Improving Lives, Building Connections

The TREES Lab, for the Timely Recognition of Early and Emerging Signs Of Neurological and Cognitive Dysfunction in Infancy


About TREES Lab

Research focuses on the long-term cognitive development of children, including healthy infants and those afflicted by a newborn brain injury. The research lab aims to identify imaging, neurophysiological, and behavioral biomarkers that will help predict executive dysfunction and cognitive disability in populations at risk.


Continuing Education

The Neonatal Neurology Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is committed to providing the highest quality of care among newborns with neurological disorders. Our providers offer comprehensive and family-centered care, with a focus on neuroprotection. Team members are involved in a wide range of clinical and translational research projects that seek to optimize long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes among these high-risk infants. Our program offers ample opportunities for trainees: medical students, residents and fellows across a wide variety of specialty fields are welcome to gain expertise with our team, with the ultimate goal to become the next generation of leaders in the field.


TREES Biomarkers

Biomarkers Study

The study will identify early predictors of long-term cognitive disability among at-risk children. Methods include use of MRI, EEG, and behavioral/cognitive assessments to meet study goals.

TREES Language and Brain Development

Language and Brain Development

This study aims to understand the early brain markers associated with optimized language development in the first 12 months of life.

TREES Outreach


The project aims to use evidence-based protocols to improve access to best-medical practices for treating newborns with neurological disorders.

Our Measures


Toddler during an EEG session

Electroencephalography (EEG) is a non-invasive test that detects electrical activity in your child’s brain using small, metal discs (electrodes) attached to a hat that your child will be asked to wear. Because you and your child’s brain cells communicate via electrical impulses and are active all the time, this activity shows up as brain waves on an EEG recording! Your child’s brain activity will be assessed using EEG while your child is playing and cuddling with you.

Play-based Assessments

Toy rabbit

Another way to test what children know is by having them play different games that require for them to think, plan and focus. We will play several games with your child, to learn how children develop attentional and memory abilities.



Melisa Carrasco McCaul, M.D.

Melisa Carrasco McCaul, MD, PhD
Principal Investigator

I am a pediatric neurologist with specialty training in Neonatal Neurology (Johns Hopkins Hospital, 2019-2020) and Pediatric Epilepsy (University of Michigan, 2020-2021). I am also currently an Assistant Professor and Director of Neonatal Neurology at the University of Wisconsin. My research focuses on the long-term cognitive development of children, following a neonatal brain injury and acute symptomatic neonatal seizures. In my spare time, I love to spend time with my wonderful family and dance!

TREES Jacky Dickman

Jacky Dickman
Research Fellow

I am a second-year medical student in the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM) program. My passion for rural healthcare has been fueled by my experience as a first responder in a rural area and my residence in that same community. I have seen and navigated the disparities that rural residents experience, including the lack of access to funding and more advanced resources. I am interested in improving these disparities through research and through providing quality care to rural communities as a physician.

TREES Noah Trapp

Noah Trapp
Research Fellow

I am a fourth-year medical student and neurology research fellow at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. As a former public school teacher, my love for child neurology stems from my cherished experiences working with students with special needs. My research focuses on the clinical utility of radiological biomarkers in predicting cognitive outcomes in children born premature. After medical school, I plan to complete a residency program in pediatric neurology. When I’m not in the lab or hospital, I love hiking and mountain biking with my wife and daughter!

TREES Maeve Ryan

Maeve Ryan
Research Assistant

I am a junior studying psychology and neurobiology. I have always had an interest in working with the brain and working with children. I hope to become a clinical psychologist that specifies in adolecent and childhood disorders. The TREES lab is very exciting to me because it involves early developmental stages of childhood.

TREES Pengying Sun

Pengying Sun
Research Assistant

I recently graduated from UW-Madison majoring in Neurobiology and Nutritional Sciences with Biocore certificate. I will be working as an EMT while studying for the MCAT until I apply for medical school next year. And of course, I will keep on my study and research at the TREES lab which I absolutely enjoy. Growing up, I have been intrigued by the human brain, so I am looking to get into medical school and become a neurosurgeon one day.

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Naba Rao
Research Assistant

My name is Naba and I am a senior neurobiology major pursuing a certificate in global health. As someone who is passionate about neuroscience in general, working in TREES lab is a very exciting and intellectually stimulating environment. I love working with kids and the overall mission of TREES resonates with me. After graduation I plan on taking a gap year.

Olivia Gibbs

Olivia Gibbs
Research Assistant

I am a Senior studying Neurobiology with a certificate in Entrepreneurship! Throughout the entirety of my academic career, I have been fascinated by the anatomy, physiology, and plasticity of the human brain. This intrigue, along with my passion for entering the healthcare field as a PA, greatly sparked my interest in joining Dr. Carrasco McCaul’s TREES lab to learn more about the cognitive development of children following a neonatal brain injury!


  • Clinical Science Center at the UW University Hospital, 600 Highland Ave, Madison, WI 53705
  • Room K4/358A and B