TAF Research Impact

The Impact of Avielle Foundation’s Research Funding

The Avielle Foundation

When you think about scientific research you might imagine white lab coats, petri dishes, bubbling beakers, microscopes, brain images, hospitals, universities, physicians, patients, busy white boards, or lab rats. These are all appropriate pictures of the kinds of research The Avielle Foundation supports. We provide grant funding to support neuroscience and public health research with the goal of understanding the elements of the brain that underlie violence and compassion; the interplay between genetics and the environment; the consequences of childhood maltreatment and trauma on the brain, its development, and its elicited behaviors. Below are examples of how your support has allowed the Avielle Foundation to fund research.
Research Images

Award recipients

The Avielle Foundation Luminary Award
Duke University Dr. Terrie Moffitt

TeamEvery year, TAF selects a pioneer in the field of violence or compassion research to honor with our Luminary Award. Our first recipient was the lab of Dr. Terrie ‘Temi’ Moffitt at Duke University. Dr. Moffitt studies how genetic and environmental risks work together to shape the course of abnormal human behaviors and psychiatric disorders. Her particular interest is in antisocial and criminal behavior, but she also studies depression, psychosis, and addiction. She is a licensed clinical psychologist, who completed her clinical hospital training at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute (1984). Dr. Moffitt is associate director of the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, which follows 1000 people born in 1972 in New Zealand. As of 2017, she has studied the cohort from birth to age 45. She also co-directs the Environmental-Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, which follows 1100 British families with twins born in 1994-1995. So far, she has studied the twins from birth to age 18. Dr. Moffitt has received countless other awards for her efforts and has authored nearly 300 impactful peer-reviewed publications.

We are proud to have helped support Dr. Moffitt’s research, and the Avielle Foundation is credited with funding her post doctoral research as well as supporting aspects of the well known Dunedin Longitudinal Study. This research has resulted in important publications such as Childhood Forecasting results represented in this infographic – click the image to learn more about the study.

The Conway Family Award for Excellence in Neuroscience
University of Michigan – Dr. Alexandra Burt and Dr. Luke Hyde

Hemi BrainUniversity of Michigan
Dr. Alexandra Burt and Dr. Luke HydeMichigan Twins

Dr. Alexandra Burt and Dr. Luke Hyde are working on a study in which twins and their parent(s) completed an intensive in-person assessment that included a clinical interview, videotaped parent-child interactions, and recruitment of neighborhood informants who reported on the structural and social processes in the twins’ neighborhoods. Dr. Burt and Dr. Hyde are collaborating on a project to add neuroimaging to Dr. Burt’s ‘at-risk’ twin cohort to examine longitudinal predictors of brain function. Moreover, because this sample resides in high-risk neighborhoods, the sample is enriched for children who have or will go on to have higher aggressive, anti-social violence (AAV). Their empirical research focuses on identifying, as early as preschool,

who is at most risk for the development of later violence and identifying the neural correlates of AAV. Dr. Hyde’s program of research examines the interplay between genes and environment in sculpting the neural circuits underlying AAV. Dr. Burt has used her expertise to illuminate the ways in which familial and extra-familial experiences (e.g. neighborhood) shape genetic influences on youth AAV.

Most recently, the pair recruited a cohort of 1000 child twins (6- to 10-year-olds) residing in modestly-to-severely disadvantaged neighborhoods; currently, this is the only ‘at-risk’ twin study in the United States. This research is conducted as a discordant twin study involving both genetically identical (monozygotic) or 50% identical (dizygotic) pairs of twins raised in the same environment.

The advantage to this approach is when a specific behavior is examined, researchers are able to address the “nature vs nurture” question and rapidly identify differences, both structurally and chemically between the siblings.

To learn more about their work, please visit the websites of Dr. Luke Hyde and Dr. Alexandra Burt

The Jan Gray Award for Public Health to Prevent Violence
Child Maltreatment as a Risk for Future Violence:
University of Northern Colorado Dr. Eric Peterson and Dr. Marilyn Welsh
Dr. Eric Peterson and Dr. Marilyn Welsh have teamed up for a pilot study of college students to explore the consequences of childhood maltreatment on academic success. Beginning with the seminal Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study in 1995, numerous scientific studies have shown individuals with a history of child maltreatment (CM) have profoundly elevated health risks. Of significant note is that individuals with a history of CM are not only at elevated risk for perpetration of violence, they are also more likely to be victims of violence. Approximately 30% of college students have experienced CM, and these students are much more likely to drop out of college or otherwise do poorly.
Dr. Peterson and Dr. Welsh believe this population (students with a CM history) has been very understudied. This oversight is at odds with our understanding of both the “cycle of violence” and the evidence that successful completion of college is a powerful protective factor (i.e., reducing risk for violence). In an effort to identify and understand the consequence of CM they are conducting research that will shed light on neurocognitive mechanisms that confer risk for aggression. Their study is ‘longitudinal’ in that they are going to follow the academic successes or failures of students with a history of CM over time. This may ultimately lead to direct interventions aimed at a huge sub-clinical population (i.e., those yet to be identified or diagnosed) as having an increased risk for violence. Further, this understanding may support interventions aimed at better adaptation in the academic context, thus, indirectly reducing violence.
To learn more about their work, please visit the websites of Dr. Welsh and Dr. Peterson