Psychological + Brain Sciences


Measures for Change in Community Mental Health Care

With two NIH grants totaling nearly $3 million, PBS clinical psychologist Cara Lewis will tackle two major issues in the effort to bring evidence-based treatment into community mental health centers.


On The Cover


In a new study, "The self-control consequences of political ideology," that appears in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conservatives showed a greater aptitude for certain aspects of self-control, performing better on tasks that test persistence and attention regulation.

Researchers in PBS and The Kinsey Institute studying postpartum depression have found that the hormone oxytocin increased activation in a reward-sensitive area of the brain when women viewed images of crying infants, but not when they viewed images of smiling ones. The researchers say oxytocin might spark the motivation to help an upset baby.



A $900,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development will fund one of the first basic science investigations into potential connections between fever and the relief of some symptoms of autism.

How does information spread? The question has preoccupied sociologists for decades; and it has been asked—and answered—in ways that explain a variety of phenomena: voting trends, migration patterns, labor strikes, innovation, rumors, riots, and more recently, why some Twitter hashtags go viral.

At the age of 97 , Professor Emeritus Richard Berry is a witness and participant in a history that most of us only know about second hand.

A Renaissance Remembered

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Student Life





Student Blog: Natalie Rodriguez-Quintana

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression and Anxiety

I have been interested in depression research since I was in high school, even submitting a proposal to determine its prevalence at my school to the science fair committee (unfortunately, it was rejected!). Given that so many people suffer from depression and anxiety, and a certain amount don’t respond to treatment, it became clear to me that I wanted to dedicate my time to figuring out ways to make mental health treatments more effective and readily available for community settings.


 meet     2015 HARLAN SCHOLARS

Five students who spent the summer conducting neuroscience research using animal models  zero in on problems related to behavior, disease, and fundamental processes that affect health and well-being.



High Fives on NSF Fellowships

A high five is in store for the unusually high number of students this year to receive NSF graduate fellowships. Five to be exact: Marlena Fraune whose advisor is Eliot Smith, Samuel Harding, who works with Bennett Bertenthal and Rich Shiffrin, Kathryn Kroeper, a student in the lab of Mary Murphy, Bradley Rogers, a member of David Landy’s lab, and Ayesha Sujan in the lab of Brian D’Onofrio.


Prenatal Predictability


Ayesha Sujan was always interested in early risk factors in infancy and early childhood that lead to future developmental problems. Now a member of the Developmental Psychopathology Lab of clinical science professor Brian D’Onofrio, she turns the clock back even farther to study the impact of inter-pregnancy intervals, fetal growth and birthweight. Genetically-informed designs that compare large samples of siblings and cousins will enable her to consider whether genetic and environmental factors may have contributed to the association between pre-birth phenomena and developmental issues.


Ayesha Sujan

Choreographing Social Attention


Samuel Harding turns his attention to the nonverbal make up of social interactions. His project straddles two labs—the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Lab of Bennett Bertenthal and the Memory and Perception Lab of Richard Shiffrin. He will use the high-density data, which tracks an individual’s gaze during a social interaction, to create models that explain some of the consistencies between individuals.


“We want to know what things direct our visual attention,” he says. “A lot of previous research has emphasized the face, but other things as well as reaching and other kinds of gestures can be important, too.”


An understanding of how these aspects of social cognition work, might ultimately shed light on instances where it doesn’t, as in cases of autism.




Sam Harding

Social Robots


Marlena Fraune is thinking ahead to a time in our future when we have everyday encounters with robots, not only individual robots, but groups of them, too. The two, it turns out, evoke different responses, leading to new questions about human-robot interaction, which she will explore as a member of the Socially Situated Cognition Lab of social psychologist Eliot Smith and the Cognitive Science Program.


A key concept in her research is “entitativity:” What kinds of robot behavior, appearance, or responses lead us to perceive them as a cohesive unit? What makes us like them more or less?



Marlena Fraune

Here’s a quick look at the projects of three of this year’s winners.

Join us for the 3rd annual PBS Alumni Recognition Event, which includes symposia, a poster session, alumni awards and banquet.

October 23rd, 2015




Staff Spotlights

Recognizing the hard work, expertise, and commitment of the people that make PBS great.




Her title is subject pool coordinator. But Misti Bennett, who arrived in June of 2014, coordinates more than subjects from her perch in the department’s main office. She practically directs traffic, especially at times when the demand is high, which is, well, most of the year. Her constant friendliness and outgoing manner put a great face on the department, and are no doubt a welcome sight for any newly arrived freshman.


As academic services coordinator Patricia Crouch explains, Bennett has taken on a large number of responsibilities “with great poise, professionalism, and humor.  She is one of those people, who gets the job done.  She’s tenacious and will investigate a situation until she can find an answer.”





A former college track star turned communications strategist/graphic designer, Mike Jackson was hired in November 2014, and quickly made an impact on all aspects of the department’s engagement with the PBS community. A highly creative designer with a great eye for photography, he has rapidly changed the look, feel, and frequency of PBS communications. Oh—and he also organizes several major events a year. An instant asset, Jackson has fast shown the department how lucky they are to have him on their team.


“His diligent work on the brain lighting event was awesome,” says education technology specialist Melissa Ritter, “and he is doing a great job increasing our social media presence.”






Caryl Brown began working in the business office at PBS part-time in 2007 and went full-time in 2009. Her primary job is purchasing, but she is also involved in the numerous other transactions in her office: consolidating procurement cards, entering payments for research participants, reimbursing the revolving fund for research, approving payment requests and closing purchase orders. Add to that “a positive attitude, a constant willingness to help, and a smile that brightens everyone’s day,” according to human resources coordinator Lana Fish. “Dependable, patient, friendly, Caryl does a fantastic job, doing everything needed to keep the department running smoothly,” says fiscal officer Elaine Parsley.