We investigate the brain pathways that underlie the generation and regulation of pain and emotion. We combine behavioral, psychological, physiological, and functional neuroimaging measures to model experiences of pain and emotion. Additionally, we test the effacacy of various treatments to modulate these experiences. We emphasize developing and using new analysis methods to gain a clearer picture systems-level interactions among of brain regions. We have developed techniques that include multilevel mediation, multivariate brain connectivity, and statistical learning to form predictive models of brain activity.
A specific approach that we are particularly excited about is the use of statistical learning (i.e., machine learning) to develop fMRI-based biomarkers for clinically relevant outcomes (e.g., pain) and subsequently test how psychological factors influence these biomarkers. In the area of pain, this approach could a) establish that a particular pattern of brain activity is diagnostic of physical pain, b) test whether the biomarker is specific to physical pain and/or particular types of pain, and c) test whether psychological manipulations such as placebo treatments and other clinical interventions influence the biomarker. Developing such biomarkers could thus advance pain research by providing objective, physiological correlates of pain in those who are unable to provide subjective reports, and could advance research in psychology by providing tests of psychological influences on the physical representation of pain at multiple levels of the neuraxis.
Our lab is also involved with integrative translational science. We use pattern recognition to develop generalizable measures of affective processes and understand how they are represented in the brain. We are working to integrate with large-scale neuroimaging data in order to contribute to population neuroscience. We are involved with clinical studies to develop and test novel psychological and behavioral/physiological interventions. Additionally, we investigate the nature of brain-body relationships, including autonomic responses and inflammation.
Click here to view our most recent publications regarding our work with pain, emotion regulation, the placebo effect, and more!