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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 is interested in studying the temporal dynamics of emotion reactivity and its relationships to socioemotional functioning in healthy aging adults and patients with neurodegenerative disease. He received a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Iowa in 2015. He is originally from Taipei, Taiwan.


Scott Newton is the lab manager for the Berkeley Psychophysiology Lab. In the area of research, Scott assists in scheduling lab patients and testing experimental stimuli and equipment. He also contributes to the collection and coding of data, and helps prepare these datasets for research publications. Scott is also one of the lab’s main instructors for teaching new research assistants and graduate students on how to use physiology equipment and read physiology signals. Scott's administrative duties include managing multiple lab grants; hiring research assistants; preparing applications for CPHS; and facilitating communication between the lab’s principal investigator, graduate students, and research assistants. He has a strong interest in emotion, aging, and psychosocial outcomes, and enjoys understanding these areas through behavioral measures. He is also trained in a number of different facial coding systems and is experienced in working with patients that have dementia and suicidal ideation. Scott received his B.A. degree in Psychology from Cal State Fullerton.


Deepak is the resident lab technician.


Casey Brown is a fifth year doctoral student in the Clinical Science program. She received her B.A. in cognitive science & psychology from the University of Virginia. Broadly speaking, Casey is interested in emotions in social relationships. She's currently investigating the physiological, experiential, and behavioral unfolding of emotions in dyadic interactions, and how cohesion among these emotion systems impacts relational functioning and mental health outcomes.


Dyan Connelly is a fifth year Clinical Science doctoral student at 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).

Alice Hua is a fourth year doctoral student in the Clinical Science program. She received her B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley and previously worked at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center. Alice is interested in changes to emotional functioning in neurodegenerative diseases, particularly frontotemporal dementia. She wants to understand how these changes relate to disease progression, physiology, and neuroanatomy, as well as caregiver health outcomes.


Jenna Wells is a second year doctoral student 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 the physiological and behavioral factors that are associated with better socioemotional outcomes in caregivers of patients with neurodegenerative disease. Currently, she is working on a project examining the biopsychosocial benefits of positive dyadic interactions. 



Jocelyn assists in conducting experimental lab sessions examining emotional functioning in patients with dementia and their caregivers. She facilitates caregiver participation in the study, and monitors the acquisition of autonomic physiological and behavioral data. Other responsibilities include 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.


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 a doctoral candidate in the Clinical Science program in the Clinical Science program. She is interested in how dementia affects emotional reactivity and regulation, and in the role emotion plays in caregiver burden. Currently, Marcela is studying the effects of neurodegeneration on emotion regulation by examining attentional control behaviors in frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. She received a B.A. in Psychology from Cornell University and completed a research fellowship in the Unit on Affective Cognitive Neuroscience at the NIMH. She is originally from Fairfax, Virginia.


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.


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.