Research Projects

The lab’s primary research goal is to gain a better understanding of how basic cognitive processes and individual differences in emotion and mood regulation increase the risk for the onset of depression and anxiety disorders, and hinder recovery from these disorders. We are currently working on a number of projects that integrate psychological and biological risk factors and investigate the role of attention, memory, and emotion regulation in the onset and maintenance of depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. We have also started projects that investigate factors that might explain the high rates of co-occurrence of depression and social anxiety.
To hear Dr. Joormann talk about our work, check out this video from the Experts in Emotion series.
  • Neurobiological markers of familial risk for depression among youth in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study (PI: Bailey Holt-Gosselin)

    Family history of depression is a robust predictor of early-onset depression, which may confer risk through alterations in reward- and emotion-related neural circuitry. These alterations may be evident in youth who are at familial risk for depression but who do not currently have depression. However, the identification of robust and replicable findings has been hindered by few studies and small sample sizes. Thus, this study seeks to identify neural circuit patterns associated with familial risk for depression in a large youth sample. Participants include healthy (i.e., no lifetime psychiatric diagnoses) youth at high familial risk for depression (HR) and healthy youth at low familial risk for psychiatric problems (LR) who were 9 to 10 years of age and from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study sample. We aim to identify neural circuit differences between HR and LR youth. Additionally, we aim to ascertain neural circuit patterns at ages 9-10 that predict subsequent depression symptoms at ages 11-12, and whether the FC patterns that predict subsequent depression symptoms in youth depend on familial risk status. The identification of robust brain-based signatures of risk and resilience are critical for developing targeted and neurobiologically-informed approaches to prevention and interventions for depression. If you would like to get involved, email your CV and briefly describe your interest/research experience to

  • Early life stress and perceptual decision-making (PI: Jessica Duda)

    The purpose of this work is to examine the association between exposure to early life stress, especially unpredictable threats, and perception of threat in the environment. We also seek to investigate whether altered threat-related perceptual decision-making is associated with internalizing symptoms (depression, anxiety) among people exposed to early life adversity.

  • Deficits in Belief Updating as a Mechanism Underlying Social Anxiety and Depression and the Interplay Between these Disorders (PI: Reut Zabag) 

    The aim of the current research is to understand the role of belief updating in the temporal unfolding of social anxiety and depression. I am also interested in understanding the role of belief updating in moderating the relationship between these disorders. If you are interested in getting involved, please email your CV to:

  • Evaluating the Reliability and Convergent Validity of Various Belief Updating Measures (PI: Reut Zabag) 

    The aim of the study is to assess the reliability and convergent validity of various measures of belief updating. If you are interested in getting involved, please email your CV to:

  • Interpretation Updating Under Threat: The relation between flexibility and stress exposure (PI: Wisteria Deng)

    This project explores the relation between interpretation flexibility and psychiatric symptoms (e.g., depression, state anxiety and paranoia) under acute stress exposure, specifically the anticipation of threat.

  • Examining Interpretation and Impression Updating: Associations with Affective and Psychotic Symptoms (PI: Wisteria Deng) 

    This project focuses on character impression updating that occurs alongside interpretation revisioning, specifically examining whether the inflexibility in interpreting individual social encounters relates to difficulties updating character impressions.

  • Understanding Flexibility in Revising Social Interpretations and Implementing Emotion Regulation Strategies: Associations with Positive and Negative Affect, and Psychiatric Symptoms (PI: Wisteria Deng)

    Interpretation revisioning in real world is a dynamic process influenced by a wide range of interpersonal factors. Utilizing the EMA method, this study explores interpretation revisioning in real life, especially how such flexibility relates to daily affect changes. In addition, this project examines emotion regulation flexibility, that shares the same underlying cognitive process with interpretation flexibility (e.g., abandoning existing beliefs to endorse new decisions) and has been linked with less symptoms and greater positive affect.

  • Stress reactions in the lab vs. COVID-19 related-stress reactions in depression and pregnancy (PI: Reuma Gadassi Polack)

    In the last three years our lab has conducted a study that examines if reactions to social stress in the lab during pregnancy is related to depression on the one hand, and to attention to infant and adult distress. We are currently in the process of contacting women who participated in that study and assessing the degree to which the current COVID-19 crisis is impacting their well-being and their parenting. We hope to identify factors which of the factors we assess in the lab predict functioning and well-being during real-life stressful situation.

  • Children and Adolescents’ daily emotional and social reactions during the COVID-19 crisis (PI: Reuma Gadassi Polack)

    Last year we recruited 138 children and adolescents (age 8-15) from the New Haven county area who completed daily surveys for 21 days on their emotions, emotion-regulation strategies, social interactions with family members and friends, eating behaviors, and depressive symptoms. We are now in the process of asking these youth to participate in another, 28-day long, daily assessments of the same variables. We hope to see how the current crisis and changed social situation (less time with friends, additional time with immediate family) impacts children and adolescents’ mental health.

  • Depression history, emotion regulation, and parenting in times of COVID-19 crisis (PI: Reuma Gadassi Polack)

    Parents of school-aged children are facing a particularly complex situation: They need to parent 24/7, many times they need to work, other times they face financial hardship, and of course there are health concerns, and sometimes sickness. To try and understand how to best help parents, we’re assessing how parental depression history (or lack thereof) and parental emotion regulation, together with childrens’ number and ages, as well as the pressure of work right now, are impacting parents’ well-being and their parenting style at this time.

  • Attention, emotion regulation, and depression during pregnancy (PI: Reuma Gadassi Polack)

    Pregnancy is a time of change both physically and mentally. Studies have shown that during pregnancy women exhibit increased attention to infant-related stimuli. This increased attention likely contributes to higher maternal sensitivity and to more secure mother-child attachment. However, pregnancy is also a time of increased risk for depression; in fact, depression during pregnancy is as likely as postpartum depression, and it has effect on the mother, the baby, and their relationship. In the context of attention, studies show that pregnant women who suffer from depression show diminished attention to infant related stimuli. The present study uses advance eye-tracking methods and hormonal assessment to learn about attentional processes during pregnancy and to better understand how the ability to regulate one’s emotions might modulate the effect of depression.

  • Emotion dysregulation in children of mothers with depression (PI: Reuma Gadassi Polack)

    Children whose mothers have a history of depression (vs. mothers with no depression history) are at increased risk for a variety of emotional and social problems, including increased risk for internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. One plausible mechanisms that underlies this increased risk is emotional dysregulation, which is a combination of irregular emotional reactivity combined with use of maladaptive emotion regulation strategies. These difficulties in emotion dysregulation are likely particularly problematic in the context of social interactions, where they could lead to increased interpersonal difficulties (e.g., more conflicts, more avoidance), or to increased reactivity to social situations (e.g., presenting with more depressive symptoms following social rejection). The present study is a multimethod assessment, combining functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and experience-sampling methodologies (daily surveys) that aims to see how youth at high (vs. low) risk respond to social situations in the lab (using fMRI) and in everyday life.