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CSEA RESEARCH PROJECTS

CSEA basic projects address critical questions on the nature of affective stimulus processing (see the "Publications" section), ranging across the broad spectrum of psychological, social, and bio-behavioral issues. Research at the Center is both individual and collaborative, but all projects find an audience and are discussed weekly at Center meetings. There is much variety of method and ideas behind the different projects, but also a frequent testing of parallel hypotheses. CSEA investigators share a consensus view that mammalian survival circuits are the neural foundations of motivation and emotion.

All the work has relevance for mental health. Emotional dysfunction is characteristic of almost all 'functional' psychopathology from neurosis (e.g., dysthymia, anxiety disorders) and substance abuse to psychopathy and psychosis (e.g., depression and schizophrenia). Advances in the assessment and treatment of these disorders depend on progress in basic emotion research. That is, insight into basic mechanisms in emotion is fundamental to the scientific understanding of emotion's pathology. The Center's translational focus is on anxiety and mood disorders. Current projects with patient participants aim to define biomarkers that could better determine diagnostic distinctions among mood disorders, illuminate diathesis, and provide more precise targets for treatment. Methods include assessment of central neural function (fMRI, EEG), autonomic and somatic reflex activation in the context of narrative imagery and affective picture processing. All patients are evaluated by a structured diagnostic interview and saliva samples are taken for genetic analysis. Because the Center includes a clinical facility, new paradigms that show translational promise with sub-clinical populations can be more readily explored in the clinical arena.

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