Frank Hillary

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Frank Hillary

Frank Hillary

Professor of Psychology and Associate Head of the Department of Psychology

Making an impact in science requires a dedicated community, the understanding that our truths are provisional, and persistence when faced with rejection.

Understanding how brain injury affects human functioning is achieved in a way that is naturally integrative through a consortium called ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuroimaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis) that has both research and educational arms.

“As part of the ENIGMA consortium, we are working to make brain imaging data processing pipelines universal. There are concerns about the consistency in findings in neuroimaging literature, and one primary cause for the variability in findings is the lack of uniformity in the approaches taken to imaging data analysis.” In our current NIH (National Institutes of Health)-funded grant, we are working to create universal data processing pipelines. In a second, but vital NIH-supported grant, we are working with women who have sustained brain injuries secondary to intimate partner violence (formerly domestic violence). “While there is no shortage of research examining male contact sports, there is a fraction of the funding and research dedicated to the study of IPV in women, even though IPV occurs at a rate tenfold higher than sports-related concussion in football.” 

One important finding from our work is that after brain injury, the brain becomes more and not less active/connected.  This "hyperconnectivity" hypothesis has been proposed as a compensatory mechanism that may lead to downstream negative consequences over the life span. The analogy is that injury creates a neural system that is overworked—resulting in recovery windows early on with behavior that approximates pre-injury behavior—but over time the system is susceptible to breakdowns, which takes the form of neurodegeneration for humans later in life.

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Past Award Honorees

“I always have 6–12 undergraduate research assistants working in my lab. Many will work on lab-related projects as well as devising their own research for honors theses or to present at conferences. For example, last year a student in my lab submitted a proposal for a Fulbright Award with colleagues in Norway leveraging ENIGMA consortium resources.” –Frank Hillary

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