Our work addresses four broad questions:

  • How does the brain regulate our cardiovascular and autonomic nervous systems during stressful experiences?
  • How do our cardiovascular and autonomic nervous systems influence the function and structure of our brains?
  • Are there particular patterns of brain function or structure that relate to our risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease?
  • How might socioeconomic disadvantage impact the brain?

By addressing these questions, our ultimate goal is to expand our understanding of the neurobiological pathways linking stress and other biopsychosoical factors to our physical health.

Right now, we are conducting NIH funded research to test whether stressor-evoked neural activity predicts the longitudinal progression of preclinical atherosclerosis over several years among midlife adults. If so, this would provide new prospective evidence linking stress-related neural activity to cardiovascular disease risk.

We are also conducting research on the neurobiology of social health disparities, with a focus on disparities patterned by socioeconomic status. This work is motivated by prominent socioeconomic disparities in cardiovascular disease that appear to be widening. Our hope is that findings from this line of research will advance our understanding of how particular brain systems might link socioeconomic disadvantage to cognitive, behavioral, psychological, and physiological factors that promote physical disease risk.

Current lab funding: "Neurobiological Pathways Linking Stress and Emotion to Atherosclerosis," 2 NHLBI R01 089850; "Personalized Predictive Neuromarkers for Stress-Related Health Risks," NSF 1557572 (DMS).