Emotion in neurodegenerative disease

Social and emotional changes are common yet poorly understood features of neurodegenerative disease. The primary diseases that we study are frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Alzheimer's disease, diseases that target distinct neural networks. In FTD, behavioral changes are core symptoms and occur early in the disease course while in Alzheimer's disease, social functioning and emotion may be spared until the late stages of disease.

We currently have two NIH-funded projects that investigate how emotions and social behavior change in FTD (R01AG052496) and Alzheimer’s disease (R01AG057204). In these studies we use a laboratory-based approach to identify how alterations in emotion relate to neural network dysfunction and behavioral symptoms.



Socioemotional behavior in neurodevelopmental disorders

In collaboration with the UCSF Dyslexia Center, and UCSF Psychiatry Department, we are conducting a study of emotions in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. The current goal of these studies is to assess emotional functioning in dyslexia and autism spectrum disorders and to relate our laboratory measures of emotion to affective and behavioral symptoms.


Emotions in healthy aging

As we age, there is evidence that our emotional lives may change for the best. We are conducting studies of healthy older adults to determine how emotions impact aging and health trajectories.


Neurobiology of emotions

Emotions imbue meaning in our everyday lives, signaling to us when we should distance ourselves from danger or approach a friendly face. One central question of our research is how the brain produces the changes in physiology and facial expression that accompany different emotions. We use multiple methods to investigate the neurobiological infrastructure of emotion generation and autonomic nervous system physiology.