Faculty, Staff and Trainees

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Faculty

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

Clint Kilts, Ph.D.

Professor

Director, Brain Imaging Research Center

KiltsDr. 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.

JamesG. Andrew James, Ph.D.  

Associate Professor

Dr. 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 a 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 associate 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, Ph.D. Bush

Associate Professor

Dr. 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 data sets. 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.

SteeleScott Steele, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Scott Steele received a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Arkansas and attended medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. During medical school, he pursued combined M.D./Ph.D. training and earned his Ph.D. in the Brain Imaging Research Center, where his research applied computational models of emotion regulation to human behavioral and functional brain imaging data. Upon graduation he completed medical residency training in psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. During this time he developed clinical expertise in bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder and also conducted brain imaging research on impulsivity in young adults seeking mental health treatment. After finishing residency he joined the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at UAMS and he sees patients in PRI’s Walker Family Clinic, where he is the founding director of the Bipolar Disorder Program. He also conducts functional brain imaging research in patients with mood instability, examining correlates of impulsivity and emotional problems. His goal to improve our understanding of these problems and their related psychiatric conditions, such as bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, and develop new tools to aid in assessment and treatment monitoring.

Staff

HollenbergJan Hollenberg, M.S.

Program Manager

Jan 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.

Natalie Morris, B.S.Morris

Research Associate

Natalie is a research associate in the BIRC with over a decade of experience coordinating federally funded clinical and basic science research.  Natalie received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia. Prior to joining the BIRC, Natalie coordinated research studies on peripartum mental illness at Emory University and at the UAMS Women’s Mental Health Program. As the lead MRI technician and SCID-trained interviewer, Natalie is primarily responsible for ensuring high data quality across all of the BIRC’s research studies.

HodgesDebbie Hodges

Senior Research Assistant

Debbie is a senior research assistant in the BIRC.  She attended the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.  Debbie just recently joined the BIRC but has been a research assistant in the Department of Psychiatry for over three decades, coordinating research studies and performing data management.  She just recently served as a study coordinator in the Center for Addiction Research for studies involving adult ADHD and tobacco addiction.

Laura Spell, M.S.Spell

Research Technician

Laura received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas and her master’s degree in Medical Anthropology at Durham University in the United Kingdom. Her graduate dissertation focused on ethnic identities based on commercial genomic testing and the idea of social consciousness. After returning from graduate school, Laura worked with City Year Little Rock, an AmeriCorps organization working with low funded, low scoring schools within the Little Rock area. Laura joined the BIRC in September 2019 and assists with MRI scans, screening research participants, and adult and adolescent assessments.

BrownCaroline Brown

Clinical Research Assistant

Caroline works alongside Dr. Scott Steele, M.D., in PRI’s Walker Family Clinic where she facilitates the Bipolar Disorder Program. In addition to her clinical work, Caroline recruits and screens potential research subjects and administers structured clinical interviews assessing for disorders in personality and mood. She obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas and began her career in research in the field of perinatal psychiatry. She joined the BIRC in 2020 and focuses on research involving in impulsivity and mood dysregulation.

Trainees

PikeAshley Pike

Ashley graduated from Iowa Western Community College in 2007 and worked as a licensed veterinary technician for 10 years while earning her BS at Bellevue University in 2011. She continued as a laboratory technician and graduate student in the Creighton University Clinical and Translational Sciences Master’s certificate program, where she conducted research in swine cardiovascular models. Ashley was accepted into the UAMS Ph.D. Graduate Program in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences in 2017, where she has transitioned from working with animal models to human subjects. For her Ph.D. thesis, Ashley has spearheaded a collaboration between Neurobiology & Developmental Sciences, Neurology, Neuropsychology, and the BIRC to compare structural and functional neuroimaging predictors of declining cognition and disability in patients with multiple sclerosis. She wishes to continue her postgraduate career in these same disciplines.

CalvertMaegan Calvert, Ph.D.

Maegan received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from University of Arkansas. Her graduate research explored the sequelae of interpersonal violence by characterizing the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations among parent factors, adversity, and later outcomes (e.g., substance use, health outcomes, resilience, child social-emotional development, parenting difficulties). Her dissertation explored associations among maternal post traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), disruptive emotion processes (i.e., alexithymia, difficulties interpreting emotions, negative beliefs about emotions), and parenting beliefs, and sought to describe the processes by which treatment for PTSS among incarcerated women may decrease negative parenting beliefs. She completed her pre-doctoral clinical internship at University of Mississippi Medical Center in child psychology and her clinical postdoctoral training at Children’s Medical Center Dallas in pediatric psychology. Her clinical expertise is working with children and families with histories of interpersonal trauma. Maegan joined the Brain Imaging Research Center and the NIDA Addiction T32 to study neurodevelopmental trajectories of early life adversity, addiction risk, and resilience. She is particularly interested in the ways in which caregiver-child dyadic interactions and adversity shape the developing brain’s functional networks and confer risk/resilience to future psychopathology. With this line of research, her goal is to increase the effectiveness of psychological treatments for children and adolescence and inform efforts to prevent psychopathology across the lifespan.

Graduates

Brad Martins, Ph.D.

Brad 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./ Ph.D. 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.

Tonisha Kearney-Ramos, Ph.D.

Dr. Kearney-Ramos recently finished her PhD in the Interdisciplinary 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.

Amanda Elton, Ph.D.

Dr. Elton completed her Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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.