Affective and cognitive neuroscience; neural bases of threat processing, anxiety, and their application to psychiatric disorders; neural bases of personality and individual differences in state/trait anxiety and behavioral inhibition; cognition × emotion interactions: interactions of anxiety and higher cognition (cognitive control, selective attention, and working memory); amygdala; cingulate cortex; prefrontal cortex.
The broad aim of my research is to understand how individual differences in the brain’s response to potential threat contribute to personality and risk for psychopathology.
Our species has evolved in the face of significant threat—from predators, conspecifics, and other dangers. This is apparent from the architecture of our brain, in the form of circuitry for detecting and responding to potential threat. This circuitry lies at the interface of what people think of as emotion (the states of anxiety and fear elicited by threat) and cognition (the alterations in attention and cognitive control that support vigilance, risk assessment, and more complex kinds of defensive behaviors). In individuals with an extremely anxious temperament (AT) or anxiety disorders, these processes are chronically maladaptive—expressed too intensely or in response to inappropriate cues—and can be disabling. Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent, contribute to the etiology of depression and substance abuse, and difficult to treat. This underscores the need to clarify the neural circuitry supporting variation in the expression and regulation of anxiety. By their nature, understanding these circuits necessitates a multidisciplinary approach. My work reflects this mandate.
With my colleagues, I’m working to address four questions:
1) What is the nature of the distributed neural circuit underlying anxious temperament (AT)?
2) How does AT influence attention?
3) How do background states of anxiety and stress influence cognition (attention and short-term memory)?
4) What mechanisms underlie the inhibited behavioral profile characteristic of extreme AT?
From a basic psychological science perspective, this research starts to address questions about the deep substrates of personality and the interplay of emotion and cognition. Clinically, it promises to enhance our understanding of how individual differences in emotional traits and states confer vulnerability to psychopathology, facilitate the discovery of novel intermediate phenotypes and biomarkers, and set the stage for developing improved therapeutic interventions.
Multimodal neuroimaging (event-related and resting-state fMRI, PET, VBM); Peripheral physiology (cortisol, facial EMG, fear-potentiated startle); Electrophysiology (ERP/EEG, LORETA source modeling); Quantitative methods, especially the application of multivariate techniques and classical psychometrics to imaging and ERP measures; meta-analysis (ALE, random-effects).
Affective and cognitive neuroscience; neural bases of threat processing, anxiety, and their application to psychiatric disorders; neural bases of personality and individual differences in state/trait anxiety and behavioral inhibition; cognition × emotion interactions: interactions of anxiety and higher cognition (cognitive control, selective attention, and working memory); amygdala; prefrontal cortex; cingulate cortex.
PhD Advisor and University:
Richard J. Davidson
Postdoc Advisor and University:
Bradley R. Postle (UW-Madison) and Ned H. Kalin (UW-Madison)