Charles F. Geier 

photo of Charles Geier

Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Contact Information

229 Health and Human Development Building
University Park PA 16802


(fax) 814-863-7963

Research Interests

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.


Ph.D., 2009, Cognitive Psychology/Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh
B.S., 2000, Biological Science/Psychology, Ohio University
M.S., 2002, Neuroscience, Ohio University

Selected Publications

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.

Geier, C.F. & Luna, B. (2011). Developmental differences in the effects of incentives on response inhibition. Child Development, in press.

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, in press.

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.

Luna, B., Velanova, K., & Geier, C.F. (2010). Methodological approaches in developmental neuroimaging studies. Human Brain Mapping, 31, 863-871.

Geier, C.F., Garver, K.E., Terwilliger, R., & Luna, B. (2009). The development of working memory maintenance. Journal of Neurophysiology, 101(1), 84-99.

Geier, C.F. & Luna, B. (2009). The maturation of incentive processing and cognitive control. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, 93(3), 212-221.

Luna, B., Velanova, K., & Geier, C.F. (2008). Development of eye movement control. Brain & Cognition, 68(3), 293-308.

Geier, C.F., Garver, K.E., & Luna, B. (2007). Circuitry underlying temporally extended spatial working memory. NeuroImage, 35, 904-915.

Curriculum Vitae

.pdf icon Charles Geier vitae

Strategic Themes

  • Human Development
  • Domains of Health and Behavior