Photo credit Anna Nilsen Photo credit Anna Nilsen
We study how impairments in the ability to cope with stress and regulate negative emotions influence psychological function, and contribute to stress-related psychiatric disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress and addiction.
Our objective is to achieve an understanding of brain mechanisms behind stress-coping and affect regulation that can guide the development of novel therapeutic interventions in these conditions. We use experimental medicine studies in healthy volunteers as well as specific patient populations to obtain a mechanistic understanding, and also carry out clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of novel biomedical as well as behavioral interventions.
Brain imaging using resting state connectivity as well as task-based brain activity analysis allows us to study how large scale brain networks interact and how specific brain structures process information in brains of healthy people and people with psychiatric disorders, or following a pharmacological intervention vs control conditions.
In our affect lab, we use facial EMG to objectively measure and quantify emotional responses in study participants, by measuring the activity of facial muscles used to communicate positive and negative emotions. This allows us to measure differences in affective responses to positive or negative stimuli, as a function of diagnosis or pharmacological interventions.
The Heilig Translational Psychiatry Lab
We study the brain mechanisms of stress-related psychiatric disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. Our overarching goal is to provide a mechanistic foundation for novel treatments of these conditions.