David Amaral, Ph.D. Principal Investigator

David G. Amaral, Ph.D. received his undergraduate education at Northwestern University and graduated with a degree in Psychology. He then moved to the University of Rochester where he received a joint Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Psychology. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at Washington University. He then moved to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he remained for 13 years. During this period he was also an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego.
Dr. Amaral joined the University of California, Davis in 1995 as a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Center for Neuroscience. He is also a staff scientist at the California National Primate Research Center. Dr. Amaral was named the Beneto Foundation Chair of the MIND (Medical Investigations of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute in 1998. He also serves as Director of Autism BrainNet. Dr. Amaral started the Autism Phenome Project in 2006 with the collaboration of numerous MIND Institute faculty and staff, and the project has become the largest, single site, longitudinal analysis of young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Christine Wu Nordahl, Ph.D.Co-Investigator

Dr. Nordahl received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and graduate degree in neuroscience from UC Davis. She began her career at the MIND Institute as a postdoctoral fellow and has been working on the APP since the beginning of the project, spearheading efforts to develop pediatric neuroimaging protocols to acquire MRI scans in infants and toddlers during natural sleep, without the use of sedation or anesthesia.  Dr. Nordahl joined the MIND Institute faculty in 2011 and is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She is also the Principal Investigator of the Girls with Autism- Imaging of Neurodevelopment (GAIN) Study, which builds upon the APP, but is specifically focused females with ASD.

Marjorie Solomon, Ph.D.Co-Investigator

Dr. Marjorie Solomon is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, the MIND Institute, and the Imaging Research Center at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She received her PhD in Psychology from UC Berkeley. She also is a licensed clinician for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In 2007, Solomon received a K08 Career Development Award from NIMH to use cognitive neuroscience methods including fMRI to study higher cognition in ASD. Solomon’s current research examines cognitive development in individuals with ASD through the lifespan. In addition to the HELP Study, Solomon is funded to investigate the development of cognitive control and life outcomes in adolescents and young adults with the disorders. Solomon’s ultimate goal is to apply what she learns through neuroscience investigations to the development of interventions – the area where she began her career at the MIND Institute, and one she continues to develop as the Oates Endowed Chair and Director of the MIND social skills training group program.

Cory Coleman, B.S.

Cory Coleman, B.S.Junior Specialist

Cory Coleman is a Technical Junior Specialist for the Autism Phenome Project and the Cognitive Control in Autism (CoCoA) study. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Computer Science, where he completed a thesis using machine learning techniques to gain insights into nematode locomotion behavior. He currently employs data analysis tools to attempt to uncover clinically relevant subtypes of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Since receiving an adult diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome/Autism in 2012, Cory has enjoyed working with others on the Autism Spectrum, serving as a co-leader in the MIND's Adult Social Skills Program (ACCESS). A lifelong student of theater and speech, Cory regularly delivers public presentations in order to raise awareness of Autism Spectrum and to advocate for the needs of others with ASD.

Brianna Heath, Ph.D.

Brianna HeathProject Manager

Brianna Heath is the project manager for the Autism Phenome Project. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Southern Oregon University and her Ph.D. in Human Genetics from University of Pittsburgh. Her role serves as a bridge between project leaders, collaborators, the research team, and participating families. Her primary duties include: 1) coordinating and managing project activities under the direction of Dr. David G. Amaral, Dr. Christine Wu Nordahl, and Dr. Marjorie Solomon, 2) supervising of project staff, 3) overseeing data collection, and 4) managing the study’s complex databases.

Melissa Mello, M.A., BCBA

Melissa Mello, M.A., BCBABehavioral Analyst

Melissa Mello has been working with children with autism for the past 10 years in a variety of settings, including as a special education teacher and early interventionist delivering one on one intervention in community based programs.  For the past 7 years, Melissa has been supervising early intervention programs as a Clinical Manager; using behaviorally based, empirically validated methods to ensure children with autism are improving their behavior, language and social skills at home and in the classroom.  Melissa is certified in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), and has trained both locally and internationally as a certified ESDM trainer.  She is currently a Team Lead for the TADPOLE Study at the MIND Institute. Melissa has a Master’s Degree in Special Education from San Francisco State University and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. On the Autism Phenome Project, Melissa works as a Behavioral Analyst using evidence-based strategies to develop individualized plans to help prepare participants for the longitudinal video MRI procedure.

Breanna M. Winder-Patel, Ph.D.Psychologist

Dr. Winder-Patel is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at the MIND Institute and Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics. She has a strong interest in the assessment and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, pediatric anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive and related disorders.

Dr. Winder-Patel began an anxiety treatment clinic upon joining the MIND Institute to continue her passion of providing Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and Habit Reversal Training (HRT) to children and adolescents. She is also involved in clinical research with a focus on further understanding autism spectrum disorder in girls and the clinical and behavioral manifestation of anxiety in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Winder-Patel currently works on the Autism Phenome Project as an examiner administering the behavioral assessments.

Emma Smith, B.A.

Emma Smith, B.A.Junior Specialist

Emma Smith is a Junior Specialist in Dr. Marjorie Solomon’s lab at the UC Davis MIND Institute. She graduated from UCLA in 2020 with a B.A. in Psychology and a Minor in Biomedical Research. As an undergraduate, Emma did her senior thesis under Dr. Adriana Galván while working on the Development of Anxiety in Youth Study (DAYS). Specifically, Emma investigated the link between rumination and sleep quality in adolescents. At UCLA, Emma also was the Lead Research Assistant in Dr. Alissa Ellis’s thinkSMART Lab, where she delivered thinkSMART, a behavioral intervention aimed at improving executive functioning, to adolescents. She has presented her research at multiple conferences and also works for Dr. Ellis’s private practice. Emma currently coordinates the Autism Phenome Project (APP). She plans to pursue a career in neuroscience and use her findings to inform juvenile justice policy.