Research Projects

The research projects in the Dolcos Lab are circumscribed by the domains of Affective, Cognitive, and Clinical Neurosciences. These projects follow naturally from our previous research in these fields, and focus on four main directions, which are all encompassed by the overarching goal of Understanding the Neural Mechanisms of Affective-Cognitive Interactions in Healthy and Clinical Populations. For details about the four current research directions in DLab, see the descriptions following the poster below. The poster illustrates samples of published manuscripts resulted from core reseach lines that all our curent research directions emmerge from; click here or on the image below to zoom-in, and see publications for specific details. 

  1. Investigation of the Neural Correlates of the Modulatory Effect of Emotion on Cognitive Functions. Following on naturally from Dr. Dolcos’s main line of research investigating the impact of emotion on cognition, this line will continue investigation of the mechanisms underlying both the enhancing and the impairing effects of emotion on various cognitive processes. For instance, in addition to investigating these effects on different memory processes, we are expanding our expertise by investigating the effects of emotion on other cognitive functions, such as decision-making processes Understanding how emotions (rewards, moods, etc.) influence our decision in various circumstances is an important issue that affects our daily life and has direct implications for understanding clinical conditions characterized by pathological emotionally-biased decisions (e.g., drug addiction). 
  2. Investigation of the Neural Correlates Underlying the Effects of Cognitive Processes on Various Apects of Emotional Processing. Different than the previous area of research, which has been the focus of intensive research, the line of research investigating the neural correlates of cognitive control of emotion has only recently started to emerge in the literature. Although a number of issues remain unclear, available evidence suggests that the engagement of cognitive strategies (e.g., reappraisal) to control emotions is associated with increased activity in brain regions typically involved in executive control (i.e., anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex). These, in turn, modulate (i.e., up vs. down activity in the brain regions typically associated with emotional processing (e.g., the amygdala). This line of research is worth pursuing as optimal cognitive control of emotional responses is a key component of healthy social behavior, and maladaptive regulation strategies constitute a core feature of various affective disorders.
  3. Investigation of Issues Related to the Processing of Emotional Information in Social Contexts. While investigation of the basic mechanisms by which emotion affects cognition is fundamental to understanding various facets of affective-cognitive interactions, it is equally important to investigate the mechanisms by which emotion affects cognition in social contexts. Therefore, in addition to investigating the neural circuitry underlying fundamental aspects of affective-cognitive interactions, we are developing research projects that specifically investigate the neural mechanisms underlying the processing of emotional information as social cues. This direction is of crucial importance as proper processing and interpretation of emotional social cues are key components of successful social behavior.
  4. Investigation of Individual Differences Concerning the Neural Circuitry of Emotional-Cognitive Interaction in both Clinical and Non-Clinical Populations.Although pursuing the first three proposed lines of research has clear clinical relevance, to really understand clinical conditions it is important not only to infer the clinical implications of the findings from healthy populations, but also to directly investigate the very same issues in clinical cohorts. Thus, our plans in this direction is to significantly develop the clinical component of our current research, through collaborations with clinical researchers. For instance, in addition to our on-going investigations of the neural mechanisms associated with emotional processing in depression and PTSD, and with the effects of therapeutic intervention on these mechanisms (performed in collaboration with researchers from Duke University and Yale University), we currently planning investigation of similar issues in other affective disorders, with a focus on social anxiety.

    Investigation of individual differences in emotional processing, however, has relevance not only for understanding clinical conditions, but also for integrative understanding of the factors that influence the effects of emotion on cognitive functions in non-clinical conditions. Thus, we continue investigating age-related differences in the processing of emotional information, along with investigation of other factors that may differentially affect the impact of emotion on cognition (e.g. the role of gender-and personality-related differences in emotional processing).