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Environmental Exposure and Neurodevelopment

Environmental exposure to neurotoxicants poses significant risks to children’s neurodevelopmental outcomes. The EBB Lab studies behavioral and cognitive outcomes after exposure to various neurotoxicants including air pollution, and neurotoxic metals. These exposures are associated with behavioral and cognitive disturbances in youth that can lead to poor psychosocial outcomes and mental health disturbance. Understanding the associated outcomes of these exposures will allow for enhanced public policy messaging and prevention programs to ensure children’s safety from these exposures in the future. 

  1. Margolis A, Herbstman JB, Thompson VK,  Perera FP, Tang D, Peterson BS, Rauh, VA. (2016). Longitudinal Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Air Pollutants (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) on Self-Regulatory Capacities and Social Competence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 57(7): 851-60. 

  2. Cowell WJ, Margolis A, Rauh VASjödin AJones RWang YGarcia WPerera FWang SHerbstman JB. (2018). Associations between prenatal and childhood PBDE exposure and early adolescent visual, verbal and working memory. Environment International. 118: 9-16. 

  3. Horton MK, Hsu, L, Claus Henn B, Margolis A, Austin C, Svensson K, Schnaas L, Gennings C, Hu H, Wright R, Téllez Rojo M, Arora M. (2018). Dentine biomarkers of prenatal and early childhood exposure to manganese, zinc and lead and childhood behavior. Environment International. 121 (1) 148-158. 

  4. Perera FP, Chang HW, Tang D, Roen EL, Herbstman J, Margolis A, Huang TJ, Miller RL, Wang S, Rauh V. (2014). Early-life exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and ADHD behavior problems. PLoS ONE. Nov 5;9(11): e111670. 

Environmental Exposure and Neuroimaging

We use various types of neuroimaging like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) to study associations between prenatal exposure to neurotoxicants and altered brain structure and function. So far, we have acquired MRI data from two cohorts of young children (age 5 and ages 7-9 years old). We have documented associations between prenatal exposure to flame retardants and environmental tobacco smoke and neural circuits that support reading and cognitive control. Identifying these developmental pathways linking exposure to poor behavioral outcomes will allow us to develop more targeted prevention and intervention policies. 

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Neuroimaging of Psychological Problems in Children with Learning Disabilities

SLD is a common childhood disorder affecting up to 10 percent of children. Previous neuroimaging studies have focused on elucidating disruptions in neural circuits underlying academic achievement. Our work focuses on mapping the neural correlates of psychological problems often associated with specific learning disorders, such as anxiety, social problems, and executive function problems, which have been largely understudied in educational research and which require targeted treatment.


By identifying alterations in circuits other than the ‘reading’ or ‘math’ circuits that contribute to poor achievement, this work may point to novel targets for intervention. Further, this work underscores the need for development of empirically validated, evidence-based treatments for the psychological problems that are inherent in learning disorders. 

  1. Margolis AE, Pagliaccio D, Davis KS, Thomas L, Banker SM, Cyr M, Marsh R. (2019). Neural correlates of cognitive control deficits in children with reading disorder. Brain Imaging and Behavior. 

  2. Margolis AE, Pagliaccio D, Thomas L, Banker S, Marsh R. (2018). Salience network connectivity and Social Processing in Children with Nonverbal Learning Disability or Autism Spectrum Disorder. Neuropsychology. 33(1) 135-43.

  3. Davis K, Margolis AE, Thomas, L, Huo, Z. Marsh R. (2018). Amygdala sub-regional functional connectivity predicts anxiety in children with reading disorder. Developmental Science. 21(5):e12631. 

  4. Alexander L, … Margolis AE, … Milham M. (2017). An open resource for transdiagnostic research in pediatric mental health and learning disorders. Scientific Data, Nature Research. 19;4:170-181. 

Neuroimaging and Cognitive Abilities


Modern intelligence quotient (IQ) tests are based either on a general model of intelligence or on a multidimensional model of intelligence. Previous neuroimaging studies have focused on identifying the neural correlates of general intelligence (‘g’) with little attention paid to the neural correlates of dimensional aspects of intelligence. As evidenced by lesion studies, these dimensional aspects of intelligence describe specific cognitive abilities that are distinct from general intelligence. Many individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders demonstrate discrepancies between these specific cognitive abilities.


Thus our work focuses on investigating the structural and functional brain correlates of discrepancies in cognitive abilities in healthy individuals so that we may better understand the neurobiological underpinnings of developmental psychopathologies that are characterized by these cognitive discrepancies.

  1. Margolis A, Bansal R, Xuejun H, Algermissen M, Erickson C, Khlar KW, Naglieri JA, Peterson BS. (2013). Using IQ discrepancy scores to examine the neural correlates of specific cognitive abilities. Journal of Neuroscience. 28;33(35) 14135–14145. 

  2. Margolis A, Davis K. Pao L, Lewis, A. Wang, Tau G, Zhao G, Wang Z, Marsh R. (2017). Verbal-spatial IQ discrepancies impact brain activation associated with the resolution of cognitive conflict in children and adolescents. Developmental Science. 21(2). 

  3. Margolis A, Bansal R, Peterson BS. (2015). Associations of white matter integrity and discrepancies between verbal and performance IQ.  Poster presented at the 54th annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, December 6-12, Hollywood, Florida.

Mother-Infant Face-To-Face Communication and Infant Social and Cognitive Development


Mother-infant face-to-face communication is a discrete developmental line in human development and predicts various risk outcomes. In collaboration with Dr. Beatrice Beebe, our work uses measures of mother and infant interactive- and self-contingency in face-to-face communication to identify behavioral markers of developmental risk. For more information about Dr. Beebe's lab, please visit her website:

  1. Margolis AE, Lee SH, Peterson, B., Beebe, B. (2018).  Profiling Infants’ Communicative Behavior. Developmental Psychology. In press.

  2. Beebe, B., Messinger, D., Bahrick, L. E., Margolis, A., Buck, K. A., & Chen, H. (2016). A systems view of mother–infant face-to-face communication. Developmental Psychology, 52(4), 556–571.

  3. Beebe B, Steele M, Jaffe J, Buck K, Chen H, Cohen P, Kaitz M, Markese S, Andrews H, Margolis A, Feldstein S. (2011). Maternal Anxiety Symptoms and Mother-Infant Self- and Interactive Contingency. Journal of Infant Mental Health, 32 (2), 174–206. 

  4. Beebe B, Myers MM, Lee SH, Lange A, Ewing J, Rubinchik N, Andrews H, Austin J, Hane A, Margolis AE, Hofer M, Ludwig RJ, & Welch MG. (2018). Family Nurture Intervention For Preterm Infants Facilitates Positive Mother-Infant Face-to-Face Engagement at Four Months. Developmental Psychology. 54(11), 2016-2031.  

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