Directed by Hill Goldsmith, Professor of Psychology and Investigator at the Waisman Center

About the Research

The research focus is temperament and the role of temperament in developmental risk and resilience. We consider broad themes of affective development, psychological adjustment, biological vulnerabilities, and peer/family context.

Our studies measure observed behavior, self-ratings, parents’ perspectives, school and home experiences, and cortisol. We utilize quantitative and molecular approaches to study developmental genetics. We incorporate multimodal neuroimaging with adolescents and young adults. We have employed over 200 instruments, many with multiple raters and repeated across time. Father report is included at every testing occasion. Our community-based study population inform several clinically relevant topics including sensory challenges, anxiety, autism, and disinhibition. We can also address unique urban rural differences in development. Approximately 40% of twin family participants resided in rural communities.

Current Studies

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Adolescent Brain and Behavior

We are interested in the relationship between early behavior and later brain measures. How do genetically identical and fraternal twin pairs differ in brain circuitry implicated in emotion-related behavior? Twins participate in multimodal neuroimaging, computer-based behavior assessment, and surveys about emotion, cognition, and experience. Some studies examine the unique similarities and differences in genetically identical twins.

Sample papers:

Adluru, N., Luo, Z., Van Hulle. C, Schoen, A. J., Davidson, R. J., Alexander, A. L., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2017). Anxiety-related experience-dependent white matter structural differences in adolescence: A monozygotic twin difference approach. Scientific Reports, 7 (1), 8749. December, 2017.  PMID: 28821748. PMCID: PMC5562810.

Burghy, C. A., Fox, M. E., Cornejo, M. D., Stodola, D. E., Van Hulle, C., Ojiaku, P., Schmidt, N. L., Davidson, R. J., Goldsmith, H. H., & Birn, R. M. (2016). Experience driven differences in childhood cortisol predict affect-relevant brain function and coping in adolescent monozygotic twins. Scientific Reports. Published online, Nov. 22. PMID: 27872489. PMCID: PMC5181835.

Twin Similarities and Differences in Sensory Over-responsivity from Infancy through Adulthood

We study sensory over-responsivity, often described as unusually intense, even painful, responses to everyday sensory stimuli that most individuals experience as innocuous. We study tactile experiences (e.g., textures such as walking barefoot) and auditory experiences (e.g., gymnasium settings or fluorescent lights). General sensory reactivity can vary widely. Clinicians observe sensory over-responsivity, sometimes called sensory defensiveness, in children with a range of diagnoses, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and Fragile X  Syndrome, but sensory over-responsivity, importantly, also occurs in children without any apparent medical condition. We study twin similarities and differences in the full range of sensory experiences and how those experiences relate to other aspects of emotion and behavior.

Sample papers:

Van Hulle, C. A., Lemery-Chalfant, K., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2017). Parent-offspring transmission of internalizing and sensory over-responsivity symptoms in adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Published online, 10 April. PMID: 28393325. PMCID: PMC5634909.

Van Hulle, C., Lemery-Chalfant, K., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2015). Trajectories of sensory over-responsivity from early to middle childhood: Birth and temperament risk factors. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0129968. PMID: 26107259. PMCID: PMC4481270.

Van Hulle, C. A., Schmidt, N. L., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2012). Is sensory over-responsivity distinguishable from childhood behavior problems? A phenotypic and genetic analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53, 64-72. PMID: 21797864. PMCID: PMC3208137.

Keuler, M. M., Schmidt, N. L., Van Hulle, C. A., Lemery-Chalfant, K., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2011). Sensory over-responsivity: Prenatal risk factors and temperamental contributions. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 32, 533-541. PMID: 21743351. PMCID: PMC3163729.

Goldsmith, H. H., Van Hulle, C. A., Arneson, C. L., Schreiber, J. E., & Gernsbacher, M. A. (2006). A population-based twin study of parentally reported tactile and auditory defensiveness in young children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34, 378-392. PMID: 16649001.


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Active funding

R01-MH101504, P50 MH100031, U54 HD090256 (Waisman infrastructure), T32 MH18931, co-investigator

National Institute of Mental Health - Previous Funding

R01-MH101504, P50 MH100031, R01-MH59785 – renewed five years, P50 MH84051, R01 MH069793, R37-MH50560, R01-MH50560, P50-MH069315, UR3 DD000078-01, U54 MH66398, P50-MH52354, R01 MH44340, P50-MH52354

Foundation support - Previous Funding

  • Wallace Research Foundation
  • National Alliance for Autism Research
  • MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Psychopathology and Development
  • Dean Foundation
  • March of Dimes Foundation
  • MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Early Childhood Transitions

Waisman Center Infrastructure - Previous Funding

U54 HD090256, P30-HD03352