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 worked both with healthy and clinical development populations such as children with Bipolar disorder, ADHD, Phenylketonuria, and Williams' syndrome. She has been funded by NARSAD, DBDAT Foundation and NIDA. She is head of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the Institute of Juvenile Research. Her current projects examine impulsivity, cognitive control and reward processes, as they relate to executive functions, learning and substance abuse, in adolescents with Adolescent Bipolar disorder and adolescents with ADHD. She is also studying the potential of cognitive remediation as a tool to address some of the attention and working memory problems in PBD and ADHD. 


  • Institute for Juvenile Research
  • 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:

    • Neurobiological Models of Cognition and Affect toward Differentiating the Bio-signatures of PBD and ADHD. We are testing a neurobiological model on the neural mechanisms of cognitively-driven or emotionally-driven impulsivity to examine impulsivity, executive functions, and reward-related processes in children and adolescents with pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) and with ADHD, two developmental syndromes sharing symptoms of impulsivity, inattention, and poor behavioral control. This line of research has helped differentiating the intermediate neural phenotypes of ADHD and PBD with regard to impulsivity, working memory and affect. Stemming from previous studies, we are also investigating how we can better characterize ADHD comorbidity in PBD and remediate attention deficits that accompany severe emotional disturbance in these patients.
    • Reward Systems in Normally Developing Youth, in PBD and ADHD We are studying the behavioral and neurophysiological underpinnings of reward systems, which are fundamental for learning, self-control and executive functions, as they interact with cognitive and affective systems in normally developing youth as well as youth with ADHD and with PBD (with and without ADHD comorbidity). In particular we focus on investigating how altered reward systems may affect higher order cognitive processes such as decision-making, inhibition and self-regulation.
    • Adolescence, Pediatric Mental Illness, Reward systems and Drug abuse. Adolescence is a vulnerable time for developing drug addiction, and adolescents who suffer from bipolar disorder are at a particularly high risk. We study the mechanistic neuro-circuitry dysfunction associated with high comorbidity between ABD and SCU (significant cannabis use) using clinical, neurocognitive, and fMRI methods. We focus on a model of two brain circuits highly implicated in both drug abuse and bipolar disorder: the reward system and the self-control system. Findings from this study will provide insights on the neurobiological mechanisms related to altered reward sensitivity, drug abuse and deficient self-control in ABD, and more generally, in at risk adolescent population.
    • Cognitive Remediation and Training-related Neuroplasticity in PBD and ADHD. >We are conducting a cognitive/working memory (WM) intervention program to better understand how we can improve cognitive function at home and school in children with PBD and/or ADHD who experience significant attention and working memory deficits. Working Memory is a key component of learning and of executive regulatory functions. This study examines learning mechanisms and the potentials of WM and attention improvement through cognitive training. Moreover, we are documenting and assessing whether the cognitive remediation may lead to training-related improvements in neural functioning by conducting fMRI scans of brain function before and after the training.


DelDonno, SR, Crane, N.A., Weldon, AL, Passarotti, A.M., Pruitt, P.J., Gabriel, LB, Yau, W., Meyers, KK, Hsu, DT, Taylor, S.F., Heitzeg, M.M., Herbener, E., Shankman, S.A., Mickey, BJ, Zubieta, JK, Langenecker, SA. (2015). Affective Personality Predictors of Disrupted Reward Learning and Pursuit in Major Depressive Disorder. Psychiatry Research, 230, 56-64.

Langenecker, S.A., Jacobs, R.H., Passarotti, A.M. 2014. Current Neural and Behavioral Dimensional Constructs across Mood Disorders. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports. 1, 144-153.

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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