IU's Franco Pestilli and Cara Lewis honored by Association for Psychological Science

  • Jan. 27, 2016


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two Indiana University faculty members in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences have received major recognition for early career contributions to their fields.

Computational neuroscientist Franco Pestilli has won the 2016 Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions from the Association for Psychological Science. Clinical psychologist Cara Lewis was designated a 2016 Association for Psychological Science Rising Star.

The Association for Psychological Science is the premier international organization in its field dedicated to the advancement of psychological science and promotion of psychological research and science-based psychology in the development of public policy. Each year, it honors the accomplishments of members who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of psychological science.

Franco Pestilli

Pestilli joined the IU faculty in 2015 as an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences after serving as a research associate at Stanford University.

His work has made seminal contributions to the study of human brain connectivity, using state-of-the-art neuroimaging and computational approaches to reconstruct white-matter connections in the human brain. This achievement, widely considered transformative, recently enabled Pestilli and colleagues to identify a new and potentially important white matter connection within the visual cortex.

In addition, Pestilli's research has shed light on the basic mechanisms of human attention and the effects of visual attention in the way humans see the world. More recently, he has brought the study of connectivity into conjunction with the study of individual variations in brain structure, function and behavior. This work has resulted in a partnership with IU School of Medicine researchers to create profiles of individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s disease under an IU Grant Linking University-wide Expertise from the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

"Pestilli's work cuts across many different fields of psychology, including attention, visual perception and cognitive neuroscience," said Brian Wandell, professor of psychology at Stanford. "His careful quantitative approach to measurement and thoughtful interpretation of data using modeling represents the highest level of rigor. His work is, moreover, helping us rethink basic assumptions about the neural basis of cognition and how we conceive of the networks of attention."

To Olaf Sporns, Distinguished Professor, Provost Professor and Robert H. Shaffer Chair of Psychological and Brain Sciences, "Pestilli's scientific style is that of an integrative thinker who also has the nuts-and-bolts skills and the persistence to find a way forward in uncharted territory. I am delighted that he is now my faculty colleague here at IU, and I am sure he will become a major leader in the psychological science of the 21st century."

The Spence Award is given each year to six psychologists worldwide in recognition of "new and cutting-edge ideas from the most creative and promising investigators."

Cara Lewis

Lewis is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington.

As a clinical psychologist and researcher in the field of implementation science, she works with mental health agencies, including the nation’s largest not-for-profit behavioral health service center, to identify barriers for implementing evidence-based treatments and to facilitate the best treatments for people suffering from mental illness.

Recently, she received two grants from the National Institutes of Health totaling nearly $3 million to tackle major issues in the effort to bring evidence-based mental health treatment into community mental health centers. One grant supports a comparison between two methods for integrating a depression screening survey into the routines of community mental health clinics; the other aims to develop measures for assessing a clinic’s readiness to adopt new practices.

"Lewis' work is helping to transform community mental health care locally, regionally and nationally," said Brian D'Onofrio, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. "Guided and informed by rigorous theory and the basic science of human behavior, her research draws on knowledge from basic psychological science in learning, cognition, motivation, personality and group processes and applies it to real-world settings. This translational focus requires enormous interpersonal skills, social awareness and understanding to navigate between two disparate professions -- researchers and community clinicians."

"Lewis' research and leadership place her at the heart of the new subdiscipline of dissemination and implementation science," added William Hetrick, chair of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. "She tackles pressing questions about therapy and addresses major impediments to the translation of evidence-based practices to real-world settings. It is a clear that she is a highly valued, deeply respected expert in her field."

Lewis is also a national leader in her field as president of the Society for Implementation Research Collaboration, co-chair for a committee to develop a division on implementation science at the Association for Psychological Science, an advisory board member for several VA groups and an early career reviewer for NIH grants.

D'Onofrio received the APS Spence Award in 2013. Other faculty members in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences who received the Rising Star designation in recent years are Mary Murphy in 2013, D'Onofrio in 2012 and Robert "B.J." Rydell in 2011.

Franco Pestilli

Franco Pestilli | Photo by Indiana University

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Cara Lewis

Cara Lewis | Photo by Indiana University

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Liz Rosdeitcher

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