Research Interests

I am a member of both the Behavioral Neuroscience and Cognitive Psychology programs, and serve as the Psychology Department’s Director of Graduate Studies.  I am also affiliated with the Curriculum in Neurobiology. Several years ago I was honored to receive the Distinguished Teaching Award for Post-Baccalaureate Instruction for my efforts to help students achieve their potential as researchers and teachers.

The sense of touch is really a whole family of senses, including the ability to detect mechanical stimuli, like pressure and vibration; the ability to perceive warmth and cold; and pain. In the Somatosensory Research Lab, we take a comprehensive approach, experimentally examining these components of touch and the ways in which they work together.

The Lab’s current emphasis is on factors that influence pain, because chronic pain is a major public health problem that affects more than 100 million people in the U.S. alone, involves annual costs of more than $600 billion, and in most cases cannot be adequately treated with drugs alone.  Our experiments use computer-controlled mechanical, thermal, and cognitive stimuli to elicit and modulate mild-to-moderate experimental pain, which we track online and subject to quantitative analysis.  This research has both basic and applied goals:  We want to understand how pain messages are processed by the nervous system, and use this understanding to develop non-pharmacological methods of reducing pain.

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