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Charles Geier
Charles F. Geier
Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
Professor-in-Charge, Graduate Program
Dr. Frances Keesler Graham Early Career Professor in Developmental Neuroscience
  • Human Development and Family Studies - HDFS
  • Administration
  • Research
  • Adolescent Development
  • Methodology
  • Graduate Program
  • Graduate Professor-in-Charge
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  • Ph.D., 2009, Cognitive Psychology/Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh
  • B.S., 2000, Biological Science/Psychology, Ohio University
  • M.S., 2002, Neuroscience, Ohio University
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Currently Accepting Graduate Students
Office Address
229 Health and Human Development Building
University Park, PA 16802
Grants and Research Projects

The complex construct of ‘risk taking’ is predicated on suboptimal decision-making, particularly in the context of salient rewards. Decision-making is often considered to be comprised of constituent processes, including 1) evaluating and forming preferences of available options, 2) holding internal representations of options and possible outcomes in working memory, 3) selecting one option while inhibiting competing alternatives, 4) anticipating the outcome, and 5) receiving/evaluating the outcome.

My research aims to characterize developmental changes in basic affective and cognitive brain mechanisms that underlie these components of decision-making in adolescence. In particular, I am interested in understanding brain systems that mediate anticipatory and consummatory (outcome) responses to incentives (rewards, losses) and how these relate to the development of cognitive control, including inhibitory control and working memory. I am also keenly interested in how risky behaviors, such as cigarette smoking, might be more rewarding to adolescents than adults and how this, in combination with limitations in cognitive control, might lead to initial experimentation with the drug and dependence. The conceptual model that guides much of my research is that it is the interaction between incentive (reward, punishment) processing and basic cognitive control abilities, both of which are still maturing in adolescence, that sets the stage for suboptimal decision making and risk taking, including substance use.

I utilize convergent evidence collected from behavioral and cognitive neuroscience methodologies. Specifically, my work uses oculomotor (eye movement) paradigms with added cognitive demands to investigate developmental changes in higher-order voluntary behavior. Two primary oculomotor tasks used in my work are the antisaccade (AS) task and the oculomotor delayed response (ODR) task (also referred to as the memory-guided saccade task). To examine the underlying neural circuitry supporting behavior on these tasks, I use fast (rapid), event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques. This tool allows for the simultaneous characterization of developmental differences in widely distributed brain systems. I am particularly interested in estimating and comparing the shapes of hemodynamic time courses across age groups and conditions. A major benefit of this approach is the ability to identify both developmental similarities and differences in functional brain networks.


**denotes student co-authors

  1. Scherf, K.S., Griffin, J., Judy, B., Whyte, E., Geier, C.F., Elbich, D., & Smyth, J.M. (In Press) Improving sensitivity to eye gaze cues in autism using serious game technology: Study protocol for a Phase I randomized controlled trial. BMJ Open
  2. **Adise, S., Geier, C.F., White, C.N., & Keller, K.L. (2018) Food or Money? Children’s brains respond differently to the anticipation of rewards regardless of weight status. Pediatric Obesity
  3. **Adise, S., Geier, C.F., **Roberts, N.J., White, C.N., & Keller, K.L. (2018). Is brain response to food rewards related to overeating? A test of the reward surfeit model of overeating in children. Appetite, 128, 167-179. 
  4. Geier, C.F., **Roberts, N., & **Lydon, D.M. (2018). The effects of smoking abstinence on incentivized spatial working memory, Substance Use & Misuse, 53(1), 86-93.
  5. Hallquist, M., Geier, C.F., & Luna, B. (2018). Incentives facilitate developmental improvements in inhibitory control by modulating control-related networks, NeuroImage, 172, 369-380.
  6. MacLean, R.R., Pincus, A.L., Smyth, J.M., Geier, C.F., & Wilson, S.J. (2017). Extending the balloon analogue risk task to assess naturalistic risk taking via a mobile platform. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 1-10.
  7. **Lydon-Staley, D. & Geier, C.F. (2017).  Age-varying associations between sensation seeking, impulse control, and daily cigarette smoking during adolescence and young adulthood. Journal of Research on Adolescence. Doi:10.1111/jora.12335.
  8. Hawes, S.W., Chahal, R., Hallquist, M.N., Paulsen, D.J., Geier, C.F., & Luna, B. (2017). Modulation of Reward-Related Neural Activation on Sensation Seeking Across Development, NeuroImage, 147, 763-771.
  9. **Lydon, D.M., Ram, N., Conroy, D.E., Pincus, A.L., Geier, C.F., & Maggs, J.L. (2016). The within-person associations between alcohol use and sleep duration and quality in situ: An experience sampling study. Addictive Behaviors61, 68-73.
  10. Sweitzer, M.M., Geier, C.F., Denlinger, R., McClernon, F.J., Addicott, M.A., Raiff, B.R., Dallery, J., & Donny, E.C. (2016) Smoking abstinence-induced changes in resting state functional connectivity with ventral striatum predict lapse during a quit attempt. Neuropsychopharmacology, 41(10), 2521-2529.
  11. Sweitzer, M.M., Geier, C.F., Denlinger, R., Forbes, E., Raiff, B., Dallery, J., McClernon, F.J., & Donny, E.C. (2016).  Blunted striatal response to monetary reward anticipation during smoking abstinence predicts lapse during a contingency management-supported quit attempt. Psychopharmacology, 233(5), 751-760.
  12. **Lydon, D.Howard, M., Wilson, S.J., & Geier, C.F. (2016). The perceived causal structure of smoking: Smoker and non-smoker comparisons. Journal of Health Psychology, 21(9), 2042-2051. DOI: 10.1177/1359105315569895
  13. Chung, T., Paulsen, D., Geier, C.F., Luna, B., & Clark, D.B. (2015). Regional brain activation supporting cognitive control in the context of reward is associated with treated adolescents’ marijuana problem severity at follow-up: A Preliminary Study.  Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience16, 93-100.
  14. **Lydon, D., **Roberts, N., & Geier, C.F. (2015). Reduced influenced of monetary incentives on Go/No-Go performance during smoking abstinence.  Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 17(9), 1178-1181. DOI: 10.1093/ntr/ntu283.
  15. Paulson, D., Hallquist, M., Geier, C.F., & Luna, B. (2015). Effects of Incentives, Age, and Behavior on Brain Activation During Inhibitory Control: A Longitudinal fMRI Study.  Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 11, 105-115. DOI: 10.1016/j.dcn.2014.09.003.
  16. Zhai, Z., Pajtek, S., Luna, B., Geier, C.F., Ridenour, T., & Clark, D. (2014). Reward Modulated Response Inhibition, Cognitive Shifting and the Orbital Frontal Cortex in Early Adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 25(4), 753-764.  DOI: 10.1111/jora.12168.
  17. **Lydon, D., Wilson, S.J., **Childs, A., & Geier, C.F. (2014). Adolescent Nicotine Dependence: What we know and where we are headed.  Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 45, 323-342.
  18. Geier, C.F., Sweitzer, M., Denlinger, R., Sparacino, G., & Donny, E. (2014). Abstinent Adult Daily Smokers Show Reduced Anticipatory but Elevated Saccade-related Brain Responses During a Rewarded Antisaccade Task. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 223(2), 140-147.   DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2014.04.007
  19. Sweitzer, M.M., Geier, C.F., Joel, D., Denlinger, R., Donny, E. (2013). Dissociated Effects of Anticipating Smoking Versus Monetary Reward in the Caudate as a Function of Smoking Abstinence. Biological Psychiatry, 223, 140-147. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.11.013
  20. MacLean, R., Geier, C.F., Henry, S.L., & Wilson, S.J. (2013). Digital Peer Interactions Affect Risk Taking in Young Adults: A Preliminary Study. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 24(4), 772-780DOI: 10.1111/jora.12093
  21. Geier, C.F. (2013). Adolescent Cognitive Control and Reward Processing: Implications for Risk Taking and Substance Use. Hormones and Behavior, 64(2), 333-342.
  22. Luna, B., Paulsen, D., Padmanabhan, A., & Geier, C.F. (2013). Cognitive Control and Motivation. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22 (2), 94-100.
  23. Weaver, M.T., Geier, C.F., Levin, M.E, Caggiula, A.R., Sved, A.F., Donny, E. (2012) Adolescent Exposure to Nicotine Results in Reinforcement Enhancement but does not Affect Adult Responding in Rats. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 125(3), 307-312.
  24. Geier, C.F. & Luna, B. (2012) Developmental Effects of Incentives on Response Inhibition. Child Development, 83(4), 1262-1274.
  25. Padmanabhan, A., Geier, C.F., Ordaz, S., Teslovich, T., & Luna, B. (2011) Developmental Changes in Brain Function Underlying the Influence of Reward Processing on Inhibitory Control. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 1(4), 517-529.  
  26. Chung, T., Geier, C.F., Luna, B., Pajtek, S., Terwilliger, R., Thatcher, D., & Clark, D. (2011) Enhancing Response Inhibition by Incentive: Comparison of adolescents with and without substance use disorder. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 115(1-2), 43-50.
  27. Luna, B., Velanova, K., & Geier, C.F. (2010) Methodological Approaches in Developmental Neuroimaging Studies. Human Brain Mapping, 31, 863-871.
  28. Geier, C.F., Terwilliger, R., Teslovich, T., Velanova, K., Luna, B. (2010) Immaturities in Reward Processing and its Influence on Inhibitory Control in Adolescence. Cerebral Cortex, 20(7), 1613-29.
  29. Geier, C.F. & Luna, B. (2009) The Maturation of Incentive Processing and Cognitive Control. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior93(3),212-221
  30. Geier, C.F., Garver, K.E., Terwilliger, R., & Luna, B. (2009) The Development of Working Memory Maintenance. Journal of Neurophysiology, 101(1),84-99.
  31. Luna, B., Velanova, K., & Geier, C.F. (2008) Development of Eye Movement Control. Brain & Cognition, 68(3), 293-308.
  32. Geier, C.F., Garver, K.E., & Luna, B. (2007) Circuitry Underlying Temporally Extended Spatial Working Memory.  NeuroImage, 35, 904-915.



Additional Information

Developmental cognitive neuroscience, with particular focus on reward processing, basic cognitive control abilities, and their interaction; understanding the relationship between adolescent neurodevelopment and risk taking behavior; nicotine dependence in adolescent and young adult smokers.