The Researching Emotional Disorders and Development (REDD) Lab is a research group led by Dr Jennifer Lau. We study typical and atypical development of emotional and social behaviour across childhood and adolescence. We focus on why some young people experience more difficulties during this period than others, and what strategies could be used to overcome these difficulties
Our research can be broadly categorised under three key areas, relating to anxiety, mood problems and loneliness in children and young people either as a single condition or as a co-occurring condition in other chronic conditions such as pain.
Firstly, we are interested in how nature and nurture interact to influence the developing brain, allowing individual differences in the way that we come to process and understand emotional and social information. Some of our earlier work focused on genetic influences on anxiety and mood symptoms while more recent projects have tried to measure the effects of different types of early life adversity including maltreatment, institutionalisation and economic exploitation. We believe that these genetic and environmental factors may affect patterns of brain responses and information-processing that increase risks for mood and anxiety problems in young people.
Secondly, we are interested in whether there are particular periods when these symptoms are more likely to emerge and persist. For example, in several studies, we have focused on the transition from childhood to adolescence as a ‘hotspot’ for the onset of particular anxiety symptoms, such as social anxiety – and we try to understand how typical developmental changes in the brain and the social environment may explain this developmental-sensitivity.
Finally, we are conducting translational research, which looks at how we can better harness our knowledge on the known risk mechanisms underlying child and adolescent anxiety and depression to identify new targeted cost-effective interventions to alleviate distress and disability associated with these conditions.