Karen A. Matthews, Ph.D.: Program Director
Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry
Professor of Epidemiology & Psychology
Director, Pittsburgh Mind-Body Center
Dr. Matthews investigates the development of behavioral risk factors at transitions in the life span, which are key by virtue of their social and hormonal significance, and how these behavioral risk factors might relate to other biological risk factors and noninvasive indicators of cardiovascular disease. At present, she is investigating the patterns of cardiovascular responses to psychological stress exhibited by Black and White children according to pubertal status, age, and gender; how these patterns might covary with body fat distribution, insulin, glucose, and lipid levels; and the utility of a new conceptualization of hostility based on social information processing. Currently with Drs. Lewis Kuller, Joyce Bromberger, Jane Cauley, and Kim Sutton-Tyrrell, she is investigating the psychosocial and biological changes in African American and White women as they experience the peri- and post-menopause. She is conducting a combination of laboratory and field studies to test models of how reproductive hormones and behavior might explain gender differences in men's and women's health.
Matthew F. Muldoon, M.D., M.P.H.: Post-doctoral Program Co-Director
Associate Professor of Medicine
Dr. Muldoon's research involves study of the role of biobehavioral factors in cardiovascular disease. His work specifically includes examination of the mood and neuropsychological correlates of serum lipid levels, omega-3 fatty acids, and blood pressure, and his studies include pharmacologic interventions affecting cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids, and blood pressure. He is also involved in laboratory-based experiments concerning autonomic function and cardiovascular responses to acute mental stress and their potential relation to cardiovascular disease. Finally, Dr. Muldoon studies brain serotonergic function in relation to hypertension, the metabolic syndrome, depression, and aggression.
Stephen B. Manuck, Ph.D.: Pre-doctoral Program Co-Director
Professor of Psychology
Dr. Manucks research program primarily subsumes studies of behavioral and psychophysiologic influences on cardiovascular disease in both human beings and nonhuman primates. The specific aim of this research is to study the behavioral and psychophysiologic attributes of individuals: (a) as potential etiological variables or as markers for correlated pathogenic processes in cardiovascular disease; and (b) as sequelae of disease or of interventions aimed at its amelioration or prevention. Among specific topics of research, Dr. Manuck is currently examining cardiovascular responsivity to stress as a correlate of carotid artery atherosclerosis among untreated hypertensive individuals and of coronary artery atherosclerosis in cynomolgus monkeys. As part of the University of Pittsburgh Twin Project (with Dr. M. Pogue-Geile), he is also examining the genetic and environmental determinants of cardiovascular reactivity and of lifestyle risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In addition, Dr. Manuck is evaluating the effects of lipid-lowering medication on normative behavioral functioning in hypercholesterolemic patients (with Drs. M. Muldoon, J. Flory and K. Matthews) and the effect of hypertension on cognitive functioning (with Dr. J. R. Jennings). A more recent area of investigation concerns the neurobiology and molecular genetics of aggressive behavior and impulsivity (with Drs. J. Flory, M. Muldoon, K. Matthews, and R. Ferrell).
Howard J. Aizenstein, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Bioengineering
Director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory
Dr. Aizenstein’s research interests focus on structural and functional brain MRI in elderly individuals with cognitive impairment and mood disorders. His research integrates the fields of neuroscience, computer science, software engineering and clinical aspects of neuroimaging and brain mapping. In his methodological research, Dr. Aizenstein has found it essential to adapt and extend existing cognitive neuroscience methods, specifically methods for functional and structural neuroimaging in geriatric subjects. Recent clinical projects in the lab include using fMRI to assess the functional neuroanatomy of depression and aging.
Bernie Devlin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Dr. Devlin’s research has two major foci, the development of statistical methods for the analysis of complex diseases and the implementation of those methods to discover the genetic basis of disease and related phenotypes. Dr. Devlin and colleagues have developed novel methods to solve a wide variety of problems in genetic epidemiology, such as methods to control for population substructure, to fine map disease genes, to use evolution in tests for genetic association, and to incorporate covariates into linkage analysis. In his empirical work, he collaborates with faculty at the University of Pittsburgh and around the world in to uncover the genetic basis of complex disease.
Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N.
Dean, School of Nursing
Dr. Dunbar-Jacob is a nurse-psychologist whose research program focuses on the study of adherence with chronic disease regimens. Current research efforts are directed toward the evaluation of interventions to improve suboptimal adherence, to the identification of predictors of poor adherence, and to the utility of self-report measures contrasted with electronic measures of adherent behavior. She also directs an NIH-funded core center grant for Research in Chronic Disorders, emphasizing adherence to treatment regimens, co-morbid conditions, health disparities, and socio/demographic characteristics of quality of life, functional status, and cognitive function.
Daniel Edmundowicz, M.D.
Director, Preventive Cardiology
As Director of Preventive Caridology, Dr. Edmundowicz has implemented a lipid clinic and a behavioral modification program to prevent cardiovascular disease. In addition, he directs the electron beam CT (EBT) program with the Cardiovascular Institute at the University of Pittsburgh and as a result of collaboration with the Department of Epidemiology within the Graduate School of Public Health has co-authored several publications describing the clinical utility of EBT for detecting subclinical vascular disease. In his capacity as the director of the EBT program he has acquired extensive experience in the use of noninvasive techniques to quantify sub clinical atherosclerosis. He participates in several NIH sponsored prevention trials and is the principal investigator for the EBT core lab for studies evaluating risk factor modification and coronary calcium in various populations including diabetics, women and the elderly.
Robert E. Ferrell, Ph.D.
Professor of Human Genetics
Dr. Ferrell’s research involves basic population genetics, the frequency and distribution of genetic variation in the population, and the role of this variation in determining individual and population risk of common disease.
Peter J. Gianaros, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology
Dr. Gianaros maintains two lines of research on individual differences in brain function and structure, particularly as they relate to biological and behavioral risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
In the first line of research, functional brain imaging methods are used to characterize individual differences in the reactivity of paralimbic brain areas, such as the cingulate cortex, insula, and amygdala, to acute psychological stressors. These paralimbic areas are targeted because they play instrumental roles in processing stress-related information, regulating stress-related coping behaviors, and orchestrating physiological stress reactions‹functions which may influence cardiovascular disease vulnerability. Such individual differences in stressor-evoked paralimbic reactivity are specifically examined in association with risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as dysregulated forms of cardiovascular and autonomic nervous system activity and indicators of preclinical atherosclerosis. The chief aim of this line of research is to identify functional neural phenotypes that may predispose individuals to cardiovascular disease.
In the second line of research, structural brain imaging methods are used to investigate the relationships between chronic forms of stress and changes in the morphology of paralimbic brain areas. This line of research builds on animal models showing that chronic stress leads to a structural remodeling of brain areas such as the cingulate cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus.
Importantly, these structural changes may alter cognitive, behavioral, physiological stress-regulatory functions that may influence cardiovascular disease vulnerability. Examples of putative indicators of chronic stress that are examined are low socioeconomic status and longitudinal reports of perceived stress during key life transitions (e.g. menopause). This line of research is currently being extended to investigate changes in brain morphology (e.g., reductions in regional grey matter volume and cortical thickness) as possible sequelae of etiological risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including hypertension and inflammation.
Martica Hall, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology
Dr. Hall’s research program focuses on stress-related sleep disturbances and their health outcomes. She has conducted naturalistic and experimental studies of acute and chronic stress and their effects on sleep in various populations including adolescents, college students, parents of sick children, women during menopause, patients with insomnia or major depression, mid- and late-life caregivers, and elders with bereavement-related depression. In addition to her individual research activities, Dr. Dr. Hall also serves as the Co-Director of the Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Laboratory in the Department of Psychiatry and is Director of the Sleep Assessment Core of the Pittsburgh-Mind Body Center.
John M. Jakicic, Ph.D.
Chair and Associate Professor of Health and Physical Activity
Director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center
Dr. Jakicic has a national and international reputation as a leading scholar in this area of physical activity and weight control. Dr. Jakicic’s research focuses on examining the appropriate dose of exercise combined with healthy eating recommendations to prevent weight gain in adults, and strategies to promote the adoption and maintenance of adequate levels of physical activity to control body weight. This research will provide valuable public health information related to exercise recommendations for the prevention of obesity. This line of research builds off of a long-line of prior research conducted by Dr. Jakicic which demonstrated that approximately 60 minutes per day of moderate intensity physical activity is necessary to enhance long-term weight loss and prevent weight regain. These experiences have culminated in Dr. Jakicic serving as the coordinator of the “America on the Move in Pittsburgh” initiative that is a collaboration of academic, corporate, medical, and community organizations throughout the Greater Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania region. This initiative is part of a nation program to improve the health of children and adults through modest increases in physical activity and modest reductions in dietary intake.
J. Richard Jennings, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology
Dr. Jennings maintains a program of research merging brain imaging and cardiovascular psychophysiology. His core interest is the interaction between cognitive processes, stress and cardiovascular control. Current behavioral medicine work continues with two primary foci: a) the role of vagal reactivity as a protective factor against cardiovascular disease, and b) changes in cerebral blood flow reactivity due to the presence of systemic hypertension. The first interest examines how vagal function assessed via heart rate variability and attention-demanding tasks related to cardiovascular risk due both to reactivity as well as metabolic factors. The second interest uses brain scanning techniques to see if functional changes in the brain’s information processing occur due to hypertension. Current work examines how treatment of hypertension with medication differing in their actions may differentially alter brain blood flow and cognitive function. He also continues a long standing, basic science interest in how attention during preparation alters the precise timing of the heart beat and reflects the central regulation of action by the fore and midbrain.
Thomas W. Kamarck, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Dr. Kamarck's work is concerned with psychosocial contributions to cardiovascular disease and in the biological mechanisms by which they
exert their effects. He is he is examining the utility of ambulatory blood pressure and momentary assessment methods as a means of characterizing the
effects of daily life patterns on disease risk, he is examining the factors that account for covariation of behavioral and biological risk markers, and he is exploring the role of stress-related cardiovascular reactivity as a predictor of early signs of heart disease in cross-sectional and prospective samples.
Dr. Kamarck’s current
projects involve a) a longitudinal study which examines the biobehavioral
correlates of atherosclerotic progression in healthy adults
Marsha D. Marcus, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology
Dr. Marcus’s research focuses on obesity, eating disorders and eating behavior with an emphasis on the relationship between eating behavior and health-related lifestyle factors. She currently is Principal Investigator on NIH supported grants that focus on prevention of pediatric obesity and treatment anorexia nervosa. Other ongoing projects, with Drs. Melissa Kalarchian and Michele Levine, involve the development of lifestyle interventions for bariatric surgery patients and interventions to help postpartum women maintain smoking cessation.
Kenneth A. Perkins, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry, Epidemiology, and Psychology
The research of Dr. Perkins focuses on understanding the acute reinforcing effects of nicotine or smoking in humans and factors that alter those effects. Of increasing interest are individual differences, particularly sex differences, and environmental influences on these effects. Current research includes projects examining the following: genetic and personality factors associated with sensitivity to nicotine’s effects; pharmacological and non-pharmacological influences on mood responses to smoking and nicotine (including expectancies about drug dose and drug effects); and developing optimum lab procedures for brief screening of novel medications for smoking cessation.
Steven E. Reis, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine & Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Research, Health Sciences
Dr. Reis has focused his clinical research interests on the identification and evaluation of pathophysiologic mechanisms of racial, gender and socioeconomic disparities in cardiovascular disease (CVD). His early work resulted in his being the first clinical investigator to report that estrogen acutely improves coronary artery endothelial function in postmenopausal women. This work provided the foundation for his subsequent investigations of the cardiovascular effects of hormones in postmenopausal women with CVD risk factors and chest pain (NHLBI N01 Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation Study (WISE)) and congestive heart failure (NIH R01: Estrogen, Cytokines and Heart Failure in Women). As the Principal Investigator for the Pittsburgh site of the WISE and for his NIH-funded U01, “Immunologic Basis of Coronary Disease in Women,” Dr. Reis subsequently focused his clinical research on the identification of gender-specific pathophysiologic mechanisms of chest pain and myocardial ischemia. He has demonstrated that women with chest pain in the absence of obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD) have a high prevalence of microvascular dysfunction which is not related to traditional atherosclerosis risk factors, sex hormones, and inflammation. He has also reported that inflammation is more strongly associated with cardiovascular events than with obstructive CAD, indicating that inflammation plays a critical role in atherosclerosis plaque vulnerability and rupture. His investigation of metabolism and CVD demonstrated that obesity is not an independent CVD risk factor in women. His work has shown that the increased CVD risk that is associated with obesity is related to the presence of the metabolic syndrome, which commonly coexists with obesity in women and is an independent risk factor for CVD events.
Dr. Reis has expanded his interest in disparities in cardiovascular risk and the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis to the investigation of racial disparities in CVD. His Commonwealth of Pennsylvania-funded community based participatory research project, Heart Strategies Concentrating on Risk Evaluation (Heart SCORE), is evaluating racial differences in traditional and emerging CVD risk factors to improve CVD risk stratification in high-risk populations, identify disparities in CVD risk based on race and socioeconomic status, and pilot a short-term intervention program to decrease CVD risk among African Americans.
Bruce L. Rollman, M.D., M.P.H.
Associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry
Dr. Rollman’s research focuses on interventions to improve the quality of care for depression and anxiety disorders in non-psychiatric settings. He has been PI of 4 R01 clinical trials including an NHLBI-funded trial to examine the impact of a stepped collaborative care treatment for depression following coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery (“Treatment of Depression Following Bypass Surgery”); an NIMH-funded clinical trial entitled “Improving the Quality of Primary Care for Anxiety Disorders” that also utilizes a collaborative care treatment model and its competing renewal; and an AHRQ-funded randomized clinical trial to disseminate the AHCPR’s Depression Guideline Panel’s recommendations to PCPs via an ambulatory electronic medical records system (“Depression Care Using Computerized Decision Support”), and a recently NIMH-funded R34 designed to collect pilot data to support a trial of a “blended” collaborative care model for treating both depression and CHF. Dr. Rollman also led the clinical model consultant team for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national program entitled “Depression in Primary Care: Linking Clinical and Systems Strategies” that demonstrated the feasibility and effectiveness of combining best practice treatment of depression with financial and non-financial incentives for changing systems of care. As a result of these projects, Dr. Rollman is highly experienced with state-of-the-art techniques for dissemination of practice guidelines and on the conduct of effectiveness trials for mental health services research in non-psychiatric settings.
Michael F. Scheier, Ph.D.
Head and Professor of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University
Dr. Scheiers research focuses on the influence of personality factors such as dispositional optimism on physical and psychological well-being. He is also interested in processes involved in successful adjustment to chronic disease, and in stress and coping more generally. Most recently, he has begun to investigate how goal-adjustment strategies impact on psychological and physical well-being when confronting health threats of different types, e.g., chronic, degenerative diseases.
Saul Shiffman, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Dr. Shiffman's research concerns drug use and addictive behaviors, with a particular emphasis on cigarette smoking. His research focuses, in part, on smoking cessation and, particularly, relapse prevention. Other projects focus on more basic questions, such as individual differences in vulnerability to dependence. A methodological interest is in the use of palm-top computers to collect real-time data in field settings. This methodology is being applied in collaborative studies of smoking, opiate use, problem drinking, binge eating stress, coping, and social support.
Kim Sutton-Tyrrell, Dr.P.H.
Professor of Epidemiology and Director, Epidemiology, Ultrasound Research Laboratory (URL)
Rebecca C. Thurston, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology
Dr. Thurston’s research program focuses on menopause and cardiovascular disease in women. Dr. Thurston’s first line of research on menopause focuses on menopausal hot flashes, including: 1) Risk factors for hot flashes, including the affective, reproductive, and thermoregulatory roles of obesity; 2) Behavioral interventions for the management of hot flashes; and 3) The measurement of hot flashes, including the development of new technologies and algorithms for the physiologic measurement of hot flashes. Dr. Thurston’s second line of research area concerns cardiovascular disease among women, with particular focus on social and economic disparities in cardiovascular disease among women. Methodologically, Dr. Thurston’s work integrates laboratory and ambulatory psychophysiology methods with epidemiologic research.