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

  • Mariely Hernandez, Ph.D.

    Mariely Hernandez, Ph.D., is an early-career clinical psychologist and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Center for Intergenerational Psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), where she is currently investigating intergenerational transmission of ADHD and psychoactive substance use problems in minoritized racial groups. Her prior research focused on the etiology, course, and treatment of affective disorders across the lifespan, with a focus on pediatric bipolar disorders. More recently, she is interested in interdisciplinary approaches to scientific investigation of the risks and presentations associated with ADHD and commonly co-occurring disorders (e.g., substance use problems), from a developmental and intergenerational perspective, and in designing clinical research interventions to treat impairing symptoms associated with ADHD.  

  • Neriah Jones, MPH

    • Senior Project Manager

    Neriah Jones, MPH, is a passionate researcher and advocate for health equity and social justice with over 10 years of experience working in the mental health field. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Health Sciences from Long Island University and more recently earned her Master of Public Health at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy. Before joining the Lugo Lab, Neriah I was involved in program development and education programming for community health centers and community-based organizations throughout New York City. This work focused on helping to connect New Yorkers with limited access, to free mental health resources and mental health care. In her current role as the Senior Project Manager, she assists in the coordination and implementation of research projects to better understand the mechanisms underlying typical development and psychiatric disease in infants and young children. As Neriah continues to grow as a public health professional, she hopes to continue participating in research that seeks to understand harmful health risks in racial and ethnic minoritized communities. Neriah also hopes that this research will help influence evidence-based policies and practices to mitigate health disparities in these communities. 

  • Parinaz Babaeeghazvini

    • MRI Data Analyst

    Parinaz is a Ph.D. student in Neuroscience at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam working towards a MSC degree in Electrical engineering with emphasis on signal processing. She has worked with brain imaging modalities (EEG, dMRI, MRI, and fMRI) since 2012, her expertise is in applying quantitative techniques to break down structural and functional brain imaging data and study functional and structural networks/connectivity. Her Ph.D. research is focused on bimanual coordination in older adults and finding the relationship between their poor motor performance, and functional and structural connectivity of the brain in the motor regions. Parinaz joined the Lugo Lab in May 2022 to work on infant MRIs, and would like to continue her research in different brain functional and structural disorders and neurodegeneration diseases.

  • Alice Smaniotto Aizza, BA

    • Research Coordinator

    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.

  • AJ Crandall, BA

    • Research Assistant

    AJ (Abigail) Crandall is a 2022 graduate of the New York University College of Arts and Science, with a BA in Psychology with a minor in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies. During undergrad, she volunteered at the Conceptual Development and Social Cognition Lab (CDSC) at NYU. While there, she worked primarily on studies investigating young children’s emerging racial and gender biases and the factors that influence their development. Some of AJ’s research interests include sleep as well as environmental impacts on children’s neurodevelopment. In addition, she aspires to attend graduate school in the future.

  • Jaimie Lee, BA

    • Research Assistant

    Jaimie Lee is currently a research assistant 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 prenatal environment impacts one’s mental and physical health and how these effects can last throughout the lifespan and across generations. She seeks to bring attention to ethnic and racial minorities, who are often underrepresented in research and science. In addition to her research position, 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 has applied to Clinical Psychology programs for Fall 2023 to become a clinical psychologist involved in both research and clinical work. 

  • Bina Anderson

    • Research Volunteer

    Bina Aaronson is a volunteer at the Lugo Lab. She is currently a senior at Barnard College, where she will receive a BA in Cognitive Science in May 2023. She is also conducting research at Barnard's Toddler Center about the experiences of parents with young children during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is interested in how environmental factors have an impact on psychopathologies and overall mental health, as well as identifying methods to improve access to mental health care.

  • Lin Garih

    • Research Volunteer

    Lin Garih (she/her) is a research volunteer, who is originally from Istanbul, Turkey. She is a senior at NYU, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies. Prior to joining the lab, she interned for a clinical training program at a Psychiatric Hospital in Istanbul where she broadened her understanding about mental health issues that occur across different ages. In the future she hopes to become a licensed therapist. She is passionate about adolescent mental health as well as learning about the development of anxiety disorders. She also has an interest in non-western treatment alternatives for mental health issues and believes that having a culturally sensitive approach to mental health is key for progress in the field. 

  • Nathalie De Leon

    • Research Volunteer

    Nathalie De Leon is a senior at City College of New York, where she is pursuing a BA in Psychology. She has volunteered as a child care provider at Gallop NYC, leading visual arts activities for toddlers. She has also interned at Chhaya CDC, where she worked with low-income immigrants to ensure proper access to immigration, tax, and home ownership programs. Both of these experiences contributed to her interest in child development and counseling, which she plans to pursue in graduate school.

  • Isaac Deitz-Green, BA

    • Research Volunteer

    Isaac Deitz-Green (he/him) is a research volunteer at the Lugo Lab. Prior to joining the Lugo-Candelas team, he worked for the SPAM lab at NYU, and the Frantz and Darling Labs at Oberlin College where he majored in Psychology with a concentration in Cognitive Sciences (and minors in Literature and Environmental Studies). These research projects explored the impact of sociopolitical attitudes on distance perception, adolescent romantic relationship development, and the social effects of connection to nature. After college, he worked for a few years in digital marketing and political campaigning in Washington, D.C. before making his way back to psychology. His current research interests include ADHD, anxiety and sleep struggles, and he plans to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology.

  • Nafeesa Malhi

    • Research Volunteer

    Nafeesa Malhi is a summer research volunteer at the Lugo Lab. She is currently a junior at Herricks High School partaking in the school's science research program. She currently is a volunteer at Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC). She is interested in the fields of psychiatry and cardiology and intends to pursue a career in medicine. 

  • Kay (Zhiqi) Zhang

    • Research Volunteer

    Kay (Zhiqi) Zhang is a senior at Barnard College, where she will receive a BA in psychology in February 2024. Prior to joining the lab, she has volunteered at the Chinese Academy of Scences‘ Key Laboratory of mental health, where she explored key characteristics of mental disorders such as schizophrenia and acute stress disorder. She is now interested in the risk and preventive factors of mental health disorders, taking into account of relevant cultural and environmental influences. In an addition to volunteering at the Lugo lab, Kay is also volunteering at the Cambridge University Development & Learning Lab (CUDL), where she is now working on a cross-cultural project about stereotype development in children. In the future, she plans to study clinical psychology in graduate school and combine clinical practice with mental health counseling.

  • Madline Nelkin, BA

    • Research Volunteer

    Madeline graduated magna cum laude from Barnard College in May 2021, where she majored in psychology and minored in art history. While at Barnard, she studied mother-infant attachment bonds in large families and became passionate about translatable research, equitable healthcare, and early intervention. Following graduation, Madeline served as a Clinical Assistant & Medical Scribe in a high volume fertility practice in NYC where she had the privilege of advocating for patients throughout their entire fertility journey. Now, she looks forward to diving back into the psychology field as a member of the Lugo research team before pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology and a career as a child psychologist. In addition to her role here, she works as a research assistant for NYU Langone’s COPE study. 

  • Zion Irvine

    • Research Volunteer

    Zion Irvine is a senior at City College Academy of the Arts. He was previously a Junior Scientist at Biobus learning about behavioral science and psychology and hopes to continue exploring both in the future.

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