OVERVIEW. The main research topic in our group is Investigation of the Neural Mechanisms Underlying Interactions between Emotion & Cognition. Emotions 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 expressed as cognitive control of emotion or emotion regulation.
Investigation of the neural mechanisms underlying these phenomena is critical for understanding mood and anxiety disorders that are associated with intrusive recollection of 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 cures for these disorders depends on understanding the brain 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 the Projects section, for more details):
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., enhanced memory for emotional events) and the impairing (e.g., enhanced 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-, gender-, and personality-related differences, in both healthy and clinical groups (e.g., mood and anxiety disorders).
METHODS. We use brain imaging methods (e.g., fMRI, ERP) in conjunction with electrophysiological (e.g., 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.