CANlab has moved to Dartmouth College! The CANlab West contingent remains in Boulder. We are hiring!

The Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab, directed by Professor Tor Wager, studies the neurophysiology of affective processes—pain, emotion, stress, and empathy—and how they are shaped by cognitive and social influences. We are interested in how thoughts, beliefs, and expectations affect the brain and body.

 

We use a range of techniques, including fMRI, psychophysiology, EEG, pharmacology, and computational modeling of brain networks and behavior. 

 

We are also dedicated to developing models for the analysis and synthesis of functional neuroimaging data, especially fMRI, and open sharing of tools and scientific data. Techniques include multilevel mediation, multivariate brain connectivity, and statistical learning. 

 

 

A specific approach that we are particularly excited about is the use of pattern recognition (i.e., machine learning) to develop fMRI-based biomarkers for clinically relevant outcomes (e.g., pain). This approach can identify brain pathways and networks that predict pain, emotion, and other experiences or behaviors. These pathways can then serve as diagnostic features and targets for interventions. 

Our work over the past several years has shown that brain pathways identifed using multivariate pattern recognition can be much more sensitive and specific to certain classes of outcomes, such as evoked pain, than we previously thought. We have also learned that they can be generalizable across individuals, studies, and instances of mental classes (e.g., types of pain). 

In parallel, we have begun to test and compare different kinds of interventions, including manipulations of expectation, experience-driven learning, social support, self-regulation, drugs, and psychotherapy. We hope that this will help us better understand how these interventions work, at a brain systems level, and use the brain to select and refine the most powerful interventions. 

Our work is integrative in that it investigates relationships between the brain and body. And it is translational in that we hope to use our research to directly inform diagnosis and treatment. We envision a future in which advances  in human neuroimaging technology and analytics make it possible to diagnose brain disorders based on measures of brain function, and provide personalized information about individuals' brains that will help them optimize their health and wellbeing.

Click here to view our most recent publications.