Identifying Biomarkers of Disinhibition. Impulse control deficits and poor self-regulation are core features of a diverse array of harmful behaviors (aggression, substance use, risky sexual behavior) and mental disorders (antisocial personality disorder, PTSD, externalizing disorders) that increase risk for premature death and poor health outcomes. We are working on identifying neurobiological mechanisms that support adaptive inhibitory control in healthy populations and how these regulatory processes go awry in clinical samples. The goal of this work is to better understand the neural architecture of impulse control deficits across different forms of psychopathology and to clarify how the neural processes supporting inhibition interact with other cognitive, motivational, and emotional systems.
Investigating Risk for Self-Directed & Other-Directed Violence. Whether it is directed toward the self or at other people, violence is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Despite growing awareness of the scope of the problem and efforts to increase access to treatment, these behaviors have proven highly challenging to predict, and therefore, prevent. Our research seeks to discover novel markers of risk for suicide-related behaviors (self-harm, suicide attempts) and violent outcomes (angry outbursts, proactive aggression) by combining information across multiple levels of analysis (biological, cognitive-affective, personality, and environmental). The goal of this research is to advance the science of violence prevention by developing risk assays that enhance the early identification of at-risk individuals.
Validating a New Measure of Risky, Impulsive, & Self-destructive Behavior (the RISQ). In collaboration with Dr. Baskin-Sommers at Yale University, we have developed a new self-report measure that assesses a variety of harmful behaviors as well as different (approach/ avoidance) motivations for engaging in these behaviors. We are actively conducting research to validate and further develop the RISQ, including assessment in diverse populations (criminal offenders, college students, psychiatric patients), identifying subtypes based on motivational patterns, and exploring the psychobiological correlates of risky self-destructive behaviors. The goal of this research is to develop a tool that can be used by a wide variety of researchers and service providers interested in assessing and studying high-risk behaviors.
Examining Chronic Emotional & Behavioral Dysregulation in Adulthood. Sustained difficulties with emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and behavioral control are common across different forms of psychopathology, including externalizing traits, antisocial and borderline personality disorders, psychopathy, & PTSD. In addition to causing significant distress and functional impairment, these disorders have proven difficult to treat, partly due to a lack of understanding of the cognitive, affective, and environmental variables that maintain symptoms overtime. Research in the lab aims to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms (cognition-emotion interactions, personality traits, biological vulnerabilities) that contribute to these disorders and their associated features (e.g., emotional lability, impulsivity, stress reactivity).