UCLA Laboratory for Clinical and Affective Psychophysiology
Our research examines neurocognitive, emotional, and interpersonal processes during the early or prodromal phase, initial course, and chronic phase of schizophrenia. Although there is substantial evidence of genetic liability or risk for schizophrenia, determining the genetic basis for the disorder has proved to be elusive. Along with other investigators, we are attempting to identify neurocognitive and affective abnormalities that reflect central and autonomic nervous system dysfunction which, in turn, may indicate vulnerability or genetic risk for schizophrenia. In addition to identifying vulnerability or risk factors, we are studying the contribution of stress and emotional reactivity to the expression and course of schizophrenia. Our goal is to identify processes that lead from vulnerability for the illness to an episode of schizophrenia. The methods that we use include 128-channel dense array recordings to examine event-related brain potential (ERP) and EEG activity, psychophysiological measures of heart rate activity, electrodermal activity, the startle eye blink reflex and the post auricular reflex, measures of neuroendocrine response as well as interview and behavioral measures of clinical symptoms, life stress, and coping.
We also study depression, anxiety, and their comorbidity. Both cognition and emotion are disrupted in these disorders, and interest is growing in cognition-emotion relationships and how disruptions in one domain may contribute problems in the other domain. In turn, interventions focused on one domain may benefit the other. Large fMRI and dense-array EEG data sets help us to identify functional connectivity disruptions among brain regions important in executive function and emotion regulation. These data are complemented by traditional structured diagnostic interviews and by carefully selected dimensional measures of trait affect and psychopathology.