The Conte Center @ UCI 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 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

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.


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
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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
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October 26, 2021 at 1PM | Yuko Munakata, PhD
Professor of Psychology
UC Davis
Topic: TBD
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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
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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
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April 27, 2021 at 12PM | Catherine Jensen Peña
Assistant Professor
Princeton Neuroscience Institute
Topic: Transcriptomic and epigenomic consequences of early life stress
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March 16, 2021: Annual Conte Center Symposium with Keynote speaker, Professor Kerry Ressler from Harvard. More Info.


February 9, 2021 at 1PM | Deanna Barch, PhD
Chair, Psychological & Brain Sciences
Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences and Radiology
Washington University in St. Louis
Topic: Early adversity, brain development, and risk for mental health across development
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