Dr. Bethany Reeb-Sutherland’s research examines individual differences in socio-emotional behavior and the biological and environmental factors that influence such development. She has made major contributions to our understanding of the development of anxiety and various behavioral and neural mechanisms which contribute to this disorder as well as furthering our understanding of the mechanisms involved in the development of heterogeneity in social behavior during infancy and toddlerhood.
One area of Dr. Reeb-Sutherland’s research focuses on risk factors associated with the development of anxiety and the moderating role of attention processes. To address this issue, she examined measures of attention both at the neurophysiological (i.e., EEG, ERP) and behavioral levels and found that attention processes are heightened only in behaviorally inhibited adolescents with a history of anxiety when stimuli are either novel or threatening. These biases in attention are apparent earlier during both childhood and even infancy long before the manifestation of anxiety suggesting that attention processes especially those related to the processing of novel or threatening stimuli may provide insight into the etiology of anxiety.
Dr. Reeb-Sutherland’s most recent line of research focuses on furthering our understanding of underlying mechanisms of heterogeneity in infant social behavior and associated neural correlates. To better understand the underlying mechanisms involved in these associative learning processes, she examined the modulatory effect of social stimuli on learning processes in human infants during the first months of life as well as the relation between heterogeneity in early associative learning and the development of later social behavior. Results suggest that infants who more readily detect contingencies and learn the relations between stimuli in their environment display higher levels of social skill across the first year of life. Preliminary findings also suggest that this measure continues to predict language abilities into the second year of life and that these measures are moderated by mother-infant relations. Understanding more about the role of social context on learning and memory processes during early infancy may be useful in developing biomarkers for neurodevelopmental disorders, particularly those associated with social deficits such as autism spectrum disorder and Fragile X.
Dr. Reeb-Sutherland’s research has been featured in Science News and in her university’s news magazine. She has also made a number of community presentations, including to the Children’s Trust Family Expo. She also engages and trains many under-represented individuals in the STEM fields at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Currently 90% of her undergraduate research assistants are Hispanic females, and two of three graduate students are Hispanic females.
Dr. Reeb-Sutherland is an assistant professor of psychology at Florida International University. She completed a fellowship at the Child Development Laboratory at the University of Maryland after earning her doctorate in psychology at the University of New Mexico.