American Indian (AI) populations have had the largest increase in suicide rates of any ethnic group in that past decade and have high rates of mental health concerns such as post-traumatic stress, substance use, anxiety, and mood disorders. However, previous research and preliminary analyses demonstrated that AIs actually display lower levels of mental health concerns than broader populations when accounting for increased levels of risk factors, (e.g., trauma exposure). Extant literature indicates that factors associated with AI culture are protective against poor mental health. Yet, little is known about how cultural factors (e.g., enculturation, social support) play a protective role. There are no published studies examining neural underpinnings of the protective role of AI cultural factors. Filling this gap is a critical step in supporting an experimental therapeutics approach to developing culturally informed prevention and intervention efforts. Cognitive control is a neurocognitive function that is implicated across numerous psychiatric disorders, can be assessed with validated behavioral and neuroimaging tasks, and has been well-delineated in regard to underlying neural circuitry.
The aims of the proposal are to (a) determine whether cultural protective factors relate to behavioral and neural indicators of cognitive control, as measured during electroencephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging and (b) develop an experimental, cultural identification paradigm to serve as the basis for future culturally-informed neuroscientific research and intervention/prevention efforts. A community based participatory research (CBPR) framework will be used to recruit participants who have completed multimodal neural and behavioral indicators of cognitive control, clinical interviews, self-report measures of psychopathology symptoms and global functioning as part of a previous study. They will complete self-report measures of enculturation, social support, global functioning and a cultural enhancement induction paradigm developed using a CBPR framework. These data will provide an essential foundation for developing culturally informed, evidence-based intervention and prevention efforts aimed at reducing the mental health disparities among AIs. The proposed training plan will expand Dr. White expertise in neuroscientific mechanisms of cognitive control through mentorship, coursework, and hands-on training in advanced statistical methods, multimodal (EEG/fMRI) neuroimaging, clinical neuroscience, and culturally informed research. He has assembled a team of mentors well suited to provide the required diversity of expertise he needs to achieve independence. Dr. Martin Paulus will provide expertise neuroimaging and advanced data analytic expertise. Dr. Aupperle will bring extensive experience related to neuroimaging and clinically relevant neuroscience approaches. Dr. Lowe will provide expertise and experiences in AI culturally informed research. The training and associated research will be conducted at LIBR, a state-of-the-art institute dedicated to neuroimaging research aimed at developing more effective treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders.

Public Health Relevance

American Indians (AIs) display high rates of mental health difficulties; however, evidence indicates that when accounting for socio-cultural and demographic risk factors AIs appear resilient to mental health concerns. Although specific factors associated with AI culture have been identified as protective, there is a lack of research aimed at understanding behavioral and neural underpinnings of these protective effects. The primary aim of this work is to establish (1) brain and behavior responses that characterize the cultural protective factors among AIs and (2) an experimental, cultural identification paradigm to serve as the basis for future culturally informed neuroscientific research and intervention/prevention efforts.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
Career Transition Award (K99)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZMD1)
Program Officer
Rajapakse, Nishadi
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Laureate Institute for Brain Research
United States
Zip Code