Translational Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (T-SCAN) Lab

The T-SCAN Lab seeks to understand how we experience and regulate emotions, how we can become better emotion regulators, and how changes in emotion regulation impact mental and physical health. Thus, we are interested in understanding the basic psychological and neurobiological mechanisms underlying successful and unsuccessful emotion regulation in both healthy and clinical populations. Further, we are interested in utilizing the results of basic investigations into these processes in order to design and test novel, scalable interventions focused on improving real-world emotion regulation outcomes in a variety of contexts.

The lab takes a multi-method approach in addressing these questions in studies conducted both inside and outside the lab, examining converging relationships among emotional experience, behavior, and physiology, including peripheral psychophysiology and brain activity measured via functional neuroimaging.

Current projects include examining emotion regulation, and emotion regulation training, in the following populations and contexts:

Healthy adults We are examining whether healthy adults can be trained to regulate their emotions more effectively via short courses of cognitive emotion regulation training, and whether benefits of training in the lab translate to benefits outside of the lab.

Cigarette smokers How can cognitive emotion regulation training be optimized for smokers who have an intention to quit but have thus far been unsuccessful? We are examining the psychological and neural mechanisms through which quit success and failure operate.

Bereaved spouses How can emotion regulation training be effectively employed to help bereaved spouses cope with spousal loss? How do changes in neural activity during emotion regulation underlie changes in grief rumination and depressive symptoms?

Borderline personality disorder patients Can training in psychological distancing, a form of emotion regulation via cognitive reappraisal, enhance emotion regulation efficacy in borderline personality disorder patients, where emotion dysregulation is a core feature?

Further, we are examining implicit measures of emotion regulation in addition to explicit measures:

Analysis of real-world implicit measures of emotion regulation (e.g. Twitter data) as a function of person, situation, and strategy in relation to widely-experienced stressful events.

Examining the implicit use of emotion regulation via analysis of expressive writing, and examining connections among language, health, and social network strength.

Lab website

Current Lab Members

Bryan Denny (Principal Investigator). Dr. Bryan Denny is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Rice University and Director of the Translational Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (T-SCAN) Lab. He received his BA in psychology in 2005 from Stanford University and his PhD in psychology in 2012 from Columbia University (working in the lab of <a class=”” href=”http://www.ochsnerscanlab.org/people/”>Kevin Ochsner</a>). He completed postdoctoral training in clinical applications of social cognitive neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (working in the lab of <a class=”” href=”http://icahn.mssm.edu/research/mood-personality/team”>Harold Koenigsberg</a>). Bryan has had a longstanding interest in seeking to understand the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that underlie successful and unsuccessful emotion regulation across a spectrum of healthy and clinical populations. Further, he is interested in utilizing the results of basic investigations into these processes in order to design and examine novel interventions focused on improving real-world emotion regulation outcomes in a variety of contexts. Outside the lab, he enjoys traveling, sushi, playing drums, and karaoke.

Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Richard Lopez. Dr. Rich Lopez earned a BA in Psychology in 2009 from Princeton University, and then worked as a research assistant in Dr. Kevin Ochsner’s lab at Columbia University. In 2017, he obtained his PhD in cognitive neuroscience from Dartmouth, where he studied brain-behavior relationships as they relate to self-regulation of eating. Broadly, Rich is interested in linking appetitive and affective processes to health outcomes and health risk behaviors—within and across populations. Outside of research, he enjoys reading, running, hiking, and nerd-ing out about metaphysics, statistics, meteorology, or any combination thereof.

Lab Manager Julia Chavez. Julia recently received her BA in Cognitive Sciences from Rice University in 2016, and is now the lab manager at the T-SCAN Lab. Prior to the T-SCAN lab, Julia worked as a research assistant in Dr. Jake Kushner’s endocrinology lab studying beta cells and their role in diabetes. She also studied in Copenhagen, Denmark with the Medical Practice and Policy program at DIS. In her free time, she enjoys listening to podcasts and stand up comedy.

Graduate Student Anoushka Shahane. Anoushka is a first year graduate student interested in exploring neurobiological mechanisms and physiology underlying innovative affective interventions to understand how they impact health outcomes. She received her B.Sc. in Neuroscience at Tufts University in 2015. Prior to joining the lab, Anoushka worked with Drs. Mahzarin Banaji, Jason Mitchell, Diana Tamir (Harvard), Heather Urry (Tufts), and Vasu Chandrasekaran (Cubist Pharmaceuticals) on a variety of projects ranging from developing an algorithm to identify and prioritize secondary metabolites in genomic sequences, to implementing a cognitive control manipulation to alleviate anxiety symptoms in the presence of stress. Outside of the lab, Anoushka can be found in the ballet studio or eating sushi.

Research Assistant Rebecca Artall. Originally from Lafayette, LA, Rebecca is now a junior at Rice University majoring in Cognitive Science and Psychology. In general, she is interested in how our interpretation of a situation or environment shapes our experience, how our perception of ourselves affects behavior, and how to use psychological research findings to make positive changes in the world. On campus, Rebecca is involved with RPC and works in the IT Help Desk. At home, she enjoys cooking and Pinteresting recipes she knows she’ll never actually cook.

Research Assistant Noha Fathy. Noha recently earned a Masters degree in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling at the University of St. Thomas. She is particularly interested in the relationship between emotions and physical pain and hopes to research that from a neuropsychological perspective in the future. Prior to coming to Houston two years ago, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the Ain Shams University in Cairo and then moved to Bahrain to work as a flight attendant. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing, kickboxing, meditation, and reading poetry.

Research Assistant Madeleine Fuselier. Madeleine is a sophomore at Rice University pursuing a BA in psychology. She is originally from Orange, Texas. Madeleine has previously worked as a Research Assistant in the Consortium for Organizational Resilience and Effectiveness (CORE) Lab on several of its NASA-funded projects. Her research interests include emotional disorders, mental health interventions in vulnerable populations, the relationship between memory and personality, and the influence of personality on mental health outcomes. Madeleine is involved in the Boniuk Council, a student-led interfaith organization affiliated with the Boniuk Institute at Rice. In her free time, Madeleine enjoys traveling, reading, and watching movies

Research Assistant Allison Gregg. Allison is a senior at Rice University majoring in Cognitive Sciences. She intends to continue on to graduate school to earn a PhD in clinical psychology, where she can further her research interests in the biological and emotional mechanisms underlying mood disorders. She has worked as a research assistant in Dr. Fischer Baum’s Neuroplasticity lab measuring cognitive language function in stroke victims, and is also currently working in Dr. Calarge’s lab at Texas Children’s Hospital investigating the relation between intestinal permeability and depression in adolescents. When not in class or in lab, she enjoys playing and teaching tennis, playing the cello and going to pop-punk and metalcore concerts.

Research Assistant Erica Lee. Erica is currently a sophomore at Rice University. She is originally from Illinois, but moved to Seoul when she was 10. Previously, she was an intern at the Emotion Science Center in Korea, where they developed products for more effective methods of emotion regulation and biofeedback-related relaxation training. She was also a research assistant in Dr. Hebl’s lab, where she studied racial discrimination and discrimination against pregnant women. She is mainly interested in mental health and treatment for such mental disorders, and how factors such as stress, genetics, and emotions can have amplified effects on our lives. In her free time she enjoys curating playlists of various genres, art-ing or appreciating art, reading, and wasting time on Youtube.

Research Assistant Daniel Pham. Daniel is a junior at Rice University pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Cognitive Science. He is broadly interested in language and memory processes as well as the connections between those processes and computational modeling. Daniel is also actively involved in Rice Nocturnal, one of Rice’s a cappella groups, as well as the Catholic education program at his home church. Outside the lab, Daniel enjoys listening to music, playing video games, binge-watching TV shows, and putting on face masks from Lush.

Research Assistant Vivian Wong. Vivian, originally from Illinois, is a senior at Rice University majoring in psychology and kinesiology. Her interests lie generally in how the body and mind interact to create experience. More specifically, she is interested in how to address physical and social-emotional limitations that affect individuals with special needs, motivating her to pursue a career in occupational therapy. During her past three years at Rice, Vivian has been actively involved with RPC and Camp Kesem. In her free time, Vivian loves to bake and feed her huge sweet tooth.

Lab Mascot Baby Groot. Baby Groot is the beloved mascot of T-SCAN.