Lugo Lab

Location and Contact Information

1051 Riverside Drive, Mail Unit 74
New York State Psychiatric Institute
New York, NY 10032
United States

Principal Investigator

Welcome to the Lugo Lab! In this lab, we have a passion for understanding how early life shapes neurodevelopment. We are particularly interested in two things: (1) perinatal factors that increase children’s risk for ADHD, and (2) early life factors that protect children from ADHD. Our research aims to understand the risk-protective factors that confer resilience to perinatal risk and allow young children and families to thrive, despite facing significant adversity.

We use a number of techniques to answer our research questions, the most common being developmental neuroimaging. We image (via Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI) children’s brains as they grow up, starting in utero and all the way though middle childhood. A lot of our studies image children’s brains when they are babies. We hope that by looking at the brain so early in life, we get to see how prenatal exposures and experiences shape that brain, independently from the influence of the postnatal world. Because we care about the development of early risk and resilience, our studies are longitudinal, and most of them follow pregnant people and their children early in life. We are also use several other measures, including biomarkers, clinical interviews, and behavioral assessments. 

Central to the lab is the idea that the families and communities hold the key to their well-being, and that understanding their sources of resilience and strength is critical to shaping public policy to help families thrive. We are strongly committed to understanding risk and resilience in racial and ethnic minoritized communities.

In this lab, we believe that science is best served when all voices are included. We strongly believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion are indispensable to the development of sound science and public health. We are committed to mentoring and training, and hold ourselves to be strong advocates for increasing access to higher education and increasing the representation of minoritized and intentionally excluded communities within the STEM fields.

Lab Members

  • Alice Smaniotto Aizza, BA

    • Research Assistant

    Alice Aizza graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2021 with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. While in undergrad, she was a volunteer RA research assistant at Dr. Jessica A. Church’s Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Lab. She worked on projects looking at bilingual children with reading difficulties, cognitive development of youth with and without control disorders, and summer learning interruption among fourth and seventh graders. Alice is fascinated by brain development and joined the Lugo Lab in January of 2022 to work on the pollution and cannabis studies. She is also fascinated by typical and atypical brain development and environmental influences. She hopes to go to graduate school in the future.

    Alice Smaniotto Aizza
  • Mariely Hernandez, PhD

    • Postdoctoral Fellow

    Mariely Hernandez, PhD, completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and Behavior at Columbia University in 2007, and most recently (2021) earned her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology at the City College of New York (CUNY)  Graduate Center. Due to evolving interests, various opportunities (and, basically, luck), Dr. Hernandez’s research interests have grown organically over time, to broadly center on risk, transmission, and the treatment of psychopathology across the lifespan. More specifically, Dr. Hernandez’s past research work focused on affective disorders (depression, bipolar disorder) in both children, adults, and older adults. This interest grew to include neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD, which often co-occur with mood disorders. During her predoctoral training, Dr. Hernandez was awarded a NIDA funded research fellowship (TRACC) to pursue translational research on addictions. Most recently, Dr. Hernandez’s scholarship explores ADHD and co-occurring alcohol and substance use disorders, particularly in racially diverse college students. Dr. Hernandez hopes to continue to investigate the etiology, course, and transmission of ADHD and substance use problems, not just across the lifespan, but intergenerationally as well.

  • Magda Klimaszewska, BA

    • Research Volunteer

    Magda Klimaszewska earned her BA in Psychology from State University of New York at Potsdam and is currently interviewing at clinical psychology doctoral programs. She is interested in how psychotherapy can induce and maintain change, particularly within an integrated health environment, as well as in the comorbidity of substance use disorders with other mental illnesses. As an aspiring clinician, she aims to address inequities amongst low socioeconomic status and rural populations. Prior to her volunteer role at the Lugo Lab, Magda was an intern at The East Side Institute where she contributed to their work on humanistic therapies. During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Magda worked as a full-time volunteer for the Renewal House – a not for profit functioning as the only provider of advocacy, safe housing, legal protection, and counseling for St. Lawrence County.

    Magda Klimaszewska
  • Jaimie Lee, BA

    • Research Volunteer

    Jaimie Lee is a volunteer at the Lugo Lab. She holds a BA in Psychology and in Human Health from Emory University. Prior to joining the Lugo Lab, she was a research aide at the Center for Maternal Substance Abuse and Child Development (MSACD). She was involved in the data collection and entry for multiple projects, primarily the Adult Health Study, which examines the long-term effects of maternal substance use and abuse on the fetus’ neurobehavioral and health outcomes. Jaimie’s research interests lie in how the environment impacts one’s mental and physical health and how these effects can last across generations. She seeks to bring attention to ethnic and racial minorities, who are often underrepresented in research and science. In addition to the Lugo Lab, Jaimie volunteers as a Crisis Counselor at Crisis Text Line to bring people in distress to a calmer state and offer emotional support in the conversation through coping skills and resources. She intends on pursuing a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology.

    Jaimie Lee
  • Nafeesa Malhi

    • Summer Research Student

    Nafeesa Malhi is currently a sophomore at Herricks High School partaking in the school’s science research program. She is interested in both the fields psychiatry and cardiology, and plans to become a medical doctor in the future.

    Nafeesa Malhi
  • Tonima Rahman, BS

    • Research Coordinator

    Tonima Rahman obtained her BS in Psychology from the City College of New York (CUNY). She is currently a Masters in Public Health candidate at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in the Department of Population and Family Health. She is passionate about culturally-sensitive approaches in preventing negative mental health outcomes, increasing access to mental healthcare, and mitigating intergenerational effects through evidence-based changes to policies, practice, and programs. In her role as a research coordinator, she trains and oversees research volunteers and assistants in their duties, which includes subject recruitment, enrollment, data collection, data entry, and more. She is also responsible for developing IRB protocols and assisting in grant submissions. Long-term, she hopes to conduct research that guides government agencies towards making evidence-based changes in policies and implementing programs that work to prevent public health crises. Tonima is excited to find answers to the current gaps in research, to grow as a public health professional, and to mitigate further public health risks in marginalized communities—like her own.

    Tonima Rahman

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