Research Topics

We use innovative methodology to conduct research in health psychology and related areas. These include the use of venous blood draws, EKG, fMRI, neuropsychological assessments, structured interviews, stress paradigms, ecological momentary assessment (EMA) technology, and behavioral testing. Using these methods, we broadly focus on three research domains (described below). We also conduct projects (observational, experimental, or intervention-based) that overlap into neighboring topics in health neuroscience, cognitive psychology, public health, industrial/organizational psychology, and human factors psychology.

Affect, Emotions, and Health

Emotion regulation model

We examine how affect, emotions, and emotion regulation strategies influence people’s well-being and immune functioning. For example, we study how the use of different emotion regulation strategies are associated with more favorable health outcomes (e.g., among college students, healthy adults when infected with rhinovirus, and older adults following the death of their spouse). You can see an example here from Dr. Richard Lopez, a former post-doc in the T-SCAN lab and currently an Assistant Professor at Bard College, who examined the emotion regulation strategies associated with better immune functioning among bereaved older adults.

Close Relationships and Health

Stress Pathways Model

We study how close relationships influence markers of mental and physical health. For example, we have studied how the loss of a close relationship partner (e.g., spouse) affects one’s risk of cardiovascular disease. You can see an example here from Dr. Angie LeRoy, a postdoctoral fellow in the BMED Lab, who recently published a theoretical model of how one’s attachment hierarchy is reorganized following the death of a spouse.

Early-Life Stress and Health

We are focused on identifying the mechanisms underlying how early-life stress puts a person at greater risk of mental and physical health problems across the lifespan. For example, we have studied how childhood maltreatment influences people’s response to the death of a spouse. You can see an example here from Dr. Chris Fagundes, the Principal Investigator of Project HEART and Project ACT in the BMED Lab, who describes how psychological, autonomic, neuroendocrine, and epigenetic responses to one’s early environment affects immune function in adulthood.

Other health relevant topics

Translational applications of basic research
We perform basic and translational research to understand how our memory system works and how this system goes awry in memory and mood disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression. We utilize state-of-the-art high-resolution imaging techniques, PET imaging of amyloid and tau pathologies, and novel experimental paradigms to understand brain-behavior relationships. We have published a recent review on the clinical application of using memory paradigms that are sensitive to clinical disorders in which the hippocampus is a major site of disruption.

Aging and the workplace
We are interested in advancing successful aging at work in fostering environments supportive of extending the working lifespan, such as improving person-job fit, reducing age-related discrimination, and advancing continuous development and growth.

Discrimination in Health-Related Contexts
We examine interactions between caregivers and patients and are interested in identifying how demographic characteristics (e.g., race, gender, size) result in disparities in treatment that ultimately also lead to poorer psychological- and health-related outcomes. In some of the research that Hebl has done, she has shown that physicians are more likely to discriminate against overweight patients and that female patients are particularly able to identify these biases. We (Hebl & King) are currently examining how subtle discrimination against patients influence their social experiences in medical-related interactions, adherence to medical-related advice, psychological and physiological measures, and willingness to return for more medical treatment. We are also very interested in examining interactions in telemedicine.

Our studies are funded by numerous agencies including: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute on Aging, and National Endowment for the Arts.