My scientific interest is in emotions, in understanding them at the experiential level and the physiological level. My work has primarily focused on a bereaved population, because of the wide-ranging emotional responses to this specific event. In particular, I am curious about the neurobiological, immune and autonomic parameters that vary between individual grief responses. Specifically, my techniques have included functional and structural neuroimaging, immune and endocrine analysis of saliva and blood, and psychophysiological assessment of heart rate variability. I am continually interested in novel ways to evoke emotion, especially grief, using personalized stimuli, reaction time paradigms, written emotional disclosure and virtual worlds.
I believe that a clinical science approach of the experience and physiology of grief can improve psychological treatment. This is most relevant to Complicated Grief, a disorder following bereavement that is marked by intense, persistent and prolonged symptoms. Yearning is the hallmark symptom of this disorder, and my work focuses on a deeper understanding of the causes and effects of this emotion at the psychological and physiological levels of analysis.