Honors & Awards
Young Investigator Award, Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (NARSAD) (2014)
Training Consortium in Affective Science, Institutional NRSA, National Institute of Mental Health (2006 2009)
Deans postdoctoral fellowship, Stanford University Medical School (2010-2011)
Ruth L. Kirschstein Individual Postdoctoral National Research Service Award, National Institute of Mental Health (2011-2014)
Doctor of Philosophy, University of California Berkeley (2010)
Master of Science, San Jose State University, Psychology (2004)
Bachelor of Arts, Eotvos Lorand University, Psychology (2000)
Neural Activity to Positive Expressions Predicts Daily Experience of Schizophrenia-Spectrum Symptoms in Adults With High Social Anhedonia
JOURNAL OF ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY
2014; 123 (1): 190-204
Social anhedonia (SA), the diminished pleasure from social relationships, is a prominent characteristic of the vulnerability and manifestation of schizophrenia disorder. However, SA can develop for multiple reasons and little is known about its neural basis; these 2 issues hinder the utility and sensitivity of SA as a marker of schizophrenia pathology. This study investigated whether lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) deficits in social reward processing are associated with both SA and other schizophrenia-spectrum symptoms. During functional MRI (fMRI), a community sample of healthy adults (N = 30) with high and low SA viewed positive, negative, and neutral facial expressions. Afterward, participants completed an online daily diary in which they rated schizophrenia-spectrum symptoms and occurrence of interpersonal conflict each day for 21 days. Compared with low SA, high SA participants had less ventral (V)LPFC activity to positive versus neutral expressions. In addition, participants with a combination of high SA and low VLPFC activity to positive versus neutral expressions had worse daily diary ratings of schizophrenia-spectrum symptoms, including worse cognition, paranoia, motivation/productivity, and vigor/positive affect (i.e., psychomotor activation). Finally, among high SA participants, VLPFC activity predicted the daily relationship between distress from interpersonal conflict and symptom-severity; specifically, high SA participants with low VLPFC activity had worse paranoia on days of high conflict distress. These findings indicate that VLPFC deficits in positive emotion are associated with both SA and other schizophrenia-spectrum symptoms and that understanding the interaction of SA, VLPFC function, and social stress could facilitate the use of SA in the prevention and treatment of schizophrenia. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
View details for DOI 10.1037/a0035223
View details for Web of Science ID 000333462800019
View details for PubMedID 24661170
A neurobiological approach to the cognitive deficits of psychiatric disorders.
Dialogues in clinical neuroscience
2013; 15 (4): 419-429
Deficits in brain networks that support cognitive regulatory functions are prevalent in many psychiatric disorders. Findings across neuropsychology and neuroimaging point to broad-based impairments that cross traditional diagnostic boundaries. These dysfunctions are largely separate from the classical symptoms of the disorders, and manifest in regulatory problems in both traditional cognitive and emotional domains. As such, they relate to the capacity of patients to engage effectively in their daily lives and activity, often persist even in the face of symptomatically effective treatment, and are poorly targeted by current treatments. Advances in cognitive neuroscience now allow us to ground an understanding of these cognitive regulatory deficits in the function and interaction of key brain networks. This emerging neurobiological understanding furthermore points to several promising routes for novel neuroscience-informed treatments targeted more specifically at improving cognitive function in a range of psychiatric disorders.
View details for PubMedID 24459409
- Consistency Over Flattery: Self-Verification Processes Revealed in Implicit and Behavioral Responses to Feedback SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PERSONALITY SCIENCE 2013; 4 (5): 538-545
The Effect of the Serotonin Transporter Polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) on Empathic and Self-Conscious Emotional Reactivity
2013; 13 (1): 25-35
We examined the relationship between a functional polymorphism of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) and individual differences in emotional reactivity in two laboratory studies. In Study 1, empathic responding and physiological reactivity to viewing films of others in distress were assessed in healthy adults in three age groups. In Study 2, emotional responding to watching oneself in an embarrassing situation was assessed in healthy adults and in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. In Study 1, participants with two short alleles of 5-HTTLPR reported more personal distress and showed higher levels of physiological responses in response to the films than participants with long alleles. In Study 2, participants with two short alleles reported more anger and amusement and displayed more emotional expressive behaviors in response to the embarrassing situation than participants with long alleles. These two findings from diverse samples of participants converge to indicate that individuals who are homozygous for the short allele variant of 5-HTTLPR have greater levels of emotional reactivity in two quite different socially embedded contexts.
View details for DOI 10.1037/a0029616
View details for Web of Science ID 000314535500005
Aging and Emotion Recognition: Not Just a Losing Matter
PSYCHOLOGY AND AGING
2012; 27 (4): 940-950
Past studies on emotion recognition and aging have found evidence of age-related decline when emotion recognition was assessed by having participants detect single emotions depicted in static images of full or partial (e.g., eye region) faces. These tests afford good experimental control but do not capture the dynamic nature of real-world emotion recognition, which is often characterized by continuous emotional judgments and dynamic multimodal stimuli. Research suggests that older adults often perform better under conditions that better mimic real-world social contexts. We assessed emotion recognition in young, middle-aged, and older adults using two traditional methods (single emotion judgments of static images of faces and eyes) and an additional method in which participants made continuous emotion judgments of dynamic, multimodal stimuli (videotaped interactions between young, middle-aged, and older couples). Results revealed an Age × Test interaction. Largely consistent with prior research, we found some evidence that older adults performed worse than young adults when judging single emotions from images of faces (for sad and disgust faces only) and eyes (for older eyes only), with middle-aged adults falling in between. In contrast, older adults did better than young adults on the test involving continuous emotion judgments of dyadic interactions, with middle-aged adults falling in between. In tests in which target stimuli differed in age, emotion recognition was not facilitated by an age match between participant and target. These findings are discussed in terms of theoretical and methodological implications for the study of aging and emotional processing.
View details for DOI 10.1037/a0029367
View details for Web of Science ID 000313306500020
View details for PubMedID 22823183
Greater Emotional Empathy and Prosocial Behavior in Late Life
2012; 12 (5): 1129-1140
Emotional empathy and prosocial behavior were assessed in older, middle-aged, and young adults. Participants watched two films depicting individuals in need, one uplifting and the other distressing. Physiological responses were monitored during the films, and participants rated their levels of emotional empathy following each film. As a measure of prosocial behavior, participants were given an additional payment they could contribute to charities supporting the individuals in the films. Age-related linear increases were found for both emotional empathy (self-reported empathic concern and cardiac and electrodermal responding) and prosocial behavior (size of contribution) across both films and in self-reported personal distress to the distressing film. Empathic concern and cardiac reactivity to both films, along with personal distress to the distressing film only, were associated with greater prosocial behavior. Empathic concern partially mediated the age-related differences in prosocial behavior. Results are discussed in terms of our understanding both of adult development and of the nature of these vital aspects of human emotion.
View details for DOI 10.1037/a0025011
View details for Web of Science ID 000309946200032
View details for PubMedID 21859198
Individual differences in neural responses to social rejection: the joint effect of self-esteem and attentional control
SOCIAL COGNITIVE AND AFFECTIVE NEUROSCIENCE
2012; 7 (3): 322-331
Individuals with low self-esteem have been found to react more negatively to signs of interpersonal rejection than those with high self-esteem. However, previous research has found that individual differences in attentional control can attenuate negative reactions to social rejection among vulnerable, low self-esteem individuals. The current fMRI study sought to elucidate the neurobiological substrate of this buffering effect. We hypothesized and found that while looking at scenes of social rejection (vs negative scenes) low self-esteem high attentional control individuals engaged the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), an area of the brain associated with emotional control, more than their low self-esteem low attentional control peers. Furthermore, we found that low self-esteem high attentional control individuals evaluated social rejection as less arousing and less rejecting in a separate behavioral task. Importantly, activation in the rACC fully mediated the relationship between the interaction of self-esteem and attentional control and emotional evaluations, suggesting that the rACC activation underlies the buffering effects of attentional control. Results are discussed in terms of individual differences in emotional vulnerability and protection and by highlighting the role of rACC in emotion regulation.
View details for DOI 10.1093/scan/nsr014
View details for Web of Science ID 000302810100009
View details for PubMedID 21609969
Executive functions and the down-regulation and up-regulation of emotion
COGNITION & EMOTION
2012; 26 (1): 103-118
This study examined the relationship between individual differences in executive functions (EF; assessed by measures of working memory, Stroop, trail making, and verbal fluency) and ability to down-regulate and up-regulate responses to emotionally evocative film clips. To ensure a wide range of EF, 48 participants with diverse neurodegenerative disorders and 21 older neurologically normal ageing participants were included. Participants were exposed to three different movie clips that were designed to elicit a mix of disgust and amusement. While watching the films they were either instructed to watch, down-regulate, and up-regulate their visible emotional responses. Heart rate and facial behaviours were monitored throughout. Emotion regulatory ability was operationalised as changes in heart rate and facial behaviour in the down- and up-regulation conditions, controlling for responses in the watch condition. Results indicated that higher verbal fluency scores were related to greater ability to regulate emotion in both the down-regulation and up-regulation conditions. This finding remained significant even after controlling for age and general cognitive functioning. No relationships were found between emotion regulation and the other EF measures. We believe these results derive from differences among EF measures, with verbal-fluency performance best capturing the complex sequence of controlled planning, activation, and monitoring required for successful emotion regulation. These findings contribute to our understanding of emotion-cognition interaction, suggesting a link between emotion-regulatory abilities and individual differences in complex executive functions.
View details for DOI 10.1080/02699931.2011.557291
View details for Web of Science ID 000301650200011
View details for PubMedID 21432634
Explicit and implicit emotion regulation: A dual-process framework
COGNITION & EMOTION
2011; 25 (3): 400-412
It is widely acknowledged that emotions can be regulated in an astonishing variety of ways. Most research to date has focused on explicit (effortful) forms of emotion regulation. However, there is growing research interest in implicit (automatic) forms of emotion regulation. To organise emerging findings, we present a dual-process framework that integrates explicit and implicit forms of emotion regulation, and argue that both forms of regulation are necessary for well-being. In the first section of this review, we provide a broad overview of the construct of emotion regulation, with an emphasis on explicit and implicit processes. In the second section, we focus on explicit emotion regulation, considering both neural mechanisms that are associated with these processes and their experiential and physiological consequences. In the third section, we turn to several forms of implicit emotion regulation, and integrate the burgeoning literature in this area. We conclude by outlining open questions and areas for future research.
View details for DOI 10.1080/02699931.2010.544160
View details for Web of Science ID 000288672700002
View details for PubMedID 21432682
The Ability To Regulate Emotion Is Associated With Greater Well-Being, Income, and Socioeconomic Status
2010; 10 (6): 923-933
Are people who are best able to implement strategies to regulate their emotional expressive behavior happier and more successful than their counterparts? Although past research has examined individual variation in knowledge of the most effective emotion regulation strategies, little is known about how individual differences in the ability to actually implement these strategies, as assessed objectively in the laboratory, are associated with external criteria. In two studies, we examined how individual variation in the ability to modify emotional expressive behavior in response to evocative stimuli is related to well-being and financial success. Study 1 showed that individuals who can best suppress their emotional reaction to an acoustic startle are happiest with their lives. Study 2 showed that individuals who can best amplify their emotional reaction to a disgust-eliciting movie are happiest with their lives and have the highest disposable income and socioeconomic status. Thus, being able to implement emotion regulation strategies in the laboratory is closely linked to well-being and financial success.
View details for DOI 10.1037/a0021156
View details for Web of Science ID 000286125600017
View details for PubMedID 21171762
Neural Activity to a Partner's Facial Expression Predicts Self-Regulation After Conflict
2010; 67 (5): 406-413
Failure to self-regulate after an interpersonal conflict can result in persistent negative mood and maladaptive behaviors. Research indicates that lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) activity is related to emotion regulation in response to laboratory-based affective challenges, such as viewing emotional pictures. This suggests that compromised LPFC function may be a risk factor for mood and behavior problems after an interpersonal conflict. However, it remains unclear whether LPFC activity to a laboratory-based affective challenge predicts self-regulation in real life.We investigated whether LPFC activity to a laboratory-based affective challenge (negative facial expressions of a partner) predicts self-regulation after a real-life affective challenge (interpersonal conflict). During a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan, healthy, adult participants in committed relationships (n = 27) viewed positive, negative, and neutral facial expressions of their partners. In a three-week online daily diary, participants reported conflict occurrence, level of negative mood, rumination, and substance use.LPFC activity in response to the laboratory-based affective challenge predicted self-regulation after an interpersonal conflict in daily life. When there was no interpersonal conflict, LPFC activity was not related to mood or behavior the next day. However, when an interpersonal conflict did occur, ventral LPFC (VLPFC) activity predicted mood and behavior the next day, such that lower VLPFC activity was related to higher levels of negative mood, rumination, and substance use.Low LPFC function may be a vulnerability and high LPFC function may be a protective factor for the development of mood and behavior problems after an interpersonal stressor.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.10.014
View details for Web of Science ID 000275100300003
View details for PubMedID 20004365
Emotion Regulation Deficits in Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration and Alzheimer's Disease
PSYCHOLOGY AND AGING
2010; 25 (1): 30-37
We examined instructed and spontaneous emotion regulation in patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD, N = 32), which presents with profound emotional and personality changes; patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD, N = 17), which presents with profound memory impairment; and neurologically normal controls (N = 25). Participants were exposed to an aversive acoustic startle stimulus (115 dB) under 3 different conditions: (a) unwarned without instructions to down-regulate, (b) warned without instructions to down-regulate, and (c) warned with instructions to down-regulate. In the last 2 conditions, the warning took the form of a 20-s countdown. In all conditions, visible aspects of the startle response were assessed by measuring overall somatic activity and coding emotional facial expressions. FTLD patients, AD patients, and control participants showed similar patterns of down-regulation in somatic activity across the 3 startle trials. However, differences between the 3 groups emerged in the amount of emotional facial behavior expressed in the startle trials. There were no group differences in response in the unwarned condition, indicating that the startle response was intact in the patients. In the warned with instructions condition, both FTLD and AD patients were moderately impaired in down-regulatory ability compared with controls. In the warned without instructions condition, AD patients and normal controls spontaneously down-regulated their emotional responses, but FTLD patients did not. These findings illuminate specific problems that these patients have in the emotional realm.
View details for DOI 10.1037/a0018519
View details for Web of Science ID 000275984800003
View details for PubMedID 20230125
Neural basis of interpersonal traits in neurodegenerative diseases
2009; 47 (13): 2812-2827
Several functional and structural imaging studies have investigated the neural basis of personality in healthy adults, but human lesions studies are scarce. Personality changes are a common symptom in patients with neurodegenerative diseases like frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and semantic dementia (SD), allowing a unique window into the neural basis of personality. In this study, we used the Interpersonal Adjective Scales to investigate the structural basis of eight interpersonal traits (dominance, arrogance, coldness, introversion, submissiveness, ingenuousness, warmth, and extraversion) in 257 subjects: 214 patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as FTD, SD, progressive nonfluent aphasia, Alzheimer's disease, amnestic mild cognitive impairment, corticobasal degeneration, and progressive supranuclear palsy and 43 healthy elderly people. Measures of interpersonal traits were correlated with regional atrophy pattern using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis of structural MR images. Interpersonal traits mapped onto distinct brain regions depending on the degree to which they involved agency and affiliation. Interpersonal traits high in agency related to left dorsolateral prefrontal and left lateral frontopolar regions, whereas interpersonal traits high in affiliation related to right ventromedial prefrontal and right anteromedial temporal regions. Consistent with the existing literature on neural networks underlying social cognition, these results indicate that brain regions related to externally focused, executive control-related processes underlie agentic interpersonal traits such as dominance, whereas brain regions related to internally focused, emotion- and reward-related processes underlie affiliative interpersonal traits such as warmth. In addition, these findings indicate that interpersonal traits are subserved by complex neural networks rather than discrete anatomic areas.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.06.006
View details for Web of Science ID 000271067100015
View details for PubMedID 19540253
Do tests of executive functioning predict ability to downregulate emotions spontaneously and when instructed to suppress?
COGNITIVE AFFECTIVE & BEHAVIORAL NEUROSCIENCE
2009; 9 (2): 144-152
Behavioral regulation is a hallmark feature of executive functioning (EF). The present study investigated whether commonly used neuropsychological test measures of EF (i.e., working memory, Stroop, trail making, and verbal fluency) were related to ability to downregulate emotion both spontaneously and when instructed to suppress emotional expressions. To ensure a wide range of EF, 24 frontotemporal lobar degeneration patients, 7 Alzheimer's patients, and 17 neurologically normal controls participated. Participants were exposed to an acoustic startle stimulus (single aversive noise burst) under three conditions: (1) unwarned, (2) warned with no instructions (to measure spontaneous emotion downregulation), and (3) warned with instructions to suppress (to measure instructed emotion downregulation). Results indicated that higher verbal fluency scores were related to greater emotion regulation (operationalized as reduction in body movement and emotional facial behavior when warned of the impending startle) in both regulation conditions. No relationships were found between emotion regulation in these conditions and the other EF measures. We conclude that, of four commonly used measures of EF, verbal fluency best indexes the complex processes of monitoring, evaluation, and control necessary for successful emotion regulation, both spontaneously and following instructions to suppress.
View details for DOI 10.3758/CABN.9.2.144
View details for Web of Science ID 000265666100002
View details for PubMedID 19403891
Rejection sensitivity and disruption of attention by social threat cues.
Journal of research in personality
2009; 43 (6): 1064-1072
Two studies tested the hypothesis that Rejection Sensitivity (RS) increases vulnerability to disruption of attention by social threat cues, as would be consistent with prior evidence that it motivates individuals to prioritize detecting and managing potential rejection at a cost to other personal and interpersonal goals. In Study 1, RS predicted disruption of ongoing goal-directed attention by social threat but not negative words in an Emotional Stroop task. In Study 2, RS predicted attentional avoidance of threatening but not pleasant faces in a Visual Probe task. Threat-avoidant attention was also associated with features of borderline personality disorder. This research extends understanding of processes by which RS contributes to a self-perpetuating cycle of interpersonal problems and distress.
View details for PubMedID 20160869
Resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia buffers against rejection sensitivity via emotion control
2008; 8 (4): 458-467
Emerging evidence suggests that high resting heart rate variability in the respiratory frequency band, or respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) may capture individual differences in the capacity to engage in situationally appropriate regulation of affect and behavior. The authors therefore hypothesized that high RSA may act as a protective factor against difficulties controlling negative affect and hostile behaviors in conflicts with romantic partners in highly rejection-sensitive individuals--a population otherwise vulnerable to these responses. Results were consistent with this hypothesis such that highly rejection-sensitive participants reported less emotion control and more hostility in conflicts only if they were also low in RSA. Furthermore, emotion control mediated the joint effect of rejection-sensitivity and RSA on hostile conflict behavior. These results are consistent with the argument that resting RSA is a marker of flexible responding in the context of highly emotional situations, and further suggest that it may serve as a protective factor particularly in vulnerable populations.
View details for DOI 10.1037/1528-3518.104.22.1688
View details for Web of Science ID 000257974200004
View details for PubMedID 18729578
Defensive physiological reactions to rejection: The effect of self-esteem and attentional control on startle responses
2007; 18 (10): 886-892
We examined the hypothesis that rejection automatically elicits defensive physiological reactions in people with low self-esteem (SE) but that attentional control moderates this effect. Undergraduates (N= 67) completed questionnaire measures of SE and attentional control. Their eye-blink responses to startle probes were measured while they viewed paintings related to rejection and acceptance themes. The stimuli also included positive-, negative-, and neutral-valence control paintings unrelated to rejection. As predicted, compared with people high in SE, those low in SE showed stronger startle eye-blink responses to paintings related to rejection, but not to negative paintings. Paintings related to acceptance did not attenuate their physiological reactivity. Furthermore, attentional control moderated their sensitivity to rejection, such that low SE was related to greater eye-blink responses to rejection only among individuals who were low in attentional control. Implications of the role of attentional control as a top-down process regulating emotional reactivity in people with low SE are discussed.
View details for Web of Science ID 000249827200008
View details for PubMedID 17894606