The overall, long-term goal of much of our work is to understand the basic neurobiological mechanisms that are altered in serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, which give rise to some of the core symptoms of these disorders (e.g. delusions, depression, and social dysfunction). The central hypothesis tested in our studies is that these symptoms emerge from disruptions of processes supporting emotional function and/or social cognition. Thus, to test this model, we have conducted studies in a range of populations examining emotional memory mechanisms and also perceptual processes that represent “basic building blocks” of affective and social functions. Examples of our recent work are summarized below.
Medial Temporal Lobe & Salience Networks in Schizophrenia
Fear and Extinction Learning & Memory
Recent studies in our lab aim to identify the mechanisms underlying changes in salience detection/fear inhibition that may generate or contribute to psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia. Studies using a Pavlovlian fear conditioning and extinction paradigm showed that patients with schizophrenia exhibit abnormalities in context-dependent extinction memory or "safety signaling." Impaired safety signaling may give rise to delusions in these patients.
Higher-Level and Lower-Level Social Cognition