Psychology grad students work in infant temperament lab

Setting aside time to relax, decompress important for mental health



Allegra Campagna, pictured left, is a fifth-year student. Kara Brown, pictured right, is a third-year student.

ABBY DAVIS, Evergreen copy chief

WSU clinical psychology graduate students wear many different hats, as they balance student life, teaching, research and clinical work.

Fifth-year student Allegra Campagna said she studies maternal mental health and its impact on “baby personalities.” In other words, she looks at how prenatal stress and anxiety affect a child’s temperament. 

Specifically, Campagna said she examines a mother’s stress about parenting. She considers questions like: Does the mother worry about childcare? How will the relationship with her partner change? Does she have a good support system?

Campagna said her research is particularly salient to her own life story as someone who was adopted and impacted by good parenting. 

“I think about … the environment and my good parenting and how that could have been very different had I had poor parenting,” she said.

Maternal anxiety and depression are easy to assess through screening, Campagna said. With early intervention, mothers can receive the help they need through individual therapy and behavioral health consultations.

Campagna said maternal mental health can help indicate early anxiety in children. Long-term, temperament markers may predict anger and aggression later on in adulthood. 

“We’re seeing these literal alterations and destruction of functioning in the brain of infants who have mothers who have poor maternal mental health,” she said. 

Third-year student Kara Brown also researches children and temperament. Brown said she experienced some family dynamics growing up that led her to question circumstances surrounding mental health.

Brown said she first took a psychology class while pursuing an undergraduate degree at University of Oklahoma. Her professor talked a lot about neurodevelopment, which sparked Brown’s own interest in the topic. 

“There were definitely some moments growing up that pushed me to really consider mental health and to think about it, you know, this very important aspect of who we are and who we become,” Brown said. 

As an undergrad, Brown worked in an electroencephalography (EEG) lab measuring brain activity non-invasively. While applying to graduate schools, Brown said WSU caught her eye because the university studies EEG and infancy. 

“I feel like that was kind of like that sweet spot of being able to continue the work I’m doing, but with a different population that I was more interested in,” she said. 

Brown said her main research revolves around looking at networks in the brain and how those networks impact social and emotional development in children. She currently works in the WSU Infant Temperament Lab measuring EEG. 

Each day, Brown splits her time researching, being a student and a clinician. Brown works at the WSU Psychology Clinic, where she does therapy and assessments for community members.     

If students exceed their session limits at WSU Counseling and Psychological Services, they can get assistance at the psychology clinic. Brown said the psychology clinic charges patients on a sliding scale.

“If you have a lower income, we’re able to lower our prices to make it accessible and affordable,” she said. “It’s a great place to work, and I get to meet tons of incredible people.”

Campagna said a lot of people can benefit from being proactive about their mental health and going to therapy before there are dramatic consequences. 

Talking to a professional who uses evidence-based theory is helpful for many different people, she said. This can include wanting tips about focusing better on homework, communicating better in relationships, getting out of bed earlier or even walking the dog.

“It doesn’t have to be so dramatic or dire,” she said. “Normalizing ‘hey, I’m setting goals with someone and it’s freaking awesome.’” 

Brown said maintaining good mental health is of the utmost importance, right alongside physical health. To help decompress from her busy schedule, Brown makes time for activities like reading and painting or simply hanging out with her two cats.      

If she is having a particularly hard day, Brown said she will take a moment to sit down, reflect and make intentional goals about approaching the next day with a new mindset.

“That’s way easier said than done,” she said. “It’s definitely taken me a lot of time to kind of get to that point where I can accept things where they’re at and then move on.”