Miami Mood and Anxiety Lab

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 also started projects that investigate factors that might explain the high rates of co-occurrence of depression and social anxiety.

People

Jutta JoormannDirector, Jutta Joormann
Jutta Joormann is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology.  She received her doctoral degree from the Free University of Berlin and was an Assistant Professor at the Ruhr-University in Bochum in Germany.  In 2002 she was awarded a fellowship from the German Research Foundation to work at Stanford University.  Her main areas of interest include the identification of cognitive risk factors for depression, research on the comorbidity of anxiety and depression, and research on social anxiety disorder.  Her current work examines attention and memory processes in depression and how these are linked to rumination and emotion dysregulation.  In her work, she integrates a multitude of measures, including cognitive tasks, psychophysiological measures of stress reactivity and regulation, eye tracking, neuroendocrine assessments, genotying, and brain imaging.  She is currently an Associate Editor of Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Current Graduate Students

Kim ArditteKim Arditte
Kimberly Arditte is a second year graduate student in the Mood and Anxiety Lab.  She received her BA in psychology from Lafayette College in 2008.  Before coming to Miami, she was a research assistant at the National Center for PTSD/VA Boston Healthcare System in Boston, Massachusetts, where she worked on projects related to early web-based interventions for service members with PTSD and emotion regulation in veterans with unipolar depression.  Her current research interests focus on biased cognitive processes, such as attention, memory, and the interpretation of ambiguous information, as they relate to depression and social anxiety.  In her Master's Thesis, she is examining the effects of an attention-training paradigm on attention for positive and negative images using eye tracking, as well as subsequent emotional reactivity, using a combination of self-report and psychophysiological measures.
Catherine D'AvanzatoCatherine D'Avanzato
Catherine D'Avanzato is currently on internship at Brown University in the MIDAS outpatient psychiatry clinical research program.  She graduated from Northwestern University in 2005 and was a graduate student in the lab from 2007 to 2012.  Her research investigates the role of cognitive and biological processes in difficulties with emotion regulation among individuals with depression and anxiety disorders.  Her dissertation examined the relation between cognitive control and interpretation biases with the effectiveness of cognitive reappraisal, assessed by comparing self-reported mood and physiological indices from pre to post reappraisal while in a sad mood state.  She is also interested in identifying differences across depression and anxiety disorders in the use of particular emotion regulation strategies, in order to understand the influence of these strategies on the development and maintenance of these disorders.  On internship she is currently investigating the role of particular types of anxiety comorbidity on the clinical presentation and functioning of depressed outpatients.
Meghan QuinnMeghan Quinn
Meghan Quinn graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2006.  Her research focuses on examining the intersection of cognitive and biological processes that may contribute to both individual differences in stress responses and vulnerability to depression.  She is currently conducting a study that examines the effect of working memory training on subsequent stress reactivity.  She hopes to extend this work to investigate the effect of training on the use of emotion regulation strategies in individuals vulnerable to depression.
Michael VanderlindMichael Vanderlind
Michael received his B.S. in Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin in 2011.  Following graduation, he worked as a Project Coordinator in Dr. Chris Beevers' Mood Disorders Lab.  He joined Dr. Joormann's Mood and Anxiety Lab in the fall of 2012.  His research is broadly centered on the role of cognition in the etiology and maintenance of depression.  More specifically, his research aims at addressing why depressed individuals have difficulty down-regulating sustained negative affect and savoring positive affect.  Further, he hopes to explore how deficits in cognitive control and biases in automatic cognitive processes contribute to the ability to successfully regulate emotions during various mood states.  He hopes to utilize cognitive bias manipulation paradigms and neurobiological methodologies (e.g., EEG and fMRI) to investigate his research questions.

Former Graduate Students

Joelle LeMoultJoelle LeMoult
Joelle LeMoult received her doctoral degree from the University of Miami in 2012.  She is now an Assistant Professor at McMaster University and Psychologist at St. Joseph's Healthcare.  Her research integrates biological and cognitive factors to understand the onset and maintenance of depression and anxiety disorders.  More specifically, her research examines the interaction between information processing biases, emotion regulation strategies, and biological markers of stress reactivity and recovery.  In her work, she focuses on individuals with mood and/or anxiety disorders as well as those at genetic vulnerability to psychopathology.  A related line of her work aims to translate this knowledge to inform treatment of depression and anxiety.  Throughout her work, emphasis is given to using multiple methodologies, including psychophysiology, neuroendocrinology, genetics, eye tracking, experimental techniques, and cognitive paradigms.
Tanya TranTanya Tran
Tanya Tran is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.  She graduated with Honors from the University of Pennsylvania in 2004 and received her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Miami in 2012.  She recently completed her clinical internship at the Boston Consortium.  The primary goal of her research is to gain a better understanding of how basic cognitive processes and individual differences in emotion regulation (ER) increase vulnerability to, maintain, and hinder recovery from mood and anxiety disorders.  By examining cognitive factors which contribute to the onset and maintenance of depression, she also hopes to develop more effective treatment and prevention programs.  As such, she has studied the effectiveness of implicit positive interpretation training on memory and emotional vulnerability.  More recently, she has also begun to explore the impact of rumination via Facebook on emotional well-being following an interpersonal conflict.

Research Assistants

Sarah AlfonsoSarah Alfonso
Sarah Alfonso is a junior Psychology major at the University of Miami.  She is also a member of the University of Miami Equestrian Club and competes on the Equestrian Team.  Sarah currently devotes much of her time working at Good Hope Equestrian Training Center which specializes in equine therapy for people and children with mental and physical disabilities.  She plans to obtain her Ph.D. in Psychology and establish a career in equine assisted psychotherapy.
Kim BlumKim Blum
Kim Blum is a junior at the University of Miami, majoring in Psychobiology with minors in Chemistry and Sports Medicine.  Kim was born in Boca Raton, Florida and has spent her entire life in the Sunshine State.  After graduation in May 2013, she plans on attending medical school and is interested in becoming a psychiatrist.  She plays intramural basketball, tutors, and is involved in Category 5, the Spirit Programming Board for athletics.  Her current research interests include social anxiety, depression and mood regulation.
Selena CunkleSelena Cunkle
Selena Cunkle is a junior at the University of Miami majoring in psychology with a minor in marketing.  She is from Southern Connecticut.  In addition to working in the lab she also works for the University of Miami Motion Pictures Department as a secretary.  After her undergraduate degree she plans to enroll in a graduate school and fuse her backgrounds from psychology and the business end of marketing into a successful career in the field of industrial organizational psychology.  She enjoys spending her free time baking, running or watching reruns of "Law & Order".
Katherine KennedyKatherine Kennedy
Katherine Kennedy is a senior Psychology and Finance double major at the University of Miami.  She is on the executive board of Psi Chi and an active member of C.O.P.E. (Counseling Outreach Peer Education).  She is also a behavioral therapist in her free time, working with kids who have Autism.  Currently, she is working on her honors thesis.  Her future career plans include going to a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program and establishing her own private practice.
Suzanne LippmanSuzanne Lippman
Suzanne Lippman is an undergraduate junior Neuroscience major on the pre-med track at the University of Miami.  She is the Scholarship Chair of the Gamma Delta chapter of the Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, in addition to being a member of UM H.E.A.R.T.S.  Suzanne is also a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta, Gamma Sigma Alpha, and Golden Key Honor Societies.  Upon graduating in the spring of 2014, she plans to continue to medical school.
Grace MadsenGrace Madsen
Grace Madsen is a junior at the University of Miami with a major in Psychology and minors in Business Administration and Management.  She is a Peer Advising Liaison in the Undergraduate Academic Services for Psychology Department and enjoys working with undergraduates and helping them with the Psychology major.  In addition, she is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority, where she holds a leadership position, and is a student ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences.  She plans to eventually get her MBA in Human Resources.
Zohar PelegZohar Peleg
Zohar Peleg is a sophomore at the University of Miami, majoring in Psychology with a current minor in advertising.  She is from Aventura, Florida.  Zohar enjoys traveling all over the world, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.  She is on the executive board of C.O.P.E, the University's counseling center outreach program, a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society, a sister of the Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority, and an intern of the Holocaust Survivors Service Internship on campus.  Upon graduating in the spring of 2015, Zohar hopes to attend law school.
Frances Theresa SocashFrances Theresa Socash
Frances is a junior majoring in Psychology and International Studies.  She is from Pembroke Pines, Florida and is involved in UM Alternative Breaks, Strong Women Strong Girls, and Student Government.  She is also an Ambassador for the UM Alumni Association.  Upon graduation, Frances hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Chris SterwaldChris Sterwald
Chris Sterwald is a senior majoring in Neuroscience with minors in Criminology and Chemistry.  After completing his studies at the University of Miami, he plans to attend medical school to become a psychiatrist.  He is interested in how neurobiological and evolutionary factors may put one at risk for developing psychopathology, particularly personality disorders.  Chris works in the Undergraduate Academic Services for Psychology office as a Peer Advising Liaison and in Eaton Residential College as a Resident Assistant.  He also is a member of the Counseling Outreach Peer Education group at the Counseling Center and of the Dean's Ambassadors of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Teresa VargasTeresa Vargas
Teresa Vargas is a junior majoring in Psychology and English Literature with a minor in Biology.  In the future, she hopes to pursue doctoral studies in Clinical Psychology.

Collaborating Faculty

K. Lira YoonK. Lira Yoon
K. Lira Yoon is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maine.  She received her doctoral degree from Northwestern University in 2006 and worked as a post-doctoral Fellow in the Miami Depression and Anxiety Lab from 2006 to 2009.  Her main research interest is experimental psychopathology with an emphasis on anxiety and depression, particularly information processing in anxiety and depression.  Her other research interest includes emotion regulation, risk factors for anxiety and depression, and comorbidity of anxiety and depression.  Her current work examines interpretation and memory processes in depression and social anxiety and how these are linked to inhibition and interference control functions using multiple measures such as cognitive tasks, psychophysiological and neuroendocrine measures of stress reactivity and regulation.

Research Projects

Emotion regulation and biological stress response in depressed individuals (PI: Joelle LeMoult)
Stressful life events have been strongly associated with the onset and severity of major depressive disorder (MDD; Brown et al., 1994).  However, risk for MDD is not necessarily associated with the initial response to stress, but rather with difficulties regulating the subsequent emotional state (Flynn & Rudolph, 2007).  Rumination is one emotion regulation style that has been shown to be both a risk factor for depression and a mechanism that exacerbates psychological distress (Nolen-Hoeksema & Davis, 1999).  Much less is known, however, about the impact of rumination on individuals' biological recovery from stress. The current study investigates the impact of rumination on individuals' neuroendocrine and physiological recovery from stress.  This research may explain individual differences in the propensity to develop depression after a negative life event.
Stress reactivity: The role of genetic and cognitive factors (PI: Joelle LeMoult)
This NIMH-funded study combines cognitive and biological methods to examine factors that hinder recovery from stress among persons who are vulnerable to psychopathology but who have never experienced a mental illness.  One way that vulnerability has been defined is through a genetic predisposition.  The short allele of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) has been linked to a variety of psychopathology, including depression (Caspi et al., 2003).  We are currently examining three possible mechanisms that may underlie the association between allelic variation in 5-HTTLPR and prolonged negative affect following stress: 1. biological hyperreactivity to stress, 2. deficits in cognitive control, and 3. the use of maladaptive emotion regulation strategies.
Emotion Regulation in Depression: Investigating Mechanisms Underlying Reappraisal (PI: Catherine D'Avanzato)
Sustained negative affect is a hallmark feature of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and much evidence indicates that depression is associated with difficulties regulating negative emotions.  Whereas many studies have demonstrated an association between rumination and depression, less is known about depressed individuals' ability to effectively implement adaptive strategies, such as reappraisal.  Further, mechanisms underlying effective reappraisal are unclear.  Cognitive theories propose that biases in the processing of emotional material play a causal role in the sustained negative affect that characterizes the disorder; however, few studies have directly examined this proposition by investigating both cognitive biases and the effectiveness of emotion regulation strategies within the same study.  This study examines whether individuals with MDD exhibit reduced effectiveness of reappraisal in response to a laboratory mood induction compared to individuals without MDD.  Further, we investigate whether interpretive biases and deficits in cognitive control are related to individual differences in the effectiveness of reappraisal.  As reappraisal is a central aim of current cognitive-behavioral interventions for MDD, the results of this study may help to suggest new intervention targets to improve and expand on current interventions.
Research Assistants: Randi Franklin, Rebecca Gentsch, Katherine Kennedy, Sarah Alfonso
Affective Forecasting in Depression: The Effects of Rumination and Reappraisal (PI: Catherine D'Avanzato)
There is much evidence that people are inaccurate in predicting the impact of future situations on their emotions.  At the same time, affective forecasts have important implications for behavior, decision-making, and current mood and may play an important role in the maintenance of emotional disorders.  This study investigates two such factors.  We examine (1) whether affective forecasting differs as a function of depressive symptoms and (2) whether strategies people use to regulate their current affect influence their predictions of future emotional responses.  Results of this study will have important implications for theories of emotion regulation in depression and for treatment of depression.
Cognitive Biases and Emotional Reactivity: The Role of Individual Differences (PI: Kimberly Arditte)
Previous studies have proposed that biased attention for emotionally-valenced stimuli is related to increased emotional responsivity.  Yet it remains unclear whether attention causally contributes to emotional responding.  Recent research has begun to examine these relations by manipulating attentional biases with the use of attention training tasks.  This study looks to add to the extant body of literature by systematically examining the effects of an attention training task on attention to positive and negative stimuli, as well as on subjective, behavioral, and psychophysiological indices of emotion in response to stress within a sample of non-clinical undergraduate students.  Additionally, it looks to explore the moderating role of individual difference variables, including psychological symptoms and emotion regulation strategies, on the relations between attentional biases and subsequent emotional responding.
The Impact Bias in Self and Others: Understanding Affective Forecasting in Individuals with Social Anxiety (PI: Kimberly Arditte)
Affective forecasting is the ability to anticipate what one's emotional response to a given situation will be.  This is an important skill, as affective forecasts allow an individual to decide which goals should be pursued and which should be avoided.  Interestingly, research in this area indicates that, though individuals may often be able to predict the valence of their emotional response, they poorly predict the duration and/or intensity of such responses.  However, this effect appears to be more robust when forecasting responses to negative events (e.g., a romantic break-up), than responses to positive events (e.g., obtaining tenure).  The overestimation of future negative affect is referred to as the impact bias.  This two-part project seeks to examine affective forecasts among individuals with and without social anxiety.  In Study 1 we are examining differences in predicted reactions to a series of scenarios as a function of self-reported social anxiety symptoms.  Study 2 involves an experimental manipulation examining how social anxiety symptoms impact affective forecasts made prior to completing a cooperation-based task with another participant.
Mental Imagery and Information Processing (PI: Kimberly Arditte)
Research indicates that individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) demonstrate biased cognitive processing in domains such as memory, and that these biases contribute to the maintenance of depression symptoms.  Depression is associated with enhanced memory for negative information and may prevent negative affect associated with mood-congruent memories from fading over time.  Additionally, depression is associated with the inability to effectively repair one's mood through the recall of positive memories, perhaps because such memories are remembered too generally.  Attempting to elucidate the causal relations between biased cognitive processes and emotional reactivity, recent research has looked to modify cognitive biases using experimental paradigms.  Yet, to date, there has been little work examining the modification of memory biases within MDD.  This study is examining whether training individuals diagnosed with MDD to recall detailed and vivid positive autobiographical memories affects subsequent emotional responsivity.
Working Memory Training and Stress Reactivity (PI: Meghan Quinn)
Executive control describes a set of cognitive abilities that are related to self-regulatory abilities such as managing emotion and behavior in a goal-directed manner (Blair & Ursache, 2011; Fuster, 2002).  Executive control has been shown to decline immediately following a stressor (Schoofs, et al., 2008) and lasting deficits in executive control have been implicated as a deleterious consequence of stressful life events (Pechtel & Pizzagalli, 2011).  These studies demonstrate a clear relation between executive control and stress, specifically that stress can alter executive control.  Little research, however, has focused on how individual differences in executive control are related to the ability to manage a stressful situation.  To establish this relation, this research will determine whether executive control training, using a working memory task, will influence responses to stressful events.  This research may help explain the role of executive control in emotion regulation abilities during stressful situations.
Reappraisal in Depression: Cognitive and Physiological Correlates (PI: Meghan Quinn)
Individual differences in the use of emotion regulation strategies are proposed to play a critical role in the onset and maintenance of psychological disorders.  Previous research on the use of emotion regulation strategies shows that depression is associated with the use of maladaptive strategies and difficulties using adaptive strategies such as reappraisal (Garnefsky & Kraaij, 2006).  Reappraisal is an emotion regulation strategy that is intended to decrease the emotional impact of a situation by altering how one thinks about the situation (Gross, 2002).  Reappraisal requires cognitive effort, but is associated with several measures of well-being including increased positive emotions and decreased negative emotions (Gross & John, 2003).  The purpose of this research is to investigate the association between depression and the ability to successfully use reappraisal to regulate emotions.  This research will also investigate the cognitive and physiological implications of reappraisal use.

Participate

Do you want to participate in our studies?  Call us at (305) 284-4917 or email the Miami Mood and Anxiety Lab at mood@psy.miami.edu.

We thank you for your help!

Contact

Miami Mood and Anxiety Lab
Psychology Department, University of Miami
5665 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Coral Gables, FL
Phone: (305) 284-4917
Email: mood@psy.miami.edu

University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology