Research

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Research at SCAN-U includes investigation of multiple forms of interplay between social, cognitive, and affective processes.   Many projects examine the neural bases of emotion, pain, social rejection, person perception, memory and attention, and their regulation by various types of cognitive control processes.   In addition to the example projects listed below, additional nformation about other ongoing projects can be found in the research descriptions for the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab and Cognitive and Affective Control Lab .

The neural bases of placebo effects and their relation to regulatory processes

Placebos have been in common use for a long time, are a part of every major clinical trial, and some doctors use them in clinical practice as analgesics.   Yet placebo effects have rarely, until recently, been investigated from a mechanistic neurobiological perspective. This research project seeks to understand the neural bases that give rise to the placebo effect and its beneficial effects on experience and health.   Research on the placebo effect has the potential to shed light on why and how beliefs, expectations, and subjective appraisals of oneself or one's situation can impact perceptual, emotional and cognitive processes in the brain. Studying expectancy-based placebo effects neurobiologically allows conceptual links to be made between expectancy effects of pain and the effects of expectation and appraisal in diverse fields, including cognitive studies of attention and memory, studies of emotion and self-regulation, and clinical research on pain disorders and other mental health disorders--particularly those likely to involve dysregulation of appraisal and expectation, including depression, anxiety disorders, BPD, phobias, OCD, and schizophrenia.  

Neural bases of the cognitive control of emotion

Whether we are disappointed by a work setback, angered by a spousal conflict, or saddened by the death of a parent, regulating our negative emotional responses presents one of life's greatest and most consistent challenges.   Failures to meet regulatory challenges are terribly costly, and may lead numerous maladaptive physical and mental health consequences.   Despite the prevalence and deleterious consequences associated with emotion dysregulation, very little is known about the neural systems supporting the ability to use cognition to regulate negative emotions.   This research project aims to programmatically develop a model of the neural bases of the cognitive control of emotion that in the long-term can serve as a translational foundation for understanding the dysregulation of negative emotion that characterizes numerous clinical populations and maladaptive behaviors.   The cognitive control of emotion fundamentally involves a dynamic interplay between appraisal processes that generate affective responses and control processes that implement specific regulatory strategies.   Various experiments are designed to address specific questions about each side of this emotion regulatory dynamic.  

The neural bases of social/interpersonal rejection

Although we all experience rejection at one time or another, the way in which respond to it can be highly variable.   Some people anxiously expect rejection and behave in ways that lead to the realization of their worst fears, whereas others are able to successfully regulate their affective reactions.   In collaboration with the Social Relations Lab , this research project aims to understand the neural bases of adaptive and maladaptive responses to rejection.   The long-term goal of this work is apply a normative model of the neural and behavioral processing dynamics of rejection to characterizing dysfunction in several serious mental disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder, for which the underlying pathophysiology of maladaptive social behavior is poorly understood.

 
   

 

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Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience Unit
Deparment of Psychology
Columbia University
Schermerhorn Hall
1190 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027