Inna Fishman, PhD  |  Email

Dr. Fishman is Associate Research Professor in the SDSU Department of Psychology, Associate Clinical Director of the Brain Development Imaging Labs, and Director of SCANgroup. She is also an affiliate member of the SDSU Center for Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN). Dr. Fishman is a clinical neuropsychologist, with background and training in cognitive, developmental and social neuroscience. She uses multimodal neuroimaging techniques (EEG, ERPs, and MRI, including functional and diffusion MRI) to examine brain mechanisms and circuits underlying human social behavior. She aims at understanding how variations in brain activity or organization are translated into overt patterns of social behavior. Currently, Dr. Fishman’s focus is on understanding how behavioral difficulties in social domain (such as these in ASDs) map to atypical brain circuits, and when the organization and function of these circuits diverge from the patterns observed in typical development.


Annika Linke, PhD  |  Email

Dr. Linke received her doctorate in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge in England and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Brain and Mind Institute, Western University in Canada. Her main interest is understanding how brain function changes over the course of development, and how it is altered in neurodevelopmental disorders. She has worked with neonates, infants, children and adults employing advanced fMRI methods, and joined SCANgroup in January 2016 to study how changes in functional network organization relate to the early behavioral symptoms observed in toddlers diagnosed with autism.

Graduate Students

Lindsay Olson  |  Email

Lindsay is a PhD student in the Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at SDSU and UC San Diego. After graduating from Whitman College, Lindsay studied pragmatic language use in children with ASD as a research assistant at Oregon Health & Science University. After completing a predoctoral research fellowship at the Marcus Autism Center at Emory University where she used eye-tracking to examine early social development in infants at risk for developing ASD, Lindsay joined SCANgroup to study early social and brain development in autism and how experiences influence the course of brain development. Lindsay is a recipient of the prestigious Autism Speaks fellowship and her work has been published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Autism, with several other papers currently under review.

Bosi Chen  |  Email

Bosi is a PhD student in the Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at SDSU and UC San Diego. After graduating from New York University with B.A. in Psychology and Economics, Bosi worked as a Research Associate at the NYU Child Study Center to study neural mechanisms underlying autism and ADHD in children and adolescents. Currently, Bosi is jointly working with our lab and with Dr. Marty Sereno, Director of SDSU Imaging Center. Bosi is a recipient of the prestigious Autism Speaks predoctoral fellowship and the SDSU University Graduate Fellowship. Her recent paper on brain network connectivity in young children with ASD has been featured in Spectrum.

Tiffany Wang  |  Email

Tiffany is a PhD student in the Psychology department at UC San Diego (UCSD). After graduating from UCSD with a B.A/B.S in psychology and biology, she worked with Dr. Aubyn Stahmer at the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center (CASRC) on ways to deliver evidence-based practices into community settings. Tiffany is a busy bee: she is jointly working on the Toddler Project in our lab, as well as with Dr. Leslie Carver’s Developmental Neuroscience Lab and Dr. Caren Walker’s Early Learning and Cognition Lab at UCSD. She is interested in identifying biological or behavioral markers in infants and toddlers at risk for autism.

Undergraduate Students and Research Assistants

Elisa Mendez  |  Email

Elisa is an undergraduate student studying psychology and child and family development at SDSU. Elisa is interested in understanding childhood developmental disorders from a psychological and behavioral perspective. She has a passion for working with children and has a strong desire to give back to her community. In the summer 2020 she received the SDSU Summer Undergraduate Research Program award to investigate links between socioeconomic variables and anxiety levels in young children with autism.

Irem SogutlugilEmail

Irem is a Psychology major at SDSU. With an interest in developmental psychology, Irem has been assisting with various aspects of the Toddler Project, including data collection and quality assurance.

Annie Andriasyan  |  Email

Annie graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Anthropology. She joined SCANgroup in 2019 and is assisting with many aspects of the Toddler Project. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in research-oriented psychology field.

Research Staff

Vinton Omaleki, MPH  |  Email

Vinton is a graduate of the SDSU’s Masters of Public Health program in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science. Specializing in community engagement, Vinton is helping us build trust and partnerships between SCANgroup and the many communities throughout San Diego County and beyond. As the Community Engagement Director of the SDSU Center for Autism, Vinton focuses on increasing local and regional awareness of our research by building collaborative relationships with San Diego educational and medical organizations. Vinton also serves as a liaison between our group and the Rady Children’s Autism Discovery Institute.


Mikaela Kinnear, PhD  |  Email

Dr. Kinnear is a licensed clinical psychologist with extensive experience in diagnostic assessment of autism spectrum, attention and learning disorders, as well as in childhood mental health. After completing her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a postdoctoral training at the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, Mikaela joined SCANgroup in January 2016 to pursue her research interests in understanding the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying social communication challenges in neurodevelopmental disorders. In 2019 Mikaela returned to Rady Children’s and joined the Developmental Evaluation Clinic (DEC) team as a Clinical Psychologist, where she specializes in the assessment of toddlers, children and adolescents with developmental, behavioral and learning concerns.

Chris Fong, M.A.  |  Email

After receiving his B.S. in Psychology from UCSD, Chris was a key member of the SCANgroup while completing a Masters Thesis in psychology at SDSU. In his thesis project, Chris examined functional brain network development in children with ASD. He stayed in the lab to complete several manuscripts and to assist with many aspects of the Toddler Project, including night scans. He is now pursuing a doctorate in Clinical Psychology in the SDSU / UCSD Joint Doctoral Program.

Cynthia Ibarra, M.A.  |  Email

Cynthia was a Master’s student in Psychology at SDSU. As an undergrad at UC Riverside, she investigated the role of interactive media and individual differences in children’s cognitive development. While at SCANgroup, Cynthia’s work focused on examining the neural mechanisms underlying emotional dysregulation in children with ASD. Although she has completed her Masters thesis and graduated with flying colors, Cynthia still graciously assists with our night scans and can be seen with our young participants at the MRI Center.

Nikki Velasco  |  Email

Nikki worked on the Toddler Project as a Rady Children’s Hospital’s liaison after she graduated from UC San Diego. Nikki was instrumental in communicating with the families of young children diagnosed with ASD and recruiting them into our study. Nikki has moved to the Los Angeles area to be closer to her family, and currently works for Anthem as an Outreach Specialist.

Sarah Reynolds  |  Email

Sarah worked on the Toddler Project as a Project Coordinator after she graduated from University of San Diego with a B.A. in Behavioral Neuroscience. Sarah coordinated many aspects of the Toddler Project, including communication with the families, coordination of night scans, and overall project management. After working with us for three years, Sarah wanted to pursue her love of outdoors and her passion for understanding the human experience, and she is currently leading wilderness therapy groups for teens with challenging behaviors. She is likely rock climbing or rappelling somewhere in the Utah wilderness right now.

Shadia Assi, MPH  |  Email

Shadia was SCANgroup’s Community Outreach Coordinator. A graduate of the SDSU’s Master of Public Health program, with an emphasis in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, Shadia focused on increasing local and regional awareness of our research by building collaborative relationships with educational and medical organizations, and community at large. Shadia was instrumental in communicating with many our community partners and building new partnerships and collaborations.

Elly Pueschel, M.A.  |  Email

Elly was an undergraduate student at SDSU majoring in psychology and minoring in statistics. She joined the lab in January 2016 and has assisted with various projects examining sensory abnormalities in ASD. She was awarded an Autism Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2017 and was an IMSD scholar. Elly completed an Honors Thesis project focusing on sensory processing abnormalities in toddlers with ASD and was named the 2018 Outstanding Graduating Psychology Senior! She is now working on her doctorate in Developmental Psychology at USC.

Katherine PaszekEmail

Katherine worked with SCANgroup for about 3 years, after graduating from Syracuse University in May 2017 with a B.S in Psychology. Passionate about autism research, Katherine played a leading role in the our Improv Project, as both an instructor and facilitator of the data collection from parents and teens participating in the Unscripted Learning SDSU-Connections Project. Katherine presented results from this pilot program at the 2019 INSAR meeting. Currently, she is pursuing a Masters degree in Applied Child & Adolescent Psychology at University of Washington in Seattle.

Lindsey RingleeEmail

Lindsey joined SCANgroup as an undergraduate student in Psychology at the University of San Diego (USD). Lindsey was involved in many aspects of the Toddler Project and became the Project Coordinator upon graduating from USD. Lindsey left to be closer to her family in Northern California during the Covid-19 pandemic, but she is still with us in spirit (and continues working with us on some of the research projects remotely).

Mercedes PalacioEmail

As an undergraduate student majoring in psychology at SDSU, Mercedes assisted with the Toddler Project. Passionate about childhood development and helping children achieve their potential, Mercedes is now pursuing a Masters degree in Applied Behavioral Analysis, while working as a Behavioral Therapist at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders.

Tamae Sugiura  |  Email

After graduating from the University of San Diego with a B.A. in Psychology, Tamae joined SCANgroup in June 2018 to assist with the Toddler Project. She has always been interested in communication and communicative challenges, including those in autism, wishing to pursue a professional career in Speech and Language Pathology. She is currently a Master’s student in the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences program at SDSU.

Michael Apostol  |  Email

Michael assisted with the Toddler Project while working on his undergraduate degree at the University of San Diego (USD). He was particularly involved in our sleep MRI studies and in characterizing sleep disturbances in children with ASD. Michael graduated from USD in Spring 2020 and plans on pursuing a graduate degree in psychology.

Natalia Witkowska  |  Email

Natalia completed an Honors Thesis project with us when she was an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology at SDSU. Using the Toddler MRI Project data, Natalia identified presence of affective symptoms, including elevated emotional reactivity and internalizing symptoms, in toddlers with ASDs. These symptoms were associated with core autism symptoms and greater delays in expressive language. At present, Natalia is working on her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Cal Lutheran.

Juliana LucenaEmail

As an undergraduate student in the Department of Psychological Sciences at University of San Diego (USD), Juliana was assisting with many aspects of the Toddler MRI Project in Spring 2018.