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Understanding ourselves is critical to progress. By examining our biases, cognition, development, and interactions, we can leverage that knowledge to improve our individual and collective decision-making. By understanding our physiology, biology, and anatomy, we can better control, enhance, and protect our minds and bodies.

biology | psychology | neuroscience

Using the brain to map our understanding of ‘person-space’

A 2-D ‘map’ of the similarity between brain activity patterns elicited when thinking about different famous people. Closer people elicit more similar neural patterns in participants. Like maps of Earth, this projection is imperfect – more than two dimensions are necessary to capture reality. The accuracy of the placement of points increases with point size. […]

Intuition for other people’s emotional dynamics

A network diagram with arrows between mental states indicating which transitions are viewed as likely (>75%) by participants. Arrowheads indicate the direction(s) of transition between states. The size of each state’s circle is proportional to self-reported frequency of that state’s occurrence. Colored clusters of states arise from application of a community-detection algorithm – the names […]

Self-control as value-based choice

The usual way that laypeople and researchers alike think about self-control is as a battle between “hot” impulsive forces, such as craving, and “cold” calculating ones, such as a distant goal to be healthy. But research has not consistently supported that hot-cold dichotomy. For example, the hot and cold processes are not always opposed to one another during self-control, […]

Meditation reduces pain, and blocking opioid receptors makes that effect even stronger!

Describe your research and the big picture problem or puzzle it addresses. Over the last 10 years, a series of well-designed laboratory studies using pain induction and healthy meditation practitioners have shown that meditation can be helpful for dealing with pain. When meditators are given the same kind of stimulation and pain is compared before vs. […]

“Social pain?” Not in the brain

Describe your research and the big picture problem or puzzle it addresses. Rejection stings, right? The social pain hypothesis says that same biology for processing social exclusion also handles physical pain. Some evidence for this comes from fMRI studies of social exclusion finding that brain regions involved in social exclusion overlap with the regions that […]

How to ‘stress’ preschool aged children in a laboratory setting

Describe your research and the big picture problem or puzzle it addresses. Standardized laboratory paradigms that reliably ‘stress’ young children are few and far between. Effective ‘stressors’ are needed to study the effects of acute stress on children’s emotional and behavioural regulation as well as to index the functioning of children’s biological stress regulatory systems. […]

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in World Trade Center Responders

Describe your research and the big picture problem or puzzle it addresses. While many 9/11 World Trade Center First responders developed posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, the way that the symptoms presented differs across individuals. For example, some first responders had many of the classic symptoms of PTSD (e.g., hyperarousal, nightmares, depressed mood, and avoidance), […]

Do personalized Text Messages Help Smokers Quit?

Changing habits and behaviors is hard. We can all think of a time that we set a goal – cutting down on sweets, for example – and didn’t stick with it despite our best intentions. Quitting smoking is such a goal for many people. Specialized quitting programs can increase success, but those programs are not […]

Parenting an Early Adolescent: a Pilot Study Examining Neural and Relationship Quality Changes of a Mindfulness Intervention

Relationship between parents and their adolescent children are notoriously rocky, but research shows that a warm, caring parent-child bond can protect kids from problems during adolescence such as substance abuse, depression, and delinquency. That’s why it’s important to understand how parents can strengthen their relationships with their teenage kids. In this research, we studied whether […]