Sunita Bava


Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
B.A. University of California, Los Angeles
Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, UCSD/SDSU Joint Doctoral Program

Research Interests
My research interests include the study of brain structure and functioning in typical and atypical neurodevelopment, with an emphasis on white matter maturation and cognitive performance. Recent work has focused on the integrity of brain structure in populations with congenital anomalies, early brain insult, and substance exposure.

Research Projects
My research projects at CSCI include integrating diffusion simulation techniques and using fiber tracking schemes to examine specific structural differences within the brain. I am involved in two disease models: (1) Binge-Alcohol Animal Model of Adolescent Substance Use and (2) Human Adolescent Model of Chronic Marijuana Use.

Disease Models
We are interested in examining the impact of substances on the developing brain, specifically the consequences of early substance exposure on neurological development.

Model 1: Binge-Alcohol Animal Model of Adolescent Substance Use
The aim in this study is to understand the effects of adolescent ethanol exposure on white matter, and the capabilities of diffusion tensor imaging in detecting and quantitating associated changes. We have employed an animal model that facilitates controlled exposure and high resolution DTI to simulate adolescent binge-alcohol use. Additional new approaches to our study aim to:

- Delineate progressive changes in diffusion anisotropy (DA) in an extended rodent model consisting of binge and chronic alcohol exposure across a developmental continuum.
- Implement a Structured Specific Statistical Mapping (SSSM) fiber track analysis method
- Evaluate the precision of DA measures by comparison to histological findings.

Model 2: Human Adolescent Model of Chronic Marijuana Use
Cannabis in the form of smoked marijuana is the most widely used illicit substance among adolescents in the U.S. Despite the prevalence of heavy marijuana use, it is unclear how protracted use may affect brain structure and function during a period of continued neuromaturation. The aim of this study is to use DTI to quantify changes in white matter integrity and organization in a human adolescent model of cannabis abuse. Applying fiber track mapping (FTM) methods, we can identify the specific structural variations in white matter associated with chronic use.

Bava S, Frank LR, McQueeny T, Schweinsburg AD, & Tapert SF. 2008. White matter integrity in adolescent marijuana users. [abstract]. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 14(S1), 101.

Bava S, Frank LR, McQueeny T, Schweinsburg BC, Schweinsburg AD, & Tapert SF. 2008. (submitted) Diffusion tensor imaging in adolescent marijuana users reveals altered white matter integrity.

Bava S, Tapert SF, Schulteis G, Balls GT, Kang N, Tyszka JM, & Frank LR. 2008. (submitted) Binge alcohol exposure alters microstructural callosal integrity in periadolescent rats.