Some of our current projects are outlined below. Opportunities exist for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in our ongoing research activities or to develop new research studies in these areas.
Neuroimaging studies of vulnerability to depression.
How families adjust to psychological impairment in a close relative is an important predictor of symptom relapse. When patients who suffer from such problems as schizophrenia, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse problems live in family environments that are characterized by criticism, hostility or emotional over-involvement (i.e., high expressed emotion (EE) family environments) patients are at increased risk of early relapse. In contrast, if patients live with relatives who do not express these attitudes (i.e, low EE relatives) they are much more likely to remain well. In our ongoing research we are using fMRI to explore how healthy people and people who are vulnerable to depression process criticism and praise from their mothers. The extent to which criticism perturbs information processing in people with depression is also being examined.
Emotion processing in borderline personality disorder.
Current projects are using neuroimaging to examine how people with borderline personality disorder process affectively challenging social stimuli.
Self-Injurious Behavior and Pain Sensitivity
A final focus of interest concerns the topic of pain sensitivity. We have documented aberrant pain sensitivity in healthy people who have a biological relative with schizophrenia. Current projects are exploring pain perception in people who engage in self-harming behaviors such as cutting and burning.