caitlinhudac Caitlin M. Hudac

 

My research interests

I am a developmental cognitive neuroscientist interested in how infants, children, and adults learn and think about other people. My research targets early risk predictors to better understand the emergence of typical and atypical social development. Much of my work focuses on the how ongoing information is processed (i.e., dynamic changes or habituation). Primarily, I target aspects of social perception (e.g., emotion and face processing, biological motion perception). I aim to characterize social development across two main themes:


Contact | CV

Brain imaging techniques and expertise: EEG, ERP, fMRI, eye tracking, fNIRS

Early developmental trajectories

themes

How do social cognitive processes emerge and integrate during early development to support healthy growth?

Divergent phenotypes

How does social cognition diverge from typical development due to probable risk factors, including autism, genetic events, and other early indicators of socio-emotional risk?

   

The Origin Story
After graduating from the University of Chicago (AB '05) in Human Development, I worked as a milieu (daily life) therapist at a pediatric residential treatment center. Each child struggled with different emotional and/or psychiatric problems, and it was rewarding to help in little and big ways. I wanted to learn more about how the brain works to see if we could ease those struggles.

  • Social brain in autism:  I spent 3 years working with Dr. Kevin Pelphrey, currently the Director of the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (AND) Initiative at George Washington University. We researched the social development of young children with and without autism using fMRI primarily.
  • Attention and information processing: My graduate training at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was guided by Dr. Dennis Molfese (Director of the Developmental Brain Lab at the Center for Brain, Biology, & Behavior) and Dr. Anne Schutte (Director of the Spatial Memory and Cognition lab).  
    • Newborn and infant cognition: We measured memory responses to speech sounds in full-term newborns at birth, as well as developmental changes as infants acquire language.
    • Effects on cognition following concussion: We worked closely with UNL's Department of Athletics to evaluate long-term effects of concussion, as well tracking the ongoing recovery process.
  • The infant social brain: 
    • Social information integration:​In May 2014, I completed my dissertation on a study of infant social brain development. This project implemented several brain-behavior tools, including ERP, eye-tracking, and computational models.
    • Fairness expectations: My work with Dr. Sommerville and Jacqueline Pospisil targets age-related changes in the first year of life as infants learn that others distribute resources in both fair and unfair manners.
  • "Genetics-first" approach: My postdoctoral work with Dr. Raphael Bernier and Dr. Sara Jane Webb uses a "genetics-first" approach to detect subgroups of children with autism and a specific genetic etiology. We use neuroimaging and behavioral techniques.