Emotions convey important information about events and people in our environment. They motivate us and are essential to survival (e.g., fear drives fight or flight response). However, when an emotional response is not well-matched to the situation (e.g., the sound of a car backfiring elicits fear), it ceases to be adaptive, and may hinder a person’s ability to function effectively in society. People with anxiety and depression struggle with emotional responses more than others. Why is this and how can we best help these individuals?
Work in the Multimethod Affect and Cognition (MAC) lab uses brain and psychophysiological measures such as event-related potentials (ERPs), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), eyeblink startle and skin conductance response to investigate emotions in psychiatric health and disease. One aim of this work to characterize the parameters of emotional response and the cognitive factors that can affect this in healthy individuals. Another aim of this work is to better understand how these factors go awry in psychiatric disorders. The long-term goal of this research is to reduce the cost and suffering associated with emotional disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression) by improving diagnosis and guiding new treatments.
Photograph by Mary E. Engelker