Cognition, Brain & Behavior; Clinical Science
My research program focuses on the question of how anxiety, other trait characteristics, and differences in genetic make-up impact the neural mechanisms underlying the controlled processing of salient stimuli. Different projects within my lab focus upon individual differences in the recruitment of ‘top-down’ control mechanisms (e.g. attentional control mechanisms), factors influencing the strength of activation of ‘bottom-up’ emotional saliency mechanisms, and factors determining the interplay of these ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ mechanisms and the resultant influences on behavior.
Questions I am concerned with range from: do threat-related distractors compete for attention in the same way as perceptually salient distractors or distractors giving rise to response conflict? At what stage of processing do the modulatory effects of anxiety take place? Is anxiety associated with impoverished recruitment of prefrontal attentional control mechanisms even in the absence of threat? How does the processing of negative and positive stimuli differ? Does the evidence support either ‘weak’ or ‘strong’ automaticity accounts of the processing of emotionally salient stimuli? Can we identify genetic factors that modulate the neural systems underlying threat detection, reward processing and cognitive control? We address these questions from a number of different perspectives using approaches including cognitive-behavioral studies, functional neuro-imaging, functional genetics, and work with clinical populations.