Psychology Division Research

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Jennifer Blackford, Ph.D.

The Blackford lab is working to identify and characterize the neurobiological bases of anxiety vulnerability and anxiety disorders. Spanning genetics, neuroimaging, and behavioral studies, the lab examines individuals with heightened emotional reactivity and deficits in emotion regulation to understand risk of anxiety disorders. We are also examining the role of anxiety circuitry in other disorders including schizophrenia and alcohol use disorders. By characterizing the neurocircuitry associated with anxiety vulnerability, Dr. Blackford hopes to develop new prevention and intervention strategies for high-risk individuals and new treatments for anxiety.


Carissa Cascio, Ph.D.

The Cascio lab focuses on the brain basis of sensory processing differences in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. The lab uses MRI and EEG to try to understand why children with autism often show unexpected responses to touch, sight, and sound. Dr. Cascio focuses especially on the emotional aspect of these sensory responses (i.e., extreme fascination or aversion) and how interactions between sensory and limbic brain systems may contribute to them.


Blythe Corbett, Ph.D.

Dr. Corbett is the director of the Social Emotional NeuroScience Endocrinology (SENSE) lab, a translational research program that aims to evaluate the socioemotional responsivity of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The SENSE lab uses several methods of analysis including sophisticated behavioral observational techniques, functional neuroimaging, and the assessment of biological markers of emotional arousal or stress, such as cortisol. The ultimate goal of these interwoven studies of peer interaction, play, and psychosocial stress is to directly translate into novel treatments.



  Ariel Y. Deutch, Ph.D.

The Deutch lab focuses its efforts on the involvement of dopamine systems in neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and Parkinson’s Disease. This dual focus is based on the belief that advances in unraveling pathophysiology or treatment strategies for one disorder will illuminate processes in the other. A variety of approaches, ranging from anatomical and pharmacological to proteomic analyses are employed in order to obtain a better understanding of the systems involved. 



Lawrence Gaines, Ph.D.

Dr. Gaines has an academic and clinical interest in the relationship between mood disorder and chronic disease. He is particularly interested in Crohn’s Disease, a chronic bowel condition characterized by episodes of exacerbation and remission. His epidemiological research focuses on the critical relationship between depressive symptoms and exacerbation of Crohn’s disease. He collaborates with gastroenterology epidemiologists in the national internet-based CCFAPartners study, a longitudinal study of patient-reported inflammatory bowel diseases. He is also engaged in developing a population-based cohort of Crohn’s Disease patients in the mid-South for representative studies of depressive symptom networks, phenotype analysis of Crohn’s disease and biologic and psychosocial mediators of the link between comorbid depression and Crohn’s Disease.


Lindsey McKernan, Ph.D.

Dr. McKernan is a clinical health psychologist and researcher at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine focusing on patient-centered outcomes research in chronic pain and central sensitivity syndromes. Currently she is working in collaboration with the department of Urologic Surgery to develop patient-centered self-management interventions for bladder pain disorders. Through her “Life Experiences, Emotion, and Pain (LEEP)” project, Dr. McKernan is also assessing the impact of trauma, early life adversity, and emotion regulation styles on the experience of pain. She also has strong expertise in clinical hypnosis and is evaluating the efficacy of a structured group hypnosis intervention for pain control.


Julia Sheffield, Ph.D.

Dr. Sheffield is a clinical psychologist whose research focuses on the cognitive, psychological, and neurobiological basis of psychotic disorders. Her research uses a variety of techniques, including functional neuroimaging, graph theory, behavioral tasks, and clinical assessment to understand cognitive and thinking alterations in individuals who experience psychosis. Dr. Sheffield aims to leverage discoveries in the cognitive and neural basis of psychosis to improve treatment of psychotic symptoms.


Mary Elizabeth Wood, Ph.D.

Dr. Wood is a forensic psychologist with broad research interests that fall at the intersection of psychology and the legal system. In addition to a general interest in forensic evaluations of adjudicative competence and mental state at the time of the offense (e.g., the relationships between and among variables in predicting and understanding psycholegal deficits and insanity defense criteria), her recent research focuses on outcomes for defendants adjudicated incompetent to proceed by the courts. Ideally, this research will help to inform and evaluate various methods to address the needs of this population. Dr. Wood has a specific interest in the appropriate identification, assessment, and treatment of individuals with intellectual disability (ID) who have become involved in the legal system, with the goal of improving outcomes for this subset of defendants. In a separate but related area, Dr. Wood has strong clinical and research interests in forensic mental health evaluations in the death penalty context, including Atkins and capital mitigation evaluations and the process by which this information is interpreted by fact-finders in the courtroom.


Neil D. Woodward, Ph.D.

Dr. Woodward's research focuses on the neural basis of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism.  His uses a variety of approaches, including  functional neuroimaging and psychological testing, to investigate the brain.  For more details, visit the Woodward lab at