Tor Wager is the director of the Cognitive and Affective Control Laboratory and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His research program focuses on the brain mechanisms underlying expectations and placebo effects, and their influences on brain systems involved in pain, emotion, and motivation. He is actively involved in the emerging field of brain-body medicine, which integrates brain activity with physiological activity in the body to promote understanding of health and disease. Dr. Wager is also actively involved in developing new analysis methods to enhance our ability to understand brain function using human neuroimaging. His resume includes over 100 published articles, and he is currently the principal investigator or co-investigator on 8 funded grants, 4 of which are NIH-sponsored. He also serves on the editorial boards of several scientific journals.
Marta joined the lab as postdoc in the fall of 2015. She received her doctoral training at McGill University in Montreal (Ph.D. Neuroscience) where she investigated the effects of chronic pain on brain function and structure. Currently, her research is focused on exploring the basic brain mechanisms of aversive processing. She is particularly interested in applying predictive computational modeling approaches to fMRI, behavioral, and physiological data to determine brain processes underlying successful regulation of aversive experiences. The longer-term goal of this research is to develop brain and behavioral targets for individualized prevention and treatment of pain and related disorders.
Pavel Goldstein joined the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab in the fall of 2016. His research focuses on investigating pain communication using physiological and behavioral tools. In particular, Pavel investigates the role of physiological and behavioral interpersonal synchronization in social situations of pain using EEG, heart rate, respiration, GSR, voice/face expression/ body movements automatic analysis In addition, Pavel conducts a line of web research predicting pain by voice and face expression markers, using machine learning algorithms.
Xiaochun joined the lab as a postdoc in the Sept. of 2018. She received her doctoral training at Peking University in China (Ph. D. Basic Psychology) where she invested the computational modeling and the neural mechanism of the intergroup conflict. In addition, she is interested in how the intergroup relationship and the believing system modulates the pain perception and the empathy towards others' pain. The research methods that she used include behavioral computational modeling, EEG and fMRI.
Leonie started her postdoctoral fellowship in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab in November 2012. She studied Psychology at the University of Konstanz (Germany) where she became interested in affective neuroscience. For her PhD project at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), she used ERPs and fMRI to investigate how the brain detects interpersonal conflict and monitors action in dyadic social settings. Her current work extends this line of research to social influences on pain, by exploring the brain mechanisms underlying the effects of social interactions and affective context on subjective experience as well as the neurophysiological processing of pain.
Philip Kragel joined the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab in the fall of 2015. He completed his undergraduate and graduate training at Duke University, where he received a B.S.E. in Biomedical Engineering, a Masters in Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience. His research uses neuroimaging and psychophysiological methods to examine the neural basis of affective and emotional processes. In particular, his work combines approaches from machine learning and cognitive neuroscience to quantify how emotions are represented in nervous system activity. His current research expands this line of inquiry to explore the relationships between neural representations of pain, cognition, and emotion.
Dan joined the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab in 2015. He is interested in emotions, their function, and their representations. He received doctoral training at the University of Toronto, where he studied emotional expressions: how their forms evolved for sensory function then co-opted for social communicative function. He is currently examining neural representations of affect and pain, and how they are attributed in learning and social contexts.
Yoni is a doctoral student interested in the brain and emotion. He studies placebo effects, contemplative interventions, pain and depression using fMRI, mobile technology, and machine learning techniques. He has a B.S. in Computer Science.
Bogdan joined the group in 2016 and is interested in systems and computational neuroscience and applied math. Prior to joining Bogdan worked with Prof Vania Apkarian at Northwestern University where his work focused on predictive diagnostics for chronic pain and pain psychophysics.
Marianne Reddan joined the CANLab as a graduate student in Fall 2013. As an undergraduate she studied 'fear' in the laboratory of Elizabeth Phelps at NYU, and later continued that line of research as a lab manager for Daniela Schiller at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Marianne uses machine learning to 'decode' how the brain represents emotion. She is interested specifically in empathic processing and prosocial behavior, cognitive control of negative emotions, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the protective effects of social support.
Zach joined the lab in the summer of 2017 as a post baccalaureate research assistant. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2015 where he majored in Psychology with a focus in Cognitive Neuroscience. Zach is interested in studying the neural mechanisms associated with the chronification of pain and the onset of symptomotolgy associated with mood disorders.
Joe is an undergraduate researcher currently pursuing his baccalaureate degree in Neuroscience and Psychology. He joined the lab in 2016 to help develop fMRI biomarkers useful for predicting the efficacy of CBT in patients suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder. He is currently working on a study seeking to develop an fMRI biomarker and investigate the effects of mind-body treatments for chronic back pain. Joe’s other interests include placebo effects, machine learning, and advancing the clinical applicability of fMRI imaging.
Gordon Matthewson graduated from Colorado College in 2012 with a B.A. in Psychology, and wrote his senior thesis on Acupuncture and the Placebo Effect. After graduating, he worked as an EMT in Downeast Maine, before moving back to Colorado and joining the CANLAB as a research assistant in the fall of 2014. He hopes to eventually use functional neuroimaging and multivariate fMRI analysis to examine how the human mind recruits (and sometimes hinders!) the natural healing processes of the body, and to bring this recruitment more systematically into clinical settings.
Victoria joined the CANlab in 2017 as an undergraduate volunteer as she completed her BA in neuroscience and psychology at CU Boulder. She now works as a research assistant and coordinator of various projects within the lab. She hopes to eventually investigate how deviations in patterns of neural activation can give rise to various forms of cognitive dysfunction, including how learning mechanisms influence the regulation of pain, emotion, and self control.
Daniel Kusko joined the CAN lab in 2014 as an undergraduate research assistant studying how conditioning and expectations modulate pain perception which developed into a senior honors thesis to graduate with a BA in Neuroscience, magnum cum laude. He is working as a research coordinator overseeing projects looking at the effects of oxytocin on pain, placebo analgesia and genetics. He is also running subjects in a chronic back pain study run through the Wager lab.
Damon completed his undergraduate education in 2000 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. After working in the financial sector for several years, he changed careers to become a research assistant in Columbia's Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience Lab under the direction of Tor Wager. In 2010 he joined Jennifer Mangels' Dynamic Learning lab as a CUNY graduate student and is broadly interested in how top-down cognitive and affective control processes interact with bottom-up physiological and emotional processes to generate behavioral outcomes.
Jessica is a post-doctoral fellow in the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 2009, she received her Ph.D. at Harvard University in the Department of Psychology where she examined the neural underpinnings of introspective processes including remembering the past, imagining the future, and reflecting on the mental states of one's self and other people. Jessica is continuing this line of work in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience lab and is involved in a research project investigating the cognitive and affective processes underlying compassionate behavior. Additionally, she is conducting a related line of research examining how individuals regulate their internal thoughts, as when attention must be directed toward or away from such thoughts.
Lauren completed her PhD in July, 2011. Her research focuses on understanding how expectancies shape affective experience. Using a thermal pain model and new analysis strategies developed in the lab, her work in the CAN lab focused on how perception is affected by information about the stimulus (cue effects), information about the context (placebo effects), opioid treatment (drug effects), and interactions among all of these factors. She is currently a Principal Investigator at NIH.
Judith is a master’s student in philosophy and cognitive science at CU Boulder in her second year of graduate school. She joined the lab in the summer of 2017 working on a back pain study investigating placebo and psychotherapy treatments for chronic pain. She graduated from Furman University in 2016 where she majored in biology and philosophy. She is currently interested in failures of introspection and how these might impact the way we engage with the world around us.
Luke was a postdoctoral fellow in the Cognitive Affective Neuroscience Laboratory until Summer 2015. He completed an MA in psychology at the New School for Social Research and a PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Arizona where he studied social and affective decision-making. He completed his predoctoral clinical internship training in behavioral medicine at the University of California Los Angeles. Broadly, his research is focused on understanding the neurobiological and computational mechanisms underlying social interactions. He has combined reinforcement learning and game theoretic modeling approaches with fMRI to understand the neurocomputational processes involved in affective motivations in social decision-making (e.g., guilt and anger) and also how people learn to trust a relationship partner from their initial impressions and actual interactions. His current work is focused on developing computational models of treatment expectation effects (e.g., placebo responses) and investigating how pain and emotions are regulated through social interactions. Luke is now an Assistant Professor at Dartmouth University.
So Young Choe joined Canlab on July 2011 after she finished her Master's in Psychology at Seoul National University. She has designed pain empathy/emotional pain observation experiment and has been analyzing fMRI data in the lab. Her Master's thesis is about the relationship between emotional disposition and utilitarian judgment and her fMRI data has been analyzed in Canlab way in collaboration with people in the lab for a publication. Her first publication in America, "Who Makes Utilitarian Judgments?", predicting utilitarian judgment with trait emotions, was published in Judgment and Decision Making on October 2011. She is hoping to get in a PhD program to research affective neuroscience.
Zeb Delk is a research assistant and programmer in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab. She started in March of 2014, after working for several years as a software engineer. She has a BS in Mathematics from Colorado State University. Zeb is interested an applied math and the computational techniques needed to process and analyze brain imaging data.
Hedwig was a post-doctoral fellow in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab from December 2012- January 2015. She is now a Lecturer at the University of Southampton (UK). She did her PhD in clinical and biological psychology at the University of Wuerzburg (Germany) on emotional detachment in psychopathy, as assessed via self-report and emotion detection tasks. She has a clinical training in cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. Her research interests refer to the relationship between aggression, emotion processing, traumatic experiences, psychopathy and social behavior. Her current research focuses on emotion and pain processing and it's relationship with individual differences, using behavioral, psychophysiological and self-report measures as well as fMRI.
Gianna is entering her senior year at CU where she studies Biochemistry and Spanish. Her fascination with the study of pain led her to the Wager Lab where she works under Dan Lee to study the neural and physiological responses to rejection and acceptance in the context of online dating.
Stephan joined the the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab as post a postdoctoral research associate in July 2014. During his doctoral training at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany, he worked on cognitive modulation and various physiological measures of pain. He is interested in the modulation of our sensory experiences through contexts, expectations and social influences. He uses psychological, physiological, and neurophysiological measures to investigate these processes at different levels.
I graduated from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2014 with a BA studying neuroscience and Spanish. I am currently working as an RA in the Wager lab, focusing on equipment maintenance and repair while expanding my knowledge of experimental design and data analysis by helping with various projects as they arise. I am greatly interested in the role of conscious and subconscious attention as a factor influencing subjective experiences, which is very noticeable in phenomena like the placebo effect.
Yael Haskowitz received her Bachelor of Science at the University of Utah in Sociology with a minor in Psychology, and was Pre-med. She accomplished a research project "Colorado's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Mental Health and Substance Abuse Action Plan," as a Graduate Research Assistant. She also researched in the Emotion Regulation lab at the University of Denver working with one of the main researchers on a project on "MBCT and Depression" and other projects as well, including "Emotion Regulation and Reactivity among Adults with History of Self-Injury (2011)." She is hoping to start a Masters in Cognitive Neuroscience.
Emma Hitchcock earned her BA from Yale University in 2014. Her senior thesis in Religious Studies combined her interests in religious belief and psychology. As a research assistant in the Memory and Cognition Lab, she did work on internal thought and the effects of emotion and aging on memory. Some of the topics that she finds most exciting include: the dynamics between attention to inner thoughts and the external world, the mind-body relationship, cognitive control, and the influence of memory on attention and emotion.
Marieke Jepma was a post-doctoral fellow in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab until November 2014. She did her PhD in cognitive psychology at Leiden University, the Netherlands, on the role of the noradrenergic system in human cognition. Her current research focuses on the cognitive, neural and computational mechanisms of pain-related learning and decision making. In 2015, she returned to Leiden University with a VENI grant to examine the role of neuromodulators, such as dopamine, in pain-avoidance learning.
Hedy was one of Tor's first graduate students at Columbia University, and the occasional babysitter for Tor's former dog, Wookie. She is now an assistant professor at Yale.
Anjali Krishnan was a post-doctoral research associate in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab. She did her Ph.D. in Cognition and Neuroscience at The University of Texas at Dallas. Her research interests include developing Principal Components-based multivariate statistical methods, statistical analysis of neuroimaging data, and experimental design. Her domain interests include arithmetic ability, semantic categorization, decision-making and emotion.
Lauren was a graduate student in the lab at Columbia, finishing in 2009. She is currently a post-doc at the Social & Affective Neuroscience Lab at Rutgers University.
Marina Lopez-Sola has been a post-doctoral research fellow at the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab since January 2012. She completed her PhD in Neuroscience in the Hospital Universitario del Mar-University of Barcelona, Faculty of Medicine, where she investigated the neural substrates of pain processing dynamics in major depression and chronic pain. Her extensive clinical neuroscience/neuroimaging training involved the areas of imaging methods (fMRI), and the study of the neural basis of chronic pain, disorders of affect (major depression) and anxiety (OCD, social phobia and simple phobias), psychopathy and disorders of motivation and action, including addiction and Parkinson's Disease. Her research focuses on understanding and isolating the brain mechanisms and psychological processes that underlie human suffering at the interface between emotional distress and chronic pain. Her main research questions are: how does the brain give rise to experiences of suffering at the neural systems level? And, how can we ultimately recover the fine equilibrium associated with healthy subjective emotional experience in its various forms? Her interest in understanding the brain pathophysiology of disorders involving emotional suffering and chronic pain is motivated by the observation that the same symptom (e.g., anxiety) reported in different contexts or by different individuals may emerge as the result of different neural etiologies. A multilevel effort to establish parallels between pathological brain processes on the one hand, and psychopathological profiles across people and clinical entities on the other, may greatly advance the understanding of mental health and the paths to human suffering and recovery.
Liz Losin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of the Social and Cultural Neuroscience Lab at the University of Miami. She received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA in 2012 and did her postdoctoral training in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory from 2012-2014 before starting her current position at the University of Miami in 2015. Her passion lies in combining her training in anthropology and neuroscience to explore the bidirectional relationship between culture and the brain. She has investigated how humans acquire cultural beliefs and practices through imitation, how these beliefs and practices shape psychology and brain function by comparing individuals with different sociocultural backgrounds, and how both processes impact human health and health care. Along withher lab, she is currently focusing on how cultural experiences (e.g., discrimination) and social situations (e.g., the doctor-patient relationship) influence pain perception and the brain mechanisms underlying it. She is also passionate about sharing scientific knowledge and enthusiasm with the general public!
Kelly is a recent graduate of The University of Colorado where she received a BA in both psychology and neuroscience. She began work as an RA in one of the CANLAB placebo studies following graduation, and hopes to continue gaining valuable research experience. Her interests include social intuition and emotional regulation, placebo effects, resiliency and its effects on brain development, as well as alternate theories of depression and mood disorders in the brain. She also spends time as a peer counselor at Denver's Judi's House, where she has done research on complicated grief factors.
Daniel Ott is a recent graduate of the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine, where he focused on philosophy of mind, pain, and scientific progress. Prior to this he read for an MSc in Medical Anthropology at the University of Oxford, where he studied the clinical encounter in Parkinson's disease patients. Additionally, he has worked at Massachusetts General Hospital/Martinos Center on neuroimaging experiments examining the placebo effect and chronic pain. He graduated with a BS in Neuroscience and a BA in Philosophy from Regis University in 2013.
Jacob Parelman was an RA in the CAN Lab while he was an Undergraduate Psychology student. He is very interested in emotion, pain and perception. Now, Jacob is the lab manager of McKell Carsten's lab. Jacob hopes to attend graduate school to continue his studies in the field.
Nick assisted with research on compassion action. He has a B.A. in History and plans to pursue doctoral research in clinical/counseling psychology. Among many other things, he's interested in Axis-I disorders, behavioral neuroscience, psychotherapy, dancing, music, religion, contemplative traditions, nutrition, etymology/languages, and soy lattes.
Megan was a professional research assistant in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab until January 2015. She is now earning her MA at Naropa University.
Mathieu Roy was a post-doctoral fellow in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab. He did his Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Montreal on the cerebral and cerebro-spinal modulation of pain by music and emotions. His research interests broadly encompass the cerebral mechanisms of pain perception and its modulation by various psychological factors, in healthy individuals and in patients with chronic pain. He is also interested in musical emotions and their therapeutic effects. His current research projects comprise the cerebral correlates of pain avoidance learning and the modulation of pain by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
Luka Ruzic was a research assistant in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab until June 2014. He got his B.A. in psychology and philosophy from CU Boulder in 2007 after which he worked for several years in the Banich lab on fMRI analysis of executive function. He is interested in neuroscientific and computational approaches to topics that concern evaluative/normative representations from moral judgment and decision-making to affect and reinforcement learning models. Luka is now PhD student at Duke University.
Liane was a postdoctoral fellow in both the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory and in the Learning Lab at Columbia University. She completed her MS in Biology at Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg in Germany, and her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at Pierre and Marie Curie University Paris in France. During her doctoral training she was studying incentive motivation by using behavioral testing and functional imaging in healthy humans and patients with neurological and psychiatric diseases. She is interested in why humans sometimes surpass themselves even when their basic competencies remain unchanged. Her research aims to understand how incentives change brain and behavior and the implications for health and disease.
Jenifer Sills was a research assistant working on an fMRI/Compassion Meditation study and a pain perception study. She graduated from CU with a BA in psychology in 2005 and is currently applying to medical school. She is interested in the application of neuroscience research, especially pain and pain relief, in the medical field.
Julie was a graduate student with the CAN Lab at Columbia. She is now an Associate Faculty Member at Columbia.
Brandon's academic background is in anthropology where he got his Master's studying Polynisian family structures and professional development of rural elementary school teachers. His focus moved over to medical research where he developed databases for the Prevention Research Center. Brandon then became a part of the Department of Family Medicine where he managed studies ranging from adolescent outreach to primary care practice improvement to a residency program in Rwanda.
Joe took a while to get around to cognitive neuroscience, studying mathematics, putting in time as a software developer, traveling and living around the globe, and studying spirituality and meditation. He couldn't shake the science bug though, and joined the CANlab in 2008 to learn more about neuroimaging and the study of emotion. During that time he worked on subliminal priming, opioid-mediated analgesia, and machine-learning analysis of pain responses. No amount of Matlab and E-Prime debugging could dissuade him, and he is now a clinical graduate student in the lab of Richard Davidson, at U. Wisconsin-Madison, studying emotion regulation and affective disorders.
Brandin was a psychology major at the University of Colorado. He helped Yoni Ashar with studies on compassionate behavior. Brandin is interested in various aspects of cognitive science including philosophy, linguistics, and computer science and wants to continue to be involved in the field of psychology.
Jennifer recently graduated from CU with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in biochemistry. She is interested in the integration of psychology, holistic wellness, and biochemistry especially related to empirically supported treatments for mental illness.
Wani is a graduate student in the CAN Lab at CU Boulder since Fall 2011. His undergrad major was biological sciences, and he got his master's degree in clinical psychology at Seoul National University in South Korea. After three-year clinical training in the Psychiatry Department at Seoul National University Hospital, he became eager to do more research on cognitive and affective neuroscience. He has broad interests in the mind-body relationship as well as emotion-cognition interactions. Also he has a great interest in bridging basic and clinical science (i.e., translational research).
Helena is a graduate student in Integrative Physiology, Neuroscience, and Behavioral Genetics. After obtaining her B.S. in Psychology, she worked as a research assistant for three years at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging in Boston studying how anesthesia modulates sleep/wake states through fMRI, MEG, and EEG. Some of her current research focuses on fMRI meta analyses, the effects of social judgement on cognitive processing, and utilizing genome wide association studies to determine how genetic markers drive neural activity and contribute to behavior.
Lanlan Zhang is a visiting student from Shanghai University of Sport. Her research interest is sport psychology. She is conducting a research in CAN lab about the effect of in-group membership on empathy, and works as a part-time research assistant at the same time.
Weihao Zheng is a visiting student from Lanzhou University, China. His research interests include structural and functional network analysis in pain and other mental disorders, i.e., Alzheimer’s disease.
Dan Weflen is the groups programmer, data manager and systems administrator. He cleans up the analysis code, adds new features, and ensures that the lab's data is well-organized. He has a background as a physicist, and spent 9 years writing simulations of quantum systems.