychologist, was recently awarded a 5-year K08 award by the NIH. Focusing on the link between adolescent depression, sleep, and memory, Simon's research will explore how insufficient sleep impacts memory in those experiencing depression. Through yearlong tasks, participants' sleep and mood will be monitored, shedding light on this vital relationship. Learn more about the research here.

7/26/2023:

Congratulations to our Seed Grant Awardees!

The Conte Center@UCI is thrilled to announce the
2023-2024 seed grant awardees.

 

Project 1:
"The contribution of the hippocampal circuit to social behavior deficits following early life adversity"

Matthew BirnieBenjamin Gunn

Co-PI: Matthew Birnie, PhD
Assistant Project Scientist
Department of Pediatrics
School of Medicine, UCI
Co-PI: Benjamin Gunn, PhD
Assistant Project Scientist
Anatomy and Neurobiology
School of Medicine, UCI

 

 

Project 2:
"Exploring a novel role for affective brain processing during sleep in shaping mental wellbeing in the face of adversity"

Eitan Schechtman

PI: Eitan Schechtman, PhD
Assistant Professor
Neurobiology and Behavior
School of Biological Sciences, UCI

6/15/23: Research from lead authors Matthew Birnie and Annabel Short, was recently published in Nature Communications as well as highlighted by the NIMH. They found that Stress-induced plasticity of a CRH/GABA projection disrupts reward behaviors in mice.

5/1/2023: The Conte Center @ UCI is soliciting applications for up to 4 grants. Each grant will be funded up to $30,000 for innovative basic and translational research projects focusing on brain plasticity, including how experiences may influence the brain and thus contribute to vulnerability to cognitive and mental illness. See here for more details. 

2/23/23: Research from lead author Cassandra Kooiker, was recently highlighted in Science. She found that genetic tagging uncovers a robust, selective activation of the thalamic paraventricular nucleus by adverse experiences early in life. Click here for the full publication.

1/10/23: Research from Dr. Tallie Z. Baram, suggests that a newly identified brain pathway may be the reason childhood
adversity increases the risk of mental health issues as an adult, which was featured on New Scientist.

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 Salon.com 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.

pic

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.

 

July 9, 2024 @ 4-5pm | Debra Bangasser, PhD

Topic: Early resource scarcity causes lasting changes in cognition and motivated behavior

Location: Plumwood House but also via Zoom

More Info

 

June 18, 2024 @ 4-5pm | Cate Hartley, PhD

Topic: Interactive Development of Reinforcement Learning and Episodic Memory

Location: Herklotz Conference Room but also via Zoom

More Info

 

May 21, 2024 @ 4-5pm | Mario Penzo, PhD

Topic: The Midline Thalamus and the Control of Goal-Oriented Behaviors

Location: Plumwood House but also via Zoom

More Info

 

March 26, 2024 @ 9-4pm | 11th Annual Conte Center Symposium

Topic: The Power and Potential of Big Data and Consortia for Studying Mental Health and Disease

Location: Beckman Center Of The National Academies Of Sciences & Engineering (100 Academy, Irvine, CA 92617)

More Info

 

February 27, 2024 @ 4pm | Seth Pollak, PhD
Vaughan-Bascom Distinguished Professor

Psychology, Pediatrics, Anthropology
LaFollette School of Public Affairs
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Topic: Re-thinking Adversity: Early Life Stress from the Child's Perspective

Location: Plumwood House (Across From Medical Education) and also via zoom.

More Info

 

January 16, 2024 @ 4pm | Pat Levitt, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer, Senior VP and Director, The Saban Research Institute
Simms/Mann Chair of Developmental Neurogenetics
Children's Hospital Los Angeles
WM Keck Provost Professor of Neurogenetics
Keck School of Medicine of USC

Topic: Functional Implications of Developmental Heterogeneity

Location: Plumwood House (Across From Medical Education) and also via zoom.

More Info

 

November 9, 2023 @ 4pm | Flavio Donato, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurobiology, Head of Research Group
Department of Psychology
Biozentrum of the University of Basel

Topic: Memory dynamics through the divergent recruitment of developmentally-defined hippocampal traces

Location: Plumwood House (Across From Medical Education) and also via zoom.

More Info

 

September 19, 2023 @ 4pm | Alex Shackman, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Maryland

Topic: The Nature and Neurobiology of Anxiety

Location: Plumwood House (Across From Medical Education) and also via zoom.

More Info

 

July 11, 2023 @ 4pm | Read Montague, PhD
Virginia Tech Carilion Vernon Mountcastle Research Professor
Director, Center for Human Neuroscience Research
Franlin Biomedical Research Institute, Virginia Tech

Topic:“Reinforcement Learning, Monoamines and the effort to connect neurochemical dynamics to Human Perception.”

Location: Plumwood House (Across From Medical Education) and also via zoom.

More Info

 

June 13, 2023 @ 1pm | Nathan A. Fox, PhD
Professor of Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Program
University of Maryland

Topic: “The Effects of Early Psychosocial Deprivation on Brain and Behavior: Lessons from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project.”
 Location: streaming via Zoom

More Info

 

June 13, 2023 @ 1pm | Nathan A. Fox, PhD
Professor of Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Program
University of Maryland

Topic: “The Effects of Early Psychosocial Deprivation on Brain and Behavior: Lessons from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project.”
 Location: streaming via Zoom

More Info

 

May 23, 2023 @ 12pm | Tanja Jovanovic, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences
Wayne State University

Topic: The "When" Matters: Developmental Timing of Trauma Exposure.
In-Person Location: Gross Hall, 4th Floor, Thorpe Conference Room

Also streaming via Zoom
More Info

 

April 6, 2023 @ 12pm | Mattia Maroso, PhD
Senior Editor
Science Magazine

Topic: Life at Science.
In-Person Location: Gross Hall, 4th Floor Conference Room

Also streaming via Zoom
More Info

 

March 23, 2023 @ 2pm | Scott Russo, PhD
Professor, Neuroscience and Psychiatry
Endowed Chair, Mount Sinai Professor in Affective Neuroscience
Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai

Topic: Immune-brain interactions in depression.
In-Person Location: Herklotz Conference Room

Also streaming via Zoom
More Info

 

March 21, 2023 @ 10am | Michael Bruchas, PhD
Professor of Pharmacology
University of Washington

Topic: Decoding Heterogeneity of the Locus Coeruleus Noradrenergic System in Arousal and Stress.
In-Person Location: ISEB, Room 1200  

Also streaming via Zoom
More Info

 

March 20, 2023 @ 4pm | Diego Pizzagalli, PhD
Director, McLean Imaging Center, Center for Depression, Anxiety & Stress Research
Professor of Psychiatry
McLean Hospital / Harvard Medical School

Topic: New Frontiers in Depression Research and Treatments.
In-Person Location: Herklotz Conference Room 

Also streaming via Zoom
More Info

 

March 14, 2023 @ 9am
10th Annual Conte Center Symposium
Theme: The Dynamic Brain in Health and Disease

In-Person Location: Beckman Center of the National Academies of Science

Keynote Speakers: Dani Bassett, University of Pennsylvania; Jill Becker, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Keynotes will also be streamed via Zoom
More Info

 

February 23, 2023 @ 4pm | Lisa Monteggia, PhD
Professor of Pharmacology
Vanderbilt University

Topic: Mechanisms of Rapid Antidepressant Action.
In-Person Location: Plumwood House (Showa Denko Lecture Hall)   Also streaming via Zoom
More Info

 

February 21, 2023 @ 4pm | Dylan G. Gee, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology
Yale University

Topic: Leveraging the Science of Early-Life Adversity to Promote Youth Mental Health.
In-Person Location: Gross Hall, 4th Floor, Thorpe Conference Room, Also streaming via Zoom
More Info

 

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.

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