Research Programs

Center for Mental Health Innovation Research

Bonnie Nagel

The scientists at OHSU's Center for Mental Health Innovation (CMHI) use brain imaging technology, machine learning, genetic testing and other advanced methods. We seek to understand how mental health disorders affect young people so we can help. Our labs study:  

  • Individual biology and personality 

  • Toxic substances in the environment  

  • Maternal health (before the child is born) 

  • Nutrition 

  • Stress 

  • Brain networks 

  • Genetic signals 

  • Biology  

We are able to pursue this groundbreaking research thanks to private donations, including major gifts from Steven and Patricia Sharp’s Abracadabra Foundation.  

Our team also multiplies gifts. For every $1 million in philanthropy since [what year?], we raise have raised $5 million in federal grants. 

We're so grateful to you, the OHSU community, for making this work possible. You help us through donations, taking part in research studies, and volunteering your time and talents. Together, we can make real progress in improving the lives of young people. 


Our labs study children's mental health from many angles. Some researchers look for ways to prevent disorders in infancy. Others use brain-imaging technology to see what happens in young people's brains as they experience symptoms of depression or ADHD. Some labs analyze large data sets to see which treatments work best. 

Developmental Brain Imaging Lab

Headshot of Bonnie Nagel
Dr. Nagel

For more than a decade, the Developmental Brain Imaging Lab has studied the brains of healthy and at-risk young people. By understanding changes in the developing brain, we can look for ways to prevent and treat substance use disorder and mood disorders. 

Prenatal Environment and Child Health (PEACH) Lab

Smiling woman in brown suit jacket
Dr. Sullivan

At the PEACH Lab, we look at the influence of maternal nutrition and stress on childhood development. We seek to identify risk factors for autism spectrum disorders, ADHD and other conditions so we can improve prevention and early treatment.

Our Work

We are engaged in cutting edge research exploring the origins and mechanisms of mental health conditions affecting children and adolescents. CMHI researchers are leading the way in several key initiatives: 

  • Identifying physiological markers in pregnancy for reversible difficulties in infant brain development and early mental health. We aim to create a blood test that will identify low cost, safe interventions to enhance infant brain health and development.
  • Developing new therapies to strengthen early infant development to prevent mental health problems.
  • Testing interventions for delivery to pregnant mothers that can effectively reduce stress and thereby improve early childhood mental health outcomes.
  • Testing new nutritional treatments that can resolve mood and behavior problems.
  • Discovering and developing genetic tests that can help predict mental health problems so they can be prevented.
  • Developing advanced computational and mathematical prediction tools to make clinical care more efficient, more effective, and more accessible.
  • Identifying new ways to assess and predict problems in attention, mood, and behavior across development that enable pinpointing the care needs for the uniqueness of each individual child and the environment in which they live.
  • Using techniques, such as AI, to integrate research algorithms with data collected in clinics to improve diagnostic and prognostic capacity.
  • Using the latest cutting-edge brain imaging tools both to make basic discoveries about individual differences and treatment response in mental health, mood, substance use, attention, and behavior problems and to create clinically usable brain signatures to guide practice.

Learn more about our investigators and the work occurring in their labs. 

Bonnie Nagel, Ph.D.

Headshot of Bonnie Nagel

Developmental Brain Imaging Lab

DBIL lab has been studying brain development in healthy and at-risk youth for over a decade. Studying this crucial time in development enhances our understanding of the developing brain and ways to address things as substance abuse and mood disorders that emerge during adolescence.

Developmental Brain Imaging Lab

Elinor Sullivan, Ph.D. & Hanna Gustafsson, Ph.D.

Elinor Sullivan

Prenatal Environment And Child Health (PEACH) Lab

The overarching research goal of the oratory is to understand the influence of early environmental factors such as maternal nutrition, stress, and mental health during gestation on offspring neurobehavioral regulation. The primary focus is the identification of early environmental risk and protective factors for neurodevelopmental disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression in order to inform the design of prevention strategies and early interventions. One specific focus is the impact of exposure to maternal obesity and poor nutrition during the perinatal period on the behavior, and physiology of the developing offspring.

Prenatal Environment And Child Health (PEACH) Laboratory

Kristen Mackiewicz Seghete, Ph.D.

Kristen Mackiewicz Seghete

Stress, Cognition, Affect, & Neuroimaging (SCAN) Lab

We are interested in understanding the development of cognitive and affective brain processes and how these processes are affected by stressful events.

Stress, Cognition, Affect, & Neuroimaging (SCAN) Lab

Jeni Johnstone, Ph.D.

Jeni Johnstone headshot

Science of Nutrition Affect & Cognition in Kids (SNACK) Lab

The Science of Nutrition Affect and Cognition in Kids Lab is focused on complementary and integrative treatments for mental health issues including ADHD, irritability, anxiety, and depression, in children and adolescents. Mindfulness and micronutrients (vitamins + minerals) are two of the interventions studied. Beyond behavioral changes, the lab is interested in understanding for whom and why interventions work. To gain this knowledge, we examine participants’ biological samples in order to identify biomarkers of treatment response to begin understanding the biological signature of the micronutrients.

Science of Nutrition Affect and Cognition in Kids (SNACK) Lab

Rebekah Huber, Ph.D.

Suicide Prevention in Youth with Mood Disorders

Dr. Huber’s lab is focused on discovery of cognitive and biological risk factors for suicide in youth with mood disorders. The mission of the lab is to understand the biological basis of suicide risk and to identify real world warning signs that can be targeted through interventions. Ultimately, the lab aims to develop novel treatments and prevention strategies to reduce suicide and improve the quality of life for those living with mood disorders. The lab utilizes digital mobile technologies (e.g., actigraphy and ecological momentary assessment) to investigate sleep, cognition and suicidal thoughts in real time combined with neuroimaging to examine associated brain functional connectivity.

Alexander Dufford, Ph.D.

InterGenerational Neuroimaging (IGN) Lab

The InterGenerational Neuroimaging (IGN) Lab focuses it research on an intergenerational approach to understand links between brain development and mental health during the perinatal period for two generations: infant and parent. The lab uses neuroimaging (primarily magnetic resonance imaging) to understand the perinatal period as both a sensitive window and window of opportunity for brain development. The IGN Lab also is interested in harnessing Big Data and machine learning methods to increase precision in studies of early markers of psychopathology for both mechanistic inference and clinical prediction.

InterGenerational Neuroimaging (IGN) Lab

Angelica Morales, Ph.D.

Angie Morales, Ph.D.

Substance Use Neurobiology and Precision Intervention Lab

This lab is focused on understanding the neurobiological factors that underlie specific features associated with substance use disorders in some individuals (e.g. behavior, cognition, psychological processes). Through mechanistic laboratory studies, we aim to conduct interventions to demonstrate that modifying neurobiology produces corresponding changes in the features linked to substance use and to ultimately use that information to develop clinical trials. Our goal is to improve treatment outcomes by matching individuals to an intervention based on their neurobiological profile.

Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study

The national Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study involves 21 sites studying nearly 12,000 youth over 10 years with brain imaging, genetics, and behavioral evaluation to understand brain development and child health.  

HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study

The national Healthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study, the largest long-term study of early brain and child development in the United States, involves 27 research sites and 7500 pregnant women whose children will be followed for 5-10 years with brain and behavioral studies.

Nat'l Consortium: Alcohol & Neurodevelopment in Adolescence

The purpose of the National Consortium on Alcohol and Neurodevelopment in Adolescence (NCANDA) is to determine the effects of alcohol use on the developing adolescent brain and examine brain characteristics that predict alcohol use problems. The consortium has developed a core battery, including structural and functional brain scans and cognitive testing, for use at all five sites. NCANDA conducts specialty projects on sleep, response inhibition, and recovery with alcohol discontinuation.