Michael Santo Gaffrey

Michael Santo Gaffrey

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee 2009

  • M.A., San Diego State University 2004

  • B.A., University of Wisconsin at Madison 1997


Michael S. Gaffrey, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at Duke University in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience. He is also Director of Duke’s Early Experience and the Developing Brain (DEED) lab. He received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in developmental clinical and affective neuroscience at the Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Gaffrey has also completed advanced training in infant mental health practice and policy through the ZERO-TO-THREE Leadership Development Institute.

Dr. Gaffrey is firmly committed to studying, treating, and advocating for the health and well-being of vulnerable infants and young children. To this end, his research endeavors include the use of behavioral and neuroimaging methodologies to better understand biological pathways underlying risk and resilience to early life stress and related environmental challenges. He is also actively involved in using the tools of developmental neuroscience to better understand how preventive intervention programs targeting infants at risk for negative socioemotional outcomes, including depression and autism spectrum disorder, can be used more effectively. Through the integration of clinical practice and innovative research, Dr. Gaffrey hopes to reduce the impact of risk factors that contribute to unfavorable health outcomes for vulnerable infants and families. Furthermore, Dr. Gaffrey believes we can better foster healthy environments for growing children and ensure the well-being of all infants and families by bringing objective research and practice-based knowledge to policy and public arenas.


early experience, brain development, developmental psychopathology, preventive intervention, mood disorders, autism spectrum disorder

Somerville, Leah H., et al. “The Lifespan Human Connectome Project in Development: A large-scale study of brain connectivity development in 5-21 year olds.Neuroimage, vol. 183, Dec. 2018, pp. 456–68. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.08.050. Full Text

Gaffrey, Michael S., et al. “Continuity and stability of preschool depression from childhood through adolescence and following the onset of puberty.Comprehensive Psychiatry, vol. 86, Oct. 2018, pp. 39–46. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2018.07.010. Full Text

Gaffrey, Michael S., et al. “Amygdala Reward Reactivity Mediates the Association Between Preschool Stress Response and Depression Severity.Biological Psychiatry, vol. 83, no. 2, Jan. 2018, pp. 128–36. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.08.020. Full Text

Gaffrey, Michael S., et al. “Amygdala reactivity to sad faces in preschool children: An early neural marker of persistent negative affect.Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, vol. 17, Feb. 2016, pp. 94–100. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.dcn.2015.12.015. Full Text

Sylvester, Chad M., et al. “Stimulus-Driven Attention, Threat Bias, and Sad Bias in Youth with a History of an Anxiety Disorder or Depression.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, vol. 44, no. 2, Feb. 2016, pp. 219–31. Epmc, doi:10.1007/s10802-015-9988-8. Full Text

Pagliaccio, David, et al. “Amygdala functional connectivity, HPA axis genetic variation, and life stress in children and relations to anxiety and emotion regulation.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, vol. 124, no. 4, Nov. 2015, pp. 817–33. Epmc, doi:10.1037/abn0000094. Full Text

Pagliaccio, David, et al. “HPA axis genetic variation, pubertal status, and sex interact to predict amygdala and hippocampus responses to negative emotional faces in school-age children.Neuroimage, vol. 109, Apr. 2015, pp. 1–11. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.01.017. Full Text

Luby, Joan L., et al. “Trajectories of preschool disorders to full DSM depression at school age and early adolescence: continuity of preschool depression.The American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 171, no. 7, July 2014, pp. 768–76. Epmc, doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13091198. Full Text

Bogdan, Ryan, et al. “Serotonin transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) genotype and stressful life events interact to predict preschool-onset depression: a replication and developmental extension.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, vol. 55, no. 5, May 2014, pp. 448–57. Epmc, doi:10.1111/jcpp.12142. Full Text

Pagliaccio, David, et al. “Stress-system genes and life stress predict cortisol levels and amygdala and hippocampal volumes in children.Neuropsychopharmacology : Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 39, no. 5, Apr. 2014, pp. 1245–53. Epmc, doi:10.1038/npp.2013.327. Full Text



Selected Grants

Neurodevelopmental trajectories of reward processing in very early emerging risk for depression awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2018 to 2021