Faculty

For a current list of publications by BIRC faculty, visit Publications.

Clint Kilts, PhD.

Professor

Director, Brain Imaging Research Center

Clint Kilts PhotoDr. Kilts received his postgraduate training in psychopharmacology and neurochemistry in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Michigan State University. He continued his training in neuropharmacology, analytical neurochemistry, and human psychopharmacology in the Biological Sciences Research Center at the University of North Carolina. He subsequently joined the faculties of the Departments of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at Duke University where he served as Director of the Clinical Psychopharmacology Laboratory. In 1992, Dr. Kilts joined the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Emory University School of Medicine. At Emory, he served as the Interim Director of the Center for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and, in 2000, became the first Vice Chair for Research for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. In 2009, he joined the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). He is the founding Director of the Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC) in the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute (PRI) and an Associate Director of the PRI. He has a long record of NIH-funded research, most recently in the use of in vivo brain functional, molecular and connectivity imaging to explore the neural network processing basis of human behavior. With a focus on drug abuse and addiction, he has a clinical research focus on the use of neuroimaging technology to define the brain basis of psychiatric disorders and their treatment. Additional academic accomplishments relate to organizational research planning, organization, and mentoring. His current goals as Director of the BIRC are to extend magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based technology and human neuroscience to areas of clinical problem solving in psychiatry and related disciplines within the PRI and at UAMS.

G. Andrew James, PhD.  

Associate Professor

Andy James PhotoDr. Andrew James received bachelor degrees in Chemistry and Applied Psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology. His graduate studies introduced him to functional neuroimaging, which perfectly fit his dual interests in analytical spectroscopy and human cognition. He received his doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Florida, where he used functional MRI to model age-related changes in networks governing motor learning. In 2006, he accepted a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Xiaoping Hu of Emory University, where he pursued a variety of methodologically challenging neuroimaging projects such as taste perception of artificial sweeteners, motor network reorganization following stroke, and modeling individual differences in depressed patients’ emotion-regulating networks. In 2009, Dr. James joined the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). As an assistant professor in the Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC), he is establishing the Cognitive Connectome to explore how the brain’s neural networks encode individual variability in personality and cognition. By understanding how the healthy brain encodes cognition, he seeks to translate this technology into patient care and better inform clinical decision making.

Keith Bush, PhD. 

Assistant Professor

Keith Bush PhotoDr. Keith Bush received his degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and his doctoral degree in Computer Science from Colorado State University. His doctoral research explored mathematical structures for implementing adaptive control systems, e.g., reinforcement learning, to real-world nonlinear dynamical systems. In 2008 he accepted a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Joelle Pineau of McGill University where he applied real-time adaptive control systems to suppress epileptiform activity in animal models of epilepsy. This work was done in collaboration with neurophysiologists at the Montreal Neurological Institute. In 2010 he joined the faculty at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and established a machine learning collaboration with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) to analyze multimodal neuroimaging and behavioral datasets. In 2015, Dr. Bush joined the Dept. of Psychiatry at UAMS as an assistant professor in the Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC). He has focused his research interests on machine learning and control theoretic approaches to real-time human neuroimaging, using both real-time fMRI and fMRI-based neurofeedback to understand and exploit volitional regulation of emotion. By understanding how the human brain decodes and integrates neurofeedback signals into its processing, Dr. Bush hopes to optimize neuroimaging studies and develop new control theoretic treatments for emotional disorders.

Ricardo Cáceda, MD, PhD.

Assistant ProfessorRicardo Caceda Photo

Dr. Cáceda went to medical school in Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru where he was heavily involved in research of the effects of chronic hypoxia in the brain energetics in humans and rodents. Afterwards he moved to Atlanta where he received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Emory University studying the role of the neuropeptide neurotensin in schizophrenia and in the mechanism of action of antipsychotic drugs. During residency at Emory, Dr. Cáceda shifted his research focus and received training in brain imaging applied to the study of moral reasoning and social decision making during uncertain conditions. Dr. Cáceda’s research interests focus on the use of neurobiology of social decision making with emphasis on mood disorders and suicide. Suicide is a prime example of flawed decision making that is ultimately detrimental to the individual.  In clinical practice, it is still singularly difficult to predict who is going to commit suicide and establish adequate interventions. Current research and clinical efforts include exploration of the neurobiology of impulsive choice and pain processing in suicidal behavior and ideation, as well as implementation and evaluation of interventions for recent suicide attempters and secondary prevention.

Staff

Jan Hollenberg, M.S.

Research Coordinator

Jan Hollenberg PhotoJan received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and master’s degree in Statistics from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She joined the Department of Psychiatry at UAMS as a member of the inaugural team in the development of the Division of Health Services Research and the VA’s HSR&D Center for Mental Health and Outcomes in 1990, providing statistical analyses, consultation, programming and technical writing. After leaving the department in 2001, Jan has returned to PRI as a research coordinator in the Brain Imaging Research Center and participates in the preparation and submission of grant proposals, provides annual progress reports and develops project budgets. She also coordinates contract and budget negotiations and participates in operational duties for a clinical trial and serves on the governance committee and acts as faculty coordinator of a NIDA T32 Translational Training in Addiction grant.

Jennifer Payne, B.S. 

Research Assistant

Jennifer PayneJennifer received her undergraduate degree from Alabama A&M University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology in 2008. Jennifer has been an employee of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences since August 13, 2008. Jennifer worked in the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy for 1 year and then progressed on to work in the Department of Pediatrics: Allergy and Immunology for 6 years at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Jennifer is currently the Research Assistant for the Brain Imaging Research Center in the Psychiatric Research Institute.  Jennifer’s current responsibilities are operating the MRI Scanner, maintaining MRI safety for all participants, adult and adolescent participant assessments, recruitment of adolescent and adult woman, and data collection.  Jennifer’s background in health-care and participation in the Science and Cultural Diversity program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) prepared her for her future endeavors in the medical field to reach a vulnerable population of families, adolescent girls, and adult woman.

Trainees

Lisa Brents, PhD. 

Postdoctoral FellowLisa Brents Photo

Dr. Lisa Brents received bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from Henderson State University in 2008 before joining the UAMS Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology as a graduate student. In her doctoral studies, she investigated the pharmacology of two emerging drugs of abuse that are often found in “synthetic cannabis,” JWH-018 and JWH-073, and have marijuana-like effects when smoked, inhaled or ingested. Dr. Brents joined the BIRC as a NIDA T32 Postdoctoral Fellow soon after defending her doctoral thesis in January 2013. Her primary research interest involves understanding the determinants of maternal drug use and how prenatal and postpartum drug abuse and addiction affect maternal behavior and offspring well-being. Along these lines, Dr. Brents has a particular interest in understanding how the endocannabinoid system is involved in normative and altered motivational drives, such as maternal behavior, addictions and obesity.

Ming-Hua Chung, PhD.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Michael ChungDr. Ming-Hua Chung received his PhD in Mathematics from University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 2015. During his doctoral studies, he accepted a predoctoral fellowship at National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where he developed probabilistic topic models and discovered hidden biological pathways in large-scale toxicogenomics data. In addition, he developed a Bayesian nonparametric mixture model in online social networks (e.g., Twitter and DBLP) and categorized individuals’ social significances based on their social networks. His research interests include data mining, machine learning, and Bayesian statistics. With mathematical background and Big Data experience, he seeks to make connections between the state-of-the-art Data Science and Neuroscience. Dr. Chung joins Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC) as  a NIDA T32 Postdoctoral Fellow.

Anthony Privratsky

Graduate Student

Anthony PrivratskyAnthony received his B.S. in neuroscience in 2011 from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. After graduating, he worked as a lab assistant studying the effects of ovarian hormones on serotonergic neurotransmission at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. He matriculated to the UAMS College of Medicine in the fall of 2013 and interned in the BIRC the following summer. He presented his summer research at the Arkansas Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in the winter of 2014, and joined the BIRC in 2015 as a doctoral candidate under the mentorship of Dr. Cisler. His interests include characterizing healthy and maladaptive brain states at group and individual levels in order to identify novel targets for treatment interventions. Anthony is particularly interested in investigating the network-level brain mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effects of behavioral interventions such as meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as in elucidating how computational modelling can enhance our ability to provide targeted and efficacious therapies through these and other modalities such as rTMS, neurofeedback, and pharmacologics.

Brad Martins

Graduate Student

Brad Martins PhotoBrad graduated from Hendrix College in Conway, AR in 2013 with a BA in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a minor in Neuroscience. As an undergraduate, he was involved in neuroimaging research at the University of Southern California where he used Diffusion Tensor Imaging to analyze white matter tracts in adolescents with psychopathy. He was accepted into the UAMS College of Medicine as an M.D./ PhD. student, and after successfully completing his first two years of medical school in 2015 he joined the BIRC as a T32 graduate student. He is primarily interested in using neuroimaging technology to better understand and predict treatment options for psychiatric disorders such as addiction and depression.

Vanessa Bastidas

Intern

Vanessa Bastidas PhotoVanessa Bastidas graduate with a B.S. in Engineering Product Design from Stanford University in 2014. Before joining BIRC, she worked with cross disciplinary teams in health technology, health communications, and in the medical device industry. Her diverse undergraduate background in mechanical engineering, psychology, and design combined with her mentorship experience with youth has prepared her to work at BIRC on Family Decision Making and Adolescent PTSD research.

Graduates

Tonisha Kearney-Ramos, PhD.

Dr. Kearney-Ramos recently finished her PhD in the Interdisciplanry Biomedical Sciences program. Her research focused on the neural representations of individual differences in working memory in a control population. She has accepted a Postdoctoral Fellowship working at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC.

Scott Steele, PhD.

Dr. Steele completed his PhD in the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences program in 2014. Following successful defense of his dissertation, Dr. Steele returned to the College of Medicine at UAMS to continue pursuing his career in medicine and is now preparing to embark on a residency in Psychiatry.

Amanda Elton, PhD.

Dr. Elton completed her PhD in the Clinical Research Track of the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences program in 2012. Her research with the BIRC focused on the human neuroscience of risk factors for drug abuse and addiction, specifically the impact of childhood adversity and acute stress on the neural representation of reactivity to stress and conditioned drug cues and of decision making under risk and executive inhibitory control. She accepted a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Biomedical Research Imaging Center at the University of North Carolina in 2012.

Ashley Kennedy, PhD. 

Dr. Kennedy completed her PhD. in Molecular and Systems Pharmacology from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 2011. Shortly before completing her PhD, Ashley relocated with her mentor, Dr. Kilts, to UAMS. Her research with the BIRC focused on the use of a cognitive enhancer (D-cycloserine) to treat cocaine addiction, specifically the effect of the cognitive enhancer on impulsivity and cognitive control. Dr. Kennedy holds a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.