UAMS Neuroscientist Receives Grant to Study Resilience of Brain to Mental Illness

By ChaseYavondaC

Andrew James, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, is the principal investigator in the two-year study, which will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine patterns of brain organization in adult subjects who experienced childhood trauma.

James and his research team will conduct a series of cognitive tests on the subjects while they undergo an MRI scan in an attempt to determine the different ways males and females adapt to traumatic experiences.

The study is a follow-up to research initiated in 2014 by James and Clint Kilts, Ph.D., director of the Brain Imaging Research Center, which demonstrated how childhood trauma may lead to addiction.

“We know from our previous research that adults who experienced childhood trauma and didn’t become addicted to drugs or alcohol had a unique brain organization compared to those who did become addicted,” said James. “We hope this study will help us determine the role gender plays in these trauma outcomes.”

James’ study will also involve subjects from a previous research trial pertaining to trauma and adolescent girls. James will be following up with former participants to determine the long-term effects of trauma.

“We’re going to be studying 40 girls with varying trauma histories. They were 12 to 16 years of age when they first participated in our research study,” said James, who will be testing the subjects’ motor skills and attention control in the MRI scanner and comparing their results to earlier data. “We’re interested in whether or not they developed an addiction to drugs. Were their brains born resilient or did they learn resilience?”

For information about the study, contact the Brain Imaging Research Center at (501) 420-2653.

UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.