Michael Santo Gaffrey

Michael Santo Gaffrey

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

External Address: 
316A Reuben-Cooke Building, Box 90086, Durham, NC 27705
Internal Office Address: 
316A Soc Psych Bldg, Box 90086, Durham, NC 27708


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.

Education & Training

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

  • M.A., San Diego State University 2004

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

Selected Grants

Neurodevelopmental trajectories of reward processing in very early emerging risk for depression awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2018 to 2022

A High-Performance 3T MRI for Brain Imaging awarded by National Institutes of Health (Major User). 2021 to 2022

Gaffrey, Michael S. “Editorial: Shedding Light on the Early Neurobiological Roots of Infant Temperament and Risk for Anxiety.Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, vol. 60, no. 9, Sept. 2021, pp. 1069–71. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2021.03.008. Full Text

Fowler, Carina H., et al. “Stress-induced cortisol response is associated with right amygdala volume in early childhood.Neurobiology of Stress, vol. 14, May 2021, p. 100329. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.ynstr.2021.100329. Full Text Open Access Copy

Gaffrey, Michael S., et al. “Amygdala Functional Connectivity Is Associated With Emotion Regulation and Amygdala Reactivity in 4- to 6-Year-Olds.Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, vol. 60, no. 1, Jan. 2021, pp. 176–85. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2020.01.024. Full Text

Donohue, Meghan Rose, et al. “Cortical thinning in preschoolers with maladaptive guilt.Psychiatry Research. Neuroimaging, vol. 305, Nov. 2020, p. 111195. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2020.111195. Full Text

Gaffrey, Michael S., et al. “Social origins of self-regulated attention during infancy and their disruption in autism spectrum disorder: Implications for early intervention.Development and Psychopathology, vol. 32, no. 4, Oct. 2020, pp. 1362–74. Epmc, doi:10.1017/s0954579420000796. Full Text

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