Professional Education

  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Connecticut (2005)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of California Davis (2017)

All Publications

  • Water contaminant levels interact with parenting environment to predict development of depressive symptoms in adolescents DEVELOPMENTAL SCIENCE Manczak, E. M., Miller, J. G., Gotlib, I. H. 2020; 23 (1)

    View details for DOI 10.1111/desc.12838

    View details for Web of Science ID 000501321400020

  • Right Temporoparietal Junction Involvement in Autonomic Responses to the Suffering of Others: A Preliminary Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Study. Frontiers in human neuroscience Miller, J. G., Xia, G., Hastings, P. D. 2020; 14: 7


    Functional neuroimaging studies have emphasized distinct networks for social cognition and affective aspects of empathy. However, studies have not considered whether substrates of social cognition, such as the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ), play a role in affective responses to complex empathy-related stimuli. Here, we used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to test whether the right TPJ contributes to psychophysiological responses to another person's emotional suffering. We used a theory of mind functional localizer and image-guided TMS to target the sub-region of the right TPJ implicated in social cognition, and measured autonomic and subjective responses to an empathy induction video. We found evidence that TMS applied at 1 Hz over the right TPJ increased withdrawal of parasympathetic nervous system activity during the empathy induction (n = 32), but did not affect sympathetic nervous system activity (n = 27). Participants who received TMS over the right TPJ also reported feeling more irritation and annoyance, and were less likely to report feeling compassion over and above empathic sadness, than participants who received TMS over the vertex (N = 34). This study provides preliminary evidence for the role of right TPJ functioning in empathy-related psychophysiological and affective responding, potentially blurring the distinction between neural regions specific to social cognition vs. affective aspects of empathy.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00007

    View details for PubMedID 32047426

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6997337

  • Water Contaminant Levels Interact with Parenting Environment to Predict Development of Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents. Developmental science Manczak, E. M., Miller, J. G., Gotlib, I. H. 2019: e12838


    Contaminants in drinking water, such as lead, nitrate, and arsenic, have been linked to negative physical health outcomes. We know less, however, about whether such pollutants also predict mental health problems and, if so, the conditions under which such effects are strongest. In this longitudinal study, we examined whether drinking water contaminants interact with negative family environments (parental psychological control) to predict changes in depressive symptoms in 110 adolescents-a developmental period when symptoms often first emerge. We found that for adolescents in psychologically controlling families, levels of drinking water contaminants prospectively predicted depressive symptoms two years later; this effect was not present in adolescents in non-controlling families. Importantly, these associations were not accounted for by family- or community-level socioeconomic resources, demographic features, or by the adolescents' stress exposure. These findings highlight the interplay of physical and psychological environments in influencing depressive symptoms in adolescents. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

    View details for PubMedID 31009144

  • Inter-brain synchrony in mother-child dyads during cooperation: An fNIRS hyperscanning study NEUROPSYCHOLOGIA Miller, J. G., Vrticka, P., Cui, X., Shrestha, S., Hosseini, S., Baker, J. M., Reiss, A. L. 2019; 124: 117–24
  • Resting Heart Rate Variability is Negatively Associated with Mirror Neuron and Limbic Response to Emotional Faces. Biological psychology Miller, J. G., Xia, G., Hastings, P. D. 2019: 107717


    Whether neurovisceral integration, reflected by resting high-frequency heart rate variability (HRV), constrains or facilitates neural reactivity to other people's emotions is unclear. We assessed the relation between resting HRV and neural activation when observing and imitating emotional faces. We focused on brain regions implicated in sensorimotor resonance, salience detection and arousal. We used electrocardiogram data to compute resting HRV. Resting HRV measures were negatively correlated with activation in a portion of the inferior frontal gyrus showing mirror neuron properties, the insula and the amygdala in response to observation, but not imitation, of emotional faces. Thus, resting HRV appears to be linked to sensitivity to others' emotional cues, both in terms of the tendency to map others' emotional facial expressions onto one's own motor system and to rapidly detect and mark others' emotions as salient events. Resting HRV may reflect, in part, a threshold for increased processing of others' emotional cues.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2019.107717

    View details for PubMedID 31199946

  • Fine Particle Air Pollution and Physiological Reactivity to Social Stress in Adolescence: The Moderating Role of Anxiety and Depression. Psychosomatic medicine Miller, J. G., Gillette, J. S., Manczak, E. M., Kircanski, K., Gotlib, I. H. 2019; 81 (7): 641–48


    Exposure to high levels of fine particle air pollution (PM2.5) is associated with adolescent pathophysiology. It is unclear, however, if PM2.5 is associated with physiology within psychosocial contexts, such as social stress, and whether some adolescents are particularly vulnerable to PM2.5-related adverse effects. This study examined the association between PM2.5 and autonomic reactivity to social stress in adolescents and tested whether symptoms of anxiety and depression moderated this association.Adolescents from Northern California (N = 144) participated in a modified Trier Social Stress Test while providing high-frequency heart rate variability and skin conductance level data. PM2.5 data were recorded from CalEnviroScreen. Adolescents reported on their own symptoms of anxiety and depression using the Youth Self-Report, which has been used in prior studies and has good psychometric properties (Cronbach's α in this sample was .86).Adolescents residing in neighborhoods characterized by higher concentrations of PM2.5 demonstrated greater autonomic reactivity (i.e., indexed by lower heart rate variability and higher skin conductance level) (β = .27; b = .44, p = .001, 95% CI = 0.19 to 0.68) in response to social stress; this association was not accounted for by socioeconomic factors. In addition, adolescents who reported more severe anxiety and depression symptoms showed the strongest association between PM2.5 and autonomic reactivity to social stress (β = .53; b = .86, p < .001, 95% CI = 0.48 to 1.23).Exposure to PM2.5 may heighten adolescent physiological reactivity to social stressors. Moreover, adolescents who experience anxiety and depression may be particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of PM2.5 on stress reactivity.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000714

    View details for PubMedID 31460967

  • Linking autonomic physiology and emotion regulation in preschoolers: The role of reactivity and recovery DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOBIOLOGY Kahle, S., Miller, J. G., Helm, J. L., Hastings, P. D. 2018; 60 (7): 775–88


    Physiological recovery from negative emotions may be important for effective self-regulation, but little is known about recovery processes in children. The current study investigated links between autonomic physiology, anger expressions, and emotion regulation in a sample of eighty-three 3.5-year-olds. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia and pre-ejection period were measured during an anger induction task as parasympathetic and sympathetic indices, respectively. We examined whether preschoolers' anger expressions and emotion regulation behaviors were associated with individual differences in physiology. Autonomic changes were more strongly linked with emotion regulation than with expressed anger. Verbalized regulatory strategies were linked with greater sympathetic reactivity and also with greater recovery. In contrast, attention diversion was associated with blunted patterns of sympathetic reactivity followed by increased sympathetic arousal in the recovery phase. Disengaging from an emotional challenge may be linked with reduced physiological arousal in the short term, this behavior but also appears to have delayed consequences for physiological recovery.

    View details for PubMedID 29926898