Katherine Lefevre

Major: Psychology, Philosophy
Purdue School of Science
Supervisor: Kathleen I. Crum, PhD, LifeRAFT Program Director
Department: Psychiatry Department, Indiana University School of Medicine

The LifeRAFT Program: Exploring relationships between early life stress, the brain, and behavior

The LifeRAFT (Lifespan Reward, Affective, and Family Ties) Project explores how early life stress and family factors affect youth brain and behavior outcomes. Early life stress is a serious public health problem with lasting effects. An estimated 1 in 7 children experienced abuse or neglect in 2019 (SAMHSA). Roughly 25% of adults who have experienced early life stress have had at least four adverse childhood experiences (CDC), and an estimated 15 million adults have PTSD (National Center for PTSD). Our mission is to understand how to help children overcome early life stress and lead fulfilling lives. One way in which we work towards this goal is by looking at how the brain responds when a child processes emotions and how that differs based on children’s life experiences and family dynamics. We use Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to look at how children respond to rewards and emotions. These processes contribute to how children learn and experience their world, which affects their mental health. Ultimately, the insight we glean from our work will help identify treatment targets by linking child brain function to risk and protective factors. We aim to both prevent negative outcomes, and further positive development and promote wellbeing.