Dr. Burt has three primary research interests. The first focuses on understanding the etiology of aggressive and rule-breaking behaviors (collectively referred to as antisocial behaviors) across the lifespan. Her particular focus is on the role of genotype-environment interplay (GxE), or the ways in which environmental contexts/experiences (e.g., neighborhood disadvantage, environmental toxicants) may turn genes for antisocial behavior on or off. She is equally interested in youth with resilient outcomes - those with adaptive outcomes despite sustained exposure to a clear environmental pathogen.
A second, and related, line of research extends the above GxE on antisocial and resilience outcomes work to additionally incorporate neural networks, with a particular focus on understanding the 'biological embedding of disadvantage'. Recently funded grants from the NIMH and the NICHD will examine our cutting-edge twin sample from the Michigan State University Twin Registry (MSUTR), with the goals of 1) identifying the neural pathways affected by neighborhood disadvantage, and 2) illuminating the specific chemical (i.e., toxicant exposures) and non-chemical factors (i.e., exposure to community violence, harsh parenting) through which disadvantage alters the developing brain, as well as those that protect the brain from the effects of disadvantage (i.e., protective neighborhood social processes, prosocial parenting).
Her third, and most recent, line of research focuses on the manifestation and etiology of digital aggression (or cyber-aggression), a seemingly brand new phenomenon about which we know very little. One consequence of this newness is that there are very few well-validated measures of digital aggression. She is thus developing a novel, laboratory-based assessment of digital aggression, an advance that will allow for both experimental and correlational studies of digital aggression.