Current Research

 

We are conducting numerous treatment outcome studies and other relevant experimental studies that aim to understand the nature of anxiety problems and develop effective interventions for them. Our treatment programs are provided for free, and some of our studies also provide compensation. Please note that some studies are conducted entirely/partially over the Internet.

The main research goals are as follow:

Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorder Research

  • Develop a better understanding of the role of contextual factors (e.g., threat, negative emotion) that may play in the association between response inhibition and OCD
  • Evaluate the role of computerized assessments and interventions for body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) to better understand underlying psychopathology (e.g., implicit association; approach-avoidance paradigms)
  • Better understand implicit associations to hair and skin stimuli in those with trichotillomania and excoriation disorder
  • Using psychometrics to evaluate social concerns in individuals with Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior Disorders (BFRBDs)

 

Cognitive Control and Anxiety-Related Disorders

  • Disentangle the interaction between different modes of cognitive control (i.e. proactive and reactive) and internalizing psychopathologies such as Anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Cognitive control is the ability to regulate and process goal-driven behavior flexibly in the environment while ignoring task-irrelevant distracting stimuli and has been proposed to have two distinct modes: proactive control and reactive control. Proactive cognitive control pre-emptively modulates selective target processing, whereas reactive cognitive control relies on late adjustments of attentional control in response to distractors. Specifically, given the mixed result of the effect of threat on cognitive performance (facilitatory/inhibitory), our experiments examine how perceived threat differentially modulates these two modes of cognitive control.

 

Working Memory and Computerized Training

  • Develop computerized cognitive training to improve underlying working memory deficits of internalizing psychopathology.
  • It has been shown that trait anxiety is associated with an excessive allocation of attentional recourses toward threat-related stimuli. This dysfunctional allocation allows unnecessary threat-related information to enter their working memory, maintaining (intrusive or irrelevant) anxious cognitions and consuming more cognitive resources, which in turn interferes with ongoing behavior
  • Accordingly, we have designed and tested a computerized emotional working memory training to alleviate this dysfunctional character of working memory for the student population and war veterans with trauma and trait anxiety problems.

 

Psychophysiological Measures

  • We utilize neurophysiological measurements such as EEG/ERP, Time-Frequency Analysis, and Eye-tracking recording to obtain first-hand neural underpinning evidence of such an interaction.
  • We also incorporate anxiety/threat-inducing paradigms (e.g. shocker device) to create artificial state anxiety and precisely measure that under cognitively demanding situations to shed light on corresponding brain regions.
  • In our PTSD populations, we have tested the effects of training using heart rate variability to measure the effects of training.
  • Recently, we’ve begun work using functional-near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to evaluate neural activation within the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex. fNIRS is being utilized for the Approach-Avoidance Training and working memory under fear of threat studies.

 

Other Research

  • Previous research within our lab has included:
  • Spider Phobia
  • Health Anxiety
  • Contamination Phobia
  • Thought Action Fusion in OCD
  • Smoking Cessation (including vaping)
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