Nicole Heilbron, Ph.D.

Nicole Heilbron, Ph.D., University of North Carolina

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2008): $100,000

Mentor: Michael Prinstein, Ph.D., University of North Carolina

Childhood Traumatic Stress and Adolescent Girls’ Suicidality: A Longitudinal Examination of Psychophysiological Mechanisms

Abstract: Although childhood trauma has been established to predict suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, little is known about the specific mechanisms that mediate this association.  In this study the investigators will examine specific physiological mechanisms related to neurocognitive functioning that are hypothesized to lead to suicidal behaviors in adolescent girls with a history of early life trauma. Seventy clinically-referred adolescent girls will be evaluated, using various laboratory techniques to measure startle modulation over a six-month period.  It is expected that girls with suicidal ideation and behaviors will show decreased prepulse inhibition and increased fear potentiation. By illuminating the biological pathways between childhood trauma and adolescent suicidality, the investigators hope to contribute to the development of intervention programs targeting this vulnerable population.