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Johanna Bick

Johanna Bick Photo
Associate Professor
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
4349 Martin Luther King Blvd Health 1 RM 482

Dr. Johanna Bick is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Houston. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Delaware in 2011. She then completed research fellowships at the Yale Child Study Center and the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, prior to coming to UH in the fall of 2016.

Dr. Bick’s work takes an interdisciplinary approach, by incorporating methods and theories from child clinical psychology, developmental psychology, and developmental cognitive neuroscience, to understand how early adverse experiences shape child development.

Her questions are guided by a large body of research suggesting that exposure to early life adversity (i.e. poverty, maltreatment, and extreme early life neglect) can lead to a wide range of developmental problems, with many involving long term cognitive delays and emotional difficulties. A primary focus of Dr. Bick’s research program is to understand how these early experiences shape development in ways that make children more prone to these problems. One way she addresses this question is by investigating how these experiences “get under the skin” and shape the development of neurobiological systems that underpin emotional development, stress regulation, and cognitive control. She integrates EEG, MRI, and biomarkers associated with stress physiology to address this question.

Importantly, research also suggests that there is significant variability in the likelihood that children go on to develop problems following early adverse exposures. For example, some children may go on to show a myriad of difficulties, while others remain remarkably resilient. Dr. Bick tries to understand this variability, by “unpacking” these complex early exposures. Her work considers how the quality, timing, and severity of exposures are associated with patterns of risk or resiliency both neurobiological and behaviorally. Related to this, Dr. Bick examines parental responsiveness as a key protective factor for young children exposed to early life stress. Her work has shown that exposure to a nurturing, supportive caregiver early in life can help “normalize” neurobiology, and steer development away from risk and towards resiliency.

Research Areas