Dolcos*, S., Hu*, Y., Iordan, D.A., Moore, M., & Dolcos, F. (2015, in press). Optimism and the Brain: Trait Optimism Mediates the Protective Role of the Orbitofrontal Cortex Gray Matter Volume against Anxiety. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN). *shared first authorship.
SCoPE Neuroscience Lab
OVERVIEW. The main research topic in our group is Investigation of the Neural Mechanisms Underlying Emotion-Cognition Interactions. Emotion can impact cognition by exerting both enhancing effects (e.g., better memory for emotional events) and impairing effects (e.g., increased emotional distractibility). Emotion processing, however, is also susceptible to cognitive influences, typically exerted as cognitive control of emotion or emotion regulation. Investigation of the mechanisms underlying these phenomena is critical for understanding mood and anxiety disorders that are associated with intrusive recollection of memories for distressing events and increased emotional distractibility, and are characterized by emotion dysregulation. The tendency to ruminate on negative emotions and memories observed in depressed patients, for instance, or increased emotional sensitivity observed in patients suffering from anxiety disorders affect tremendously the way these patients think and behave. Therefore, it has become apparent that findings treatment and cures for these disorders depend on integrative understanding the mechanisms that are responsible for such dramatic changes in the ways emotion interfaces with cognition, leading to dysfunctional emotion-cognition interactions.
PROJECTS in the Dolcos Lab focus on the following two main directions (see also Projects section):
I. Basic Research investigating the neural mechanisms underlying emotion-cognition interactions in healthy groups. This direction focuses on identifying the mechanisms that are responsible for the enhancing (e.g., better memory for emotional events) and the impairing (e.g., susceptibility to emotional distraction) effects of emotion on cognitive functions, as well as on mechanisms of emotion regulation and of coping with emotional distraction.
II. Translational Research investigating the role of individual differences in mediating emotion-cognition interactions. This direction focuses on identifying the neural circuitry responsible for differential ability to experience, regulate, and remember emotions associated with age, sex, personality, and genetic differences in healthy and clinical groups (e.g., depression and anxiety).
METHODS. We use brain imaging methods (e.g., fMRI, ERP) in conjunction with skin conductance and behavioral measurements (e.g., performance in cognitive tasks, personality questionnaires).
OPPORTUNITIES for collaborations with other scientists are available through the Psychology Department, the Neuroscience Program, and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology. Scanning takes place at the Beckman Institute's Biomedical Imaging Center, which is equipped with research dedicated MRI scanners.
- The Laboratory of Prof. Roberto Cabeza (Dr. Dolcos' doctoral mentor) at Duke University’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.
- The Laboratory of Prof. Gregory McCarthy (Dr. Dolcos' post-doctoral mentor at Duke University’s Brain Imaging and Analysis Center), who is currently at Yale University's Department of Psychology.