Research Interests

 

 Neurobiological correlates of cognitive and affective functioning

Through collaborations with researchers at Dartmouth Medical School and other institutions, I will continue a research line that focuses on the structure and function of brain structures involved in various cognitive (e.g., working memory, selective attention, self-evaluation) and affective (e.g., attention to and clarity of emotion) processes in severe mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. While I will not be able to conduct new MRI work at Bates in the foreseeable future, for students interested in neuroimaging, it may be possible to tailor a senior thesis to pose questions regarding volume (volumetry) and shape (morphometry) of relevant brain structures across samples of particular interest using existing MRI datasets. Particular questions of interest to me are:

* What are the most important facets of the emotional awareness deficit in schizophrenia?

* Are white matter tract changes related to alexithymia in schizophrenia?

* Are emotion-processing deficits in severe mental illness related to diminished tissue density in frontal regions? What is the functional connectivity in emotion self-evaluation of frontal lobe regions with other brain regions (e.g., parietal lobe)?

Neuropsychological processes in emotion regulation

Emotion regulation refers to a coordinated set of processes by which we evaluate emotional information and modulate emotional responses. My research contrasts two regulation strategies, reappraisal and suppression, in their efficacy of reducing unwanted negative emotions, measuring the effects of emotion regulation with a variety of research techniques (e.g., self-report measures, facial affective coding, information-processing behaviors via computer interface). More specifically, I am interested in patterns of hemispheric asymmetry, as measured with neuropsychological tests, and relative emotion regulation success. Research questions include:

# Which aspects of neuropsychological functioning are predictive of emotion regulation success with reappraisal and suppression?

# Is there cross-situational and temporal consistency of emotion regulation techniques?

# How do gender and racial/cultural identity variables interact with personality typology and emotion regulation?

Personality individual differences in cognition-emotion interactions

As affective processing includes attention, appraisal, subjective feelings, and physiological responding, considerable neural circuitry is recruited to execute these activities such that there is substantial overlap in brain regions involved in both cognition and emotion. Broadly speaking, I am interested in the effects of positive and negative emotion on mechanisms involved in executive functioning, attention, and memory in individuals who are predisposed to certain moods, using neuropsychological models of brain activity to predict certain cognition-emotion interactions. Topics for further investigation may include:

* How do highly anxiety sensitive individuals employ strategies of attentional deployment?

* How does emotional content bias memory of newly learned information in alexithymic individuals?

* How do individuals with approach and avoidance temperaments differ in their executive functioning skills?