Faculty research at the STARR Center spans the full translational pipeline, including the neurobiology of stress, anxiety and resilience; social, cognitive, and affective processes that underlie stress, anxiety, and resilience in the face of adversity; clinical mechanisms in stress- and anxiety-related disorders; and cutting edge research on novel interventions for anxiety, stress, and mood-related disorders, as well as research on the mechanisms underlying effective treatment approaches.
Neurobiology of Stress, Anxiety, and Resilience Dr. Allyson Friedman’s research explores how social factors alter neural circuit’s responses to chronic and acute stress, and influence susceptibility or resilience to neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression. Dr. Ekaterina Likhtik studies circuit-level mechanisms of learning, such as cortical-subcortical communication and the dialogue between excitatory and inhibitory neurons in different internal states, with a focus on interactions between the amygdala, an important center for processing fear and safety information, with structures such as the basal forebrain and the prefrontal cortex. These models have clinical relevance for behavior seen in human anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Dr. Glenn Schafe studies the neurobiological substrates of emotional learning and memory, with particular emphasis on Pavlovian fear conditioning, a paradigm with powerful implications for understanding the mechanisms underlying the development of psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Dr. Nesha Burghardt’s examines the neural circuits that underlie the cognitive impairments and emotional symptoms associated with neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Dr. Peter Serrano studies how various signaling pathways are affected by stress, fear, developmental insults, pharmacological challenges, neural stimulation and cognition. Dr. Thomas Preuss’s research aims to uncover how social stress influences sensorimotor integration in the CNS. For that he studies the sensorimotor gating phenomenon pre-pulse inhibition (PPI), which regulates sensory flow during early stages of information processing. Deficits in PPI are implicated in several information processing disorders, including schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorder.
Social, Emotional, and Cognitive Processes Michael Hoyt studies coping processes and other psychological factors associated with mental health, neuroendocrine and immune function, and adjustment to cancer and cancer treatment, with a focus on men and male-specific cancers. Dr. Regina Miranda’s work focuses on understanding social and cognitive risk for suicide in adolescence and emerging adulthood. Dr. Tracey Revenson examines when, how, for whom, and under what conditions coping and social support influence chronic stress, particularly in the context of major physical illness. Dr. Mariann Weierich’s research focuses on how the brain and the visual system process affective information, and how these processes contribute to the onset and maintenance of stress states and stress-related psychological disorders, including post-traumatic stress.
Clinical Mechanisms and Interventions Dr. Tracy Dennis examines neurocognitive mechanisms underlying affective psychopathology, anxious stress reactivity, and its remediation, with a particular interest in translating these findings into digital mental health interventions. Dr. Doug Mennin’s research program focuses on understanding and treating anxiety and mood disorders utilizing an affect science perspective. Recent research examines demonstrating physiological and neurobiological changes related to emotion processing and regulation, which mediate the clinical success of targeted interventions.