UCLA Laboratory for Clinical and Affective Psychophysiology

PhD students and postdocs in our lab share in an exceptionally large and diverse community of psychopathologists at UCLA and have access to a variety of methods and research agendas in our lab. Our primary line of 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, identifying genetic contributions to the disorder has proved to be elusive. Along with other investigators, we are attempting to identify neurocognitive and affective abnormalities, such as problems in executive function and emotion regulation, 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 dense-array EEG recordings to examine event-related brain potential (ERP) and EEG oscillatory activity, MRI measures of cortical connectivity, measures such as heart rate activity, measures of neuroendocrine response, and interview and behavioral measures of clinical symptoms, life stress, and coping.

Although schizophrenia is our primary focus, we also work with available data sets on brain mechanisms in 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.