Background Image

Research Team

Our research group, led by Robert Levenson, Ph.D, seeks to understand the nature of human emotion in terms of its physiological manifestations, variations associated with age, gender, culture and clinical pathology, and the role emotion plays in interpersonal interactions.


Robert W. Levenson works in the areas of human psychophysiology and affective neuroscience, both of which involve studying the interplay between psychological and physiological processes. Much of his work focuses on the nature of human emotion, in terms of its physiological manifestations, variations in emotion associated with age, gender, culture, and pathology, and the role emotion plays in interpersonal interactions. Dr. Levenson's research group is currently focusing primarily on two major projects: a study of emotion and normal aging and a study of the impact of neurodegenerative diseases on emotional functioning, both supported by grants from the National Institute of Aging.

Kuan-Hua Chen

Kuan-Hua Chen’s research aims to understand how emotional functioning changes in healthy aging and age-related neurodegenerative diseases including dementia and Parkinson’s disease, the neurobiological underpinnings of these changes, and the pathway via which emotional impairments in one person undermine the health and well-being of their loved ones such as spousal caregivers. He received a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Iowa in 2015. He is a recipient of an NIA Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00). He is originally from Taipei, Taiwan. When not doing research, he enjoys cooking, listening to Classical and Jazz music, and playing with his two daughters.

 You can view his personal website here.


Claire Yee is interested in studying the biological underpinnings of, and emotional mechanisms that support different kinds of close relationships. She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Arizona State University while studying friendships as attachment relationships and the emotions supporting relationship bonds. Before joining our team, she was a post-doctoral research fellow at Northwestern University examining emotions and parent-youth relationships in youth at risk for developing psychosis.


Casey Brown received her PhD in clinical science from UC Berkeley, and completed her clinical internship at UCSF. She studies interpersonal emotional processes in connection with mental and physical health across the lifespan, with a particular focus on aging dyads. She is currently funded through a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute on Aging. Her research in the Berkeley Psychophysiology Lab aims to understand how empathic processes go awry in neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders in ways that negatively influence close relational partners.

 You can view her personal website here.


Julian Scheffer's research examines the rewards and costs of social emotions like empathy and compassion. Previously, he was focused on how perceiving mental effort costs with both empathy and compassion associated with motivational deficits with engaging in these emotional processes. Moving into the BPL, he is hoping to explore how deficits with social emotions impact patients with neurodegenerative diseases and their caregivers, as well as whether awareness (or lack thereof) of any such deficits relates to caregiver mental health and patient mortality. Julian previously received his M.A. from University of Iowa, and his Ph.D. from Penn State University.

 You can view his personal website here.


Scott Newton is the lab manager for the Berkeley Psychophysiology Lab. He contributes to the collection and coding of data, facilitates communication between lab members, collaborators, and participants, tests experimental stimuli and equipment, and helps prepare datasets for research publications. Scott is experienced in facial and behavior coding and serves as an instructor to students and staff members in physiological measurement and processing. He is skilled in working with individuals with dementia and suicidal ideation. Scott received his B.A. in Psychology from Cal State Fullerton.


Deepak is the lab technician.


Darius joined the laboratory staff in the fall of 2018 after obtaining a BA in Psychology from UC Berkeley. He previously worked as an undergraduate research assistant as a facial expression coder (EEB) in BPL prior to his staff appointment. As a staffer, Darius assists in the experimental process including data generation and data processing. Darius has broad psychological interests, including attachment theory, sport psychology, caregiver research, and mental health intervention.


During her undergraduate studies at Berkeley, Enna worked in the laboratories of Drs. Dacher Keltner and Iris B. Mauss, studying emotion, culture, and well-being. At BPL, she assists with multiple investigations that examine how individual differences (e.g., aging, neurological disorders) influence emotion and relationships, along with the associated health consequences. Broadly speaking, Enna's research interests are life-span developmental and cultural differences on important emotional processes and the downstream consequences for relationships, well-being, and health. Outside of the academic world, Enna is a classically trained jazz vocalist, a lousy but enthusiastic chef, and an inspired explorer of nature.


As an undergraduate, Diana volunteered at the Design for Equity Lab where she helped to research and implement into her classrooms and that of 8 other instructors an adaptive equity-oriented pedagogy. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Diana volunteered at the Berkeley Psychophysiology Lab where she helped to clean data, code conflict conversations, contact participants, and audit lab materials. As a staffer, Diana helps to oversee the pronoun coding team, assists with remote emotion assessments, and works on various other projects going on in the lab. Diana dreams of pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology where she hopes to research the impact of psychopathology on the caretaking responsibilities of parents. In her free time, Diana likes to cook, play the ukulele, and swim.


Jenna Wells is a sixth year doctoral candidate in the Clinical Science program. She received her B.S. in clinical psychology & environmental studies from Tufts University and later worked as a research coordinator within the Neurological Clinical Research Institute at MGH. She is interested in identifying risk factors that are associated with individual differences in health outcomes for caregivers of patients with neurodegenerative disease. Her dissertation evaluates the emotional quality of the patient-caregiver relationship, and how this relates to caregivers' health - both concurrently (during caregiving) and longitudinally (after caregiving has ended). 


Suzie Shdo is a fourth year doctoral student in the Clinical Science program. She majored in Biology at Chapman University, and received her Master of Public Health with an emphasis in Epidemiology and Mental Health from Boston University. Suzie’s research interests include the relationship between attention and emotional processes in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. She is also interested in studying the psychiatric symptoms in patients with neurodegenerative diseases.


Breanna Bullard is a second year doctoral student in the Clinical Science program. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Wichita State University and her M.A. in Psychology from Boston University. Her previous research focused on the electrophysiology of specific cognitive functions and how these brain-behavior relationships vary in older adults and adults with mood disorders. Currently, she is interested in the impact of neurodegenerative diseases on emotional functioning for persons with dementia, and how these changes in emotional functioning affect the biopsychosocial well-being of their familial caregivers.


Sonia's research focuses on fried chicken and how to eat them. She actively participates in virtual lab meetings and contribute her beauty and fluffiness to our team. Outside of her dedicated career at BPL, Sonia enjoys sleeping, staring out of the window, and eating human food (especially fried chicken).


Lindon hails from Utah. He is a leaf- and rock-eating fluff ball of cuddles and love. Outside of chasing his owners around their backyard, Lindon researches the effects of long walks and car rides on relationship satisfaction.


Alice Hua graduated from the Clinical Science program at UC Berkeley. She received her B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley and previously worked at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center. Alice is interested in (1) neuro-physiological, behavioral, and subjective processes that promote emotional responding and empathy and (2) how characterizing disruptions to these processes can help us understand illness in neurodegenerative diseases and vulnerability to poor health in familial caregivers of these patients.


After working with the lab as an undergraduate researcher, Clarissa joined UCBPL as a staff member in the Spring of 2019 after obtaining a B.S in Psychology from UC Berkeley. She held a fluid role in the lab leading several teams of undergraduate researchers, contributing to data collection and assisting in data organization and analysis.


Dyan Connelly obtained her Ph.D. in Clinical Science from UC Berkeley. She received her B.A. from St. Joseph’s College, NY. Dyan is interested in understanding the nature of interpersonal processes as they occur in romantic relationships, and how the reciprocal influences between such relationships and behavior, emotions, and well-being unfold over time. Her current research examines the relationship between connectedness and well-being in spousal caregivers of dementia patients, as well as factors that protect against loss of connectedness in patient-caregiver dyads over time (i.e., disease type, patient functioning, caregiver characteristics).

Ana Fonseca

Ana Fonseca is a post-doctoral alumni in the Berkeley Psychophysiology Laboratory. Ana does research on health, emotions, regulation, and close relationships. Through intrapersonal and interpersonal statistical techniques, she is interested in advancing research on how partners continuously exchange, influence, and respond to one another’s emotions over time during the presence of an illness and in times of wellness for one or both partners. These intertwined mechanisms thus, lead to changes to health (mental, behavioral, and physical) that are significantly important to the general public but also for developing effective and targeted interventions that focus on family systems (e.g., caregiver/patient) rather than just the individual. Research in this domain is important for understanding how people can reduce the onset of an illness but also inform what individuals can do in their daily lives to increase healthy quality lifestyles and relationships as they age.


Jocelyn assisted in conducting experimental lab sessions examining emotional functioning in patients with dementia and their caregivers. She facilitated caregiver participation in the study, and monitored the acquisition of autonomic physiological and behavioral data. Other responsibilities included processing physiological data for statistical analysis, and communicating with the lab manager and technician any concerns observed during research sessions. Jocelyn has also organized training sessions for newly recruited research associates and assistants in the collection of physiological data, and has co-authored lab training manuals. Jocelyn’s research interests broadly include emotion regulation and mindfulness. Jocelyn has received her B.A in both Psychology and Social Welfare from the University of California, Berkeley.

Mackenzie Zisser


Michaela Simpson is a doctoral candidate in the Clinical Science program at UC Berkeley. She received her B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University and her M.A. in Somatic Psychology from the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. Formerly an observer of the behavior of nations, Michaela now observes the behavior of humans. Her research focuses on the effects of neurodegenerative diseases on emotional functioning. Current research pursuits include the study of emotion recognition across multiple sensory modalities and its relationship to behavior, brain, and culture. In addition, she is investigating how neurodegenerative diseases impact intimacy and sexuality in marital relationships and spouse caregiver wellbeing. Past research pursuits include examining the biological bases of prosocial behavior, looking specifically at the biological response to distress as a way to understand prosocial behavior. Ultimately, Michaela strives to understand how biological, social, cultural, and psychological factors influence human behavior.


Marcela Otero is an Advanced Postdoctoral Fellow at the Sierra Pacific Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University School of Medicine. She completed a clinical internship at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, Seattle Division, with a focus on geriatric neuropsychology and the treatment and assessment of mental illness in older adults. Her graduate research, partly supported by a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, investigated emotional reactivity and regulation in neurodegenerative disease using physiological and behavioral methodologies. Her secondary line of doctoral research examined the adverse effects of patient socioemotional deficits on caregiver mental health, and the association between positive interpersonal processes and long-term marital satisfaction. Marcela’s current research interests include identifying the cognitive mechanisms underlying emotion dysregulation in late-life psychopathology, particularly anxiety and depression, and the development of behavioral interventions aimed at promoting caregiver mental health. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from Cornell University.


Nutmeg is a half-Corgi, half-Pitt mix who specializes in olfaction and audition. She is particularly interested in squirrel attachment theory, and spends her time at the Psychophysiology lab observing squirrel behaviors. Her other hobbies and interests include marathon sleeping, running, and, of course, research.


Alice Verstaen is a former graduate student in the lab. She received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. Alice is currently working on the Dementia and Emotion project of the lab, and is interested in the effects of patients' dementia on their caregivers. She is particularly interested in the factors that allow certain caregivers to cope better than others, focusing on interactions between patients and caregivers, and emotional functioning of patients.


Sandy Lwi is a postdoctoral research fellow at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Her primary research interests focus on understanding the risk factors and psychosocial outcomes associated with dementia and healthy aging, and how these associations may be impacted by diversity factors. Her clinical work is dedicated to providing Veterans with neuropsychological assessments. Sandy received her B.A. in Psychology and her Ph.D. in Clinical Science from the University of California, Berkeley.


Jim Casey is a former graduate student in the lab. His research interests include the connections between emotion, sleep, and well-being. Jim is originally from Connecticut and received a B.A. in Psychology from Yale University.


Luma Muhtadie is a former graduate student in the lab. Her research interests center on the role of the body in intrapersonal and interpersonal emotional experience, including how people perceive and interpret visceral information, and how they use this information to guide their judgments and actions. Broadly speaking, Luma is intrigued by such questions as: How do “gut feelings” inform people’s experiences and decisions? Why are some people exquisitely aware of, and profoundly affected by, subtle social-emotional cues to which others seem oblivious? Do individual differences in intuition and attunement have distinct physiological substrates? And can these be measured and used to predict important social-emotional outcomes? Luma strives to examine these questions within ecologically meaningful contexts and using integrative biopsychosocial techniques.


Peter Pressman, M.D. has been interested in the brain and neurology since college. He also has a long-standing interest in scientific education. As a fellow and clinical instructor in neurology, Dr. Pressman is passionate about raising awareness of the nervous system and neurological diseases. Dr. Pressman received his undergraduate degree in Biology and English at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He received his medical degree from Oregon Health & Science University, and completed his residency in neurology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Pressman is currently a clinical instructor and neurology fellow at the Memory and Aging Center of the University of California, San Francisco, one of the most internationally acclaimed academic centers in neurology.


Claudia Haase is an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at the School of Education and Social Policy and (by courtesy) at the Department of Psychology and a Faculty Associate at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. She is interested in successful development across the life span. A central assumption guiding her work is that the range of motivational, emotional, behavioral, and genetic factors that promote successful development may be wider than we think.

You can view her website here.


Chien-Ming Yang is a Professor of Clinical Psychology and the director of the Sleep Laboratory at National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taiwan. He is also a faculty member of the Research Center for Mind, Brain, and Learning at NCCU. He received his Ph.D in Psychology from the City University of New York (GSUC) in 1999. He works in the areas of sleep and sleep disorders. His primary research interests include the neurophysiological and behavioral pathology of insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, the mechanisms of and intervention for long-term hypnotic use, emotion and sleep, and neurocognitive processes during sleep.


Anna Sapozhnikova is a former graduate student in the lab. Currently she is working on a project examining the role of COMT gene polymorphism in different types of emotion regulation, namely suppression and reappraisal, in healthy adults and in clinical populations. She is also interested in understanding and quantifying interpersonal dynamics of couples where one partner is diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease, specifically frontotemporal dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Anna is originally from Ukraine but lived in Massachusetts for many years and received her B.A in Psychology from Bard College.


Janet Eckart, PhD, currently works in private practice providing evidence-based therapy for individual adults, including older adults. She received her BA in Psychology from Stanford University, her PhD in Clinical Science from UC Berkeley, and completed her predoctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the Milwaukee VA (the latter in Primary Care - Mental Health Integration). Prior to opening her practice, Dr. Eckart worked within the Palo Alto VA system in the Primary Care - Behavioral Health program. Her research at Stanford and Berkeley focused on emotional functioning in patients with neurodegenerative disease as well as in healthy adults, including older adults.


Lian Bloch is a postdoctoral fellow in Adult Clinical Psychology at the Stanford University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry. She completed her clinical internship at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Her clinical and research interests include understanding how people manage their emotions effectively to promote psychological well-being and healthy relationships. Her doctoral research investigated emotional processes in long-term married couples. For example, her dissertation examined the link between couples’ ability to manage negative emotion during conflict and how satisfied they were in their marital relationship. She received her B.A. and M.A. in Psychology from Stanford University.


Anett Gyurak is a postdoctoral scholar with dual appointments in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Stanford University working with Drs James Gross and Amit Etkin. She received her BA in psychology from Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary in 2000. Her PhD work was conducted with Drs Levenson and Ayduk and focused on the mechanism that underlie successful emotion regulation and protect vulnerable people from the negative consequences of emotion dysregulation so that they can lead more fulfilling personal and professional lives. Upon starting her postdoctoral research training, Anett was awarded the Dean's Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Stanford School of Medicine and her work is currently supported by the National Institute of Mental Health Postdoctoral Fellowship (NRSA). As and NRSA fellow, Anett is looking into whether computerized exercises can help people with psychiatric disorders become better in emotion regulation.


Sarah Holley is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at San Francisco State University, where she runs the Relationships, Emotion, and Health lab. Her research aims to understand the connections between intimate relationship processes, emotional functioning, and mental and physical health. She is further interested in how gender influences these associations. Dr. Holley is a licensed psychologist and also holds an adjunct assistant faculty appointment in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF.


Virginia Sturm, PhD is an Assistant Professor and neuropsychologist at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center in the Department of Neurology. After undergraduate work at Georgetown University, she received her PhD in clinical psychology and at the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently completed her clinical internship and postdoctoral fellowship at UCSF. Her research focuses on identifying the neural systems that support emotion and social behavior and how these systems break down in neurodegenerative disease.


Madeleine Goodkind is a staff psychologist in the men’s PTSD clinic at the New Mexico VA Healthcare System and an assistant clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. After graduate school, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Palo Alto VA and Stanford School of Medicine. Clinically, she treats veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder using evidence-based psychotherapies (EBP) and trains other providers in the provision of EBP for PTSD. She has published scientific articles on the emotional and neurobiological underpinnings of psychiatric and neurological conditions and on transdiagnostic processes in psychiatric illnesses. Her current research interests include the predictors and enhancement of PTSD symptom change.