Mirella Dapretto, Ph.D.
• Professor - Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences
Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center
660 Charles E. Young Drive South
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Dr. Dapretto is currently Professor in the UCLA Dept. of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. After receiving a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the UCLA Psychology Department, with a minor in Behavioral Neuroscience, Dr. Dapretto acquired expertise in neuroimaging methods – particularly functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) – as a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center. Since joining the UCLA faculty in 1999, she has been the recipient of several awards, including NIH funding to study the neural networks suberving language functions in typically-developing children, and several grants to study the neural basis of the socio-communicative impairments observed in autism (funded by the Cure Autism Now foundation, the M.I.N.D. Research Institute at UC Davis, the National Alliance for Autism Research, and Autism Speaks). From 2007 to 2012, Dr. Dapretto served as the PI of the imaging project of the first UCLA Autism Center of Excellence (ACE) funded by NIH (Project 3). As part of the recently funded new UCLA ACE (2012-2017), Dr. Dapretto currently serves as the PI of the imaging project (Project 4), as well as Co-PI of a project in infants at ultra high-risk for autism (Project 1 ). In addition, Dr. Dapretto has also been a co-investigator on several large-scale collaborative studies headed by Drs. Susan Bookheimer, Dan Geschwind, Elizabeth Sowell, and Danny Wang, including a recently funded multi-site ACE Network (PI: Pelphrey; participating sites: Yale, UCLA, Harvard, University of Washington). In 2010-2012, Dr. Dapretto also served as the Director of the FPR-UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development. Capitalizing on her dual training as a developmental psychologist and a neuroscientist, Dr. Dapretto’s research combines neuroimaging, behavioral, and genetic data to better characterize typical and atypical brain function. Her work is consistently published in prestigious journals such as Biological Psychiatry, Brain, Journal of Neuroscience, Nature Neuroscience, and Neuron.
Area(s) of Expertise
Using several neuroimaging techniques (functional MRI, and, more recently, structural MRI and event related potentials, ERP), Dr. Dapretto’s research seeks to (i) delineate how brain maturation and the development of language and social communication co-occur in the typically developing brain, (ii) qualify the patterns of brain dysfunction in developmental disorders such as autism and childhood onset schizophrenia, (iii) examine the neural basis of linguistic and communicative functions in the adult brain since data on adults provide a normative developmental endpoint for developmental studies and can also address issues of brain plasticity, (iv) examine the role that fMRI may play as both a marker of change and a predictor of outcome following behavioral or pharmacological interventions, and (v) identify early markers of autism in high-risk infant siblings of children with an autism diagnosis.