Alessandra M. Passarotti, PhD


Institute for Juvenile Research
1747 West Roosevelt Research Rd., M/C 747, Rm. 274
Chicago, IL 60608

Office Phone: (312) 355-0109
Office Fax: (312) 413-0063
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Alessandra M. Passarotti, PhD

Research Assistant Professor in Psychiatry

Dr. Passarotti uses a congitive neuroscience approach and FMRI methods to examine the neurobiological mechanisms of cognitive and affective dysfunction in pediatric mental illness. She has been funded by NARSAD, DBDAT Foundation and NIDA. In particular she studies impulsivity, cognitive control and reward processes, as they relate to executive functions, learning and substance abuse, in adolescents with pediatric bipolar disorder and adolescents with ADHD. She is also conducting a longitudinal cognitive remediation study with pre- and post training FMRI data collected to examine training- related brain plasticity.


  • IJR
  • Center for Cognitive Neuroscience


Dr. Passarotti has worked both with healthy and clinical populations such as children with Bipolar disorder, ADHD, Phenylketonuria, and Williams’ syndrome. She is interested in developing neurocognitive models of child development. To this end, she uses cognitive and fMRI paradigms to address the fundamental question of how the child cognition and brain mature into an adult stage, and what are the neural bases of certain developmental syndromes.

Research Interests:

Dr. Passarotti’s research can be broadly divided into three interrelated areas, which examine the neurophysiological correlates of both cognitive and emotional development:

  • Examination of the development of the neural underpinnings of face processing and face emotion processing. Previous fMRI research conducted by Dr. Passarotti suggests prolonged neural development of the face processing circuitry, and progressive specialization of the right hemisphere and fusiform gyrus for this function, that extends well into adolescence. Current studies further examine the development of face processing strategies, and contributions of prefrontal cortex and amygdala to face emotion processing.
  • Examination of the biological bases of Pediatric Bipolar Disorder and ADHD. In collaboration with Dr. M. Pavuluri and Dr J. Sweeney Dr. Passarotti is examining the neural substrate of face emotion processing, response inhibition, and language functions in adolescents with bipolar disorder and ADHD, compared to healthy controls. Together with the research team led by Dr Pavuluri in the “Pediatric Translational Research in Affective and Cognitive Neuroscience and Treatment Laboratory” she is also studying the effects of pharmacological treatment such as Lamotrigine (Lamictal), Risperidone, and Divalproex Sodium on cognitive and emotional functioning in bipolar adolescents.
  • Examination of the development of attention and executive functions. Dr Passarotti is interested in examining how development of brain specialization and inter-regional communication contribute to more efficient attention processes and strategies. She previously found that efficient interhemispheric interaction via the corpus callosum (the main cortical commissure in the brain, which reaches full neural maturation in late adolescence) increases the overall attentional capacity of the brain, across different sensory modalities. She is now extending some of her paradigms to the developmental domain to study the contributions of interhemispheric interaction to attention development. She is also currently examining the neural and cognitive bases of response inhibition in pediatric bipolar disorder and ADHD.


Passarotti, A.M., Smith, J., DeLano, M. and Huang, J. (2007). Developmental Differences in the Neural Bases of the Face Inversion Effect Show Progressive Tuning of Face-selective Regions To the Upright Orientation”. NeuroImage 34 (4), 1708-1722.

Pavuluri, MN and Passarotti, AM (2008). Neural bases of emotional processing in pediatric bipolar disorder. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics 8 (9), 1381-1387.

Passarotti, AM, Sweeney JA and Pavuluri, MN. (2009). Neural correlates of incidental and directed facial emotion processing in adolescents and adults. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 4, 387-398.

Pavuluri, MN, Passarotti, AM, Harral, EM and Sweeney JA. (2009). An fMRI Study of the Neural Correlates of Incidental versus Directed Emotion Processing in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder.  Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 48(3), 308-318.

Pavuluri, MN, Yang, S, Kamineni, K, Passarotti, AM, Srinivasan, G, Harral, EM, Sweeney J., Zhou, X. (2009). DTI Study of White Matter Fiber Tracts: in Pediatric Bipolar disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Biological Psychiatry 65(7), 586-593.

Passarotti, AM, Sweeney, JA and Pavuluri MN (2010). Neural Correlates of Response Inhibition Deficits in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 181(1), 36-43.

Passarotti, AM, Sweeney, JA and Pavuluri, MN (2010). Differential Engagement of Cognitive and Affective Neural Systems in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 16(1), 106-117.

Pavuluri, MN, Passarotti, AM, Mohammed, T, Carbray, J, and Sweeney, JA (2010). Enhanced Working and Verbal Memory after Lamotrigine Treatment in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorders 12(2), 213-220.

Pavuluri, MN, Passarotti, AM, Harral, EM and Sweeney JA (2010).  Enhanced prefrontal function with pharmacotherapy on a Response Inhibition Task in Adolescent Bipolar Disorder. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 71, 1-9.

Passarotti, AM, Sweeney JA and Pavuluri, MN (2010). Emotion Processing Influences Working Memory Circuits in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 9(10), 1064-1080.

Pavuluri, MN, Passarotti AM, Parnes SA, Fitzgerald JM, Sweeney, JA (2010). A Pharmacological fMRI Study Probing the Interface of Cognitive and Emotional Brain Systems in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 20(5), 395-406.

Passarotti, AM, Sweeney JA and Pavuluri, MN (2011). Fronto-limbic Dysfunction in Mania Pre-Treatment and Persistent Amygdala Over-activity Post-Treatment in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder. Psychopharmacology. 216(4), 485-499.

Passarotti, AM, and Pavuluri, MN (2011). Brain Functional Domains Inform Therapeutical Interventions  in Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Disorder and Pediatric Bipolar Disorder. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics 11(6), 897-914.

Pavuluri, MN, Passarotti, AM, Lu, LH, Carbray, JA and Sweeney, JA (2011). Double-Blind Randomized Trial of Risperidone versus Divalproex in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder: fMRI Outcomes. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. 193(1): 28-37.

Wegbreit, E, Ellis, J, Nandam A, Fitzgerald, J, Passarotti, AM, Pavuluri, MN, Stevens, M (2011). Amygdala Functional Connectivity Predicts Pharmacotherapy Outcome in PBD. Brain Connectivity, 1(5), 411-422.

Passarotti, AM, Ellis, J, Wegbreit, E, Stevens, M, Pavuluri, MN (2012). Reduced Functional Connectivity of Prefrontal Regions and Amygdala Within Affect and Working Memory Networks in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder. Brain Connectivity 2(6), 320-334. Epub: 2012 Nov 14.

Pavuluri MN, Passarotti AM, Fitzgerald, JM, Wegbreit, E, Sweeney, JA (2012). Risperidone and Divalproex differentially engange the fronto-striato-temporal circuitry in pediatric mania: a longitudinal fMRI study. JAACAP 51(2), 157-170.

Schenkel, LS, Passarotti AM, Sweeney JA, Pavuluri MN (2012). Negative emotion impairs working memory in pediatric patients with bipolar disorder type I.  Psychological Medicine 42(12), 2567-2577.

Pavuluri MN, Ellis, J, Wegbreit, E, Passarotti AM, Stevens, M (2012).  Pharmacotherapy impacts functional connectivity among affective circuits during response inhibition in pediatric mania. Behavioral Brain Research 226(2): 493-503.

Lu, LH, ZhouJX, FitzgeraldJM, Keedy, SK, Reilly, JL, Passarotti, AM, Sweeney, JS, Pavuluri, MN (2012). Microstructure Abnormalities of White Matter Differentiate Pediatric and Adult Onset Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorders, 14(6): 597-606.

Wegbreit, Passarotti, AM, E, Ellis, Wu, M., Witowski, N., J, Fitzgerald, J, Pavuluri, MN. (2012). Where, when, how high, and how long? The hemodynamics of emotional response in psychotropic-naïve patients with adolescent bipolar disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.11.025.

Shankman, SA, Katz, AC, Passarotti, AM, Pavuluri, MN. (2013). Deficits in Emotion Recognition in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder: The Mediating Effects of Irritability. Journal of Affective Disorders 144, 134-140.

Passarotti, AM, Fitzgerald, JM, Sweeney JA and Pavuluri, MN. (2013). Negative Emotion Interference During a Synonym Matching Task in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder With and Without Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 19, 1-12.

Wu, M, Lu, LH, Passarotti, AM, Wegbreit, E, Fitzgerald, J, Pavuluri, MN (2013). Functional Connectomics Reveal Altered Affective, Executive and Sensorimotor Resting State Networks in Patients with Pediatric Mania. J Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Jul;38(4), 232-240. doi: 10.1503/jpn.120073

Wu, M, Lu, L, Lowes, A, Yang, S., Passarotti AM, Zhou, X, and Pavuluri MN. (2013). Development of Superficial White Matter and its Structural Interplay with Cortical Gray Matter in Children and Adolescents. Human Brain Mapping, 2013 Sep 13. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22368.

Langenecker, SA, Jacobs, RH & Passarotti, AM (2014). Current Neural and Behavioral Dimensional Constructs across Mood Disorders. Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

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