Wendy Heller

Professor, Department of Psychology
B.A., University of Pennsylvania
M.A., Ph.D., University of Chicago

Neuropsychological processes in emotion and emotional disorders

My research investigates the role of the brain in emotion, including the neuropsychological processes involved in emotional information processing, normal and abnormal emotional states (particularly anxiety and depression), the development of personality and psychopathology, and the interaction of emotional processes with cognition. I have been testing and extending my neuropsychological model of emotion, which has led to specific predictions about regional brain activity during depression and anxiety. Depression has been associated with smaller left hemispatial biases, suggesting .educed right hemisphere activity. In contrast, anxiety has been associated with larger left hemispatial biases, suggesting increased right hemisphere activity. These effects typically emerge only when the variance associated with depression is removed from anxiety, and vice versa. Thus, it is crucial to separate depression and anxiety either statistically or via experimental design in efforts to examine brain function in emotional experience. Another research area involves implications of brain function for cognition in depression and anxiety. An important contribution of our understanding of regional brain activity in these disorders is insight into cognitive capabilities and styles of depressed and anxious people. Activity in regions of the cortex specialized for particular modes of information processing covaries with performance on tasks that benefit from that type of computation.

Collaborative Projects

Professor Gregory Miller - Regional brain specialization in emotion

Professors Gregory Miller and Marie Banich - Developing parallel EEG and fMRI protocols to study attentional and affective processing in nonpatients

Research Areas

Representative Publications

Astolfi, L.; Fallani, F. D.; Cincotti, F.; Mattia, D.; Marciani, M. G.; Bufalari, S.; Salinari, S.; Colosimo, A.; Ding, L.; Edgar, J. C.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A.; He, B.; Babiloni, F., Imaging functional brain connectivity patterns from high-resolution EEG and fMRI via graph theory. Psychophysiology 2007, 44, (6), 880-893.

Engels, A. S.; Heller, W.; Mohanty, A.; Herrington, J. D.; Banich, M. T.; Webb, A. G.; Miller, G. A., Specificity of regional brain activity in anxiety types during emotion processing. Psychophysiology 2007, 44, (3), 352-363.

Fisher, J. E.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A., Semantic associations, lateralized frontal function, and context maintenance in schizotypy. Neuropsychologia 2007, 45, (4), 663-672.

Miller, G. A.; Elbert, T.; Sutton, B. P.; Heller, W., Innovative clinical assessment technologies: Challenges and opportunities in neuroimaging. Psychological Assessment 2007, 19, (1), 58-73.

Mohanty, A.; Engels, A. S.; Herrington, J. D.; Heller, W.; Ho, M. H. R.; Banich, M. T.; Webb, A. G.; Warren, S. L.; Miller, G. A., Differential engagement of anterior cingulate cortex subdivisions for cognitive and emotional function. Psychophysiology 2007, 44, (3), 343-351.

Sass, S. M.; Heller, W.; Stewart, J. L.; Levin, R. L.; Edgar, C. J.; Fisher, J. E.; Miller, G. A., Time course of attentional bias in anxiety. Psychophysiology 2007, 44, S51-S51.

Heller, W.; Mukherjee, D.; Levin, R. L.; Reis, J. P., Characters in contexts: Identity and personality processes that influence individual and family adjustment to brain injury. Journal of Rehabilitation 2006, 72, (2), 44-49.

Mukherjee, D.; Levin, R. L.; Heller, W., The cognitive, emotional, and social sequelae of stroke: Psychological and ethical concerns in post-stroke adaptation. Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation 2006, 13, (4), 26-35.

Stewart, J. L.; Levin, R. L.; Heller, W.; Sass, S. M.; Miller, G. A., Anger style, psychopathology, and regional brain activity. Psychophysiology 2006, 43, S95-S95.