Information about the Dolcos Lab, or SCOPE.


Silhouette of two people with easels, one says emotion and one says mindThe main research topic in the Social, Cognitive, Personality, and Emotional (SCOPE) Neuroscience Lab, otherwise known as the Dolcos Lab (a.k.a Dlab), is investigating the neural mechanisms underlying interactions between emotion and cognition. Emotions can impact cognition by exerting both enhancing effects (e.g., better memory for emotional events) and impairing effects (e.g., increased emotional distractibility). Emotion processing, however, is also susceptible to cognitive influences, typically expressed as cognitive control of emotion or emotion regulation.

Investigation of the neural mechanisms underlying these phenomena is critical for understanding mood and anxiety disorders that are associated with intrusive recollection of distressing events and increased emotional distractibility, and are characterized by emotion dysregulation. The tendency to ruminate on negative emotions and memories observed in depressed patients or increased emotional sensitivity observed in patients suffering from anxiety disorders affect tremendously the way these patients think and behave. Therefore, it has become apparent that findings cures for these disorders depend on understanding the brain mechanisms that are responsible for such dramatic changes in the ways emotion interfaces with cognition, leading to dysfunctional emotion-cognition interactions.

One of our co-Directors is Florin Dolcos.

Want to learn more about Dlab? Check out our website, we are d-Lab to be at!

Investigations into...
the Neural Correlates of the Modulatory Effect of Emotion on Cognitive Functions.

Following on naturally from Dr. Dolcos’s main line of research investigating the impact of emotion on cognition, this line will continue the investigation of the mechanisms underlying both the enhancing and the impairing effects of emotion on various cognitive processes. For instance, in addition to investigating these effects on different memory processes, we are expanding our expertise by investigating the effects of emotion on other cognitive functions, such as decision-making processes Understanding how emotions (rewards, moods, etc.) influence our decision in various circumstances is an important issue that affects our daily life and has direct implications for understanding clinical conditions characterized by pathological emotionally-biased decisions (e.g., drug addiction).

the Neural Correlates Underlying the Effects of Cognitive Processes on Various Aspects of Emotional Processing.

Different than the previous area of research, which has been the focus of intensive research, the line of research investigating the neural correlates of cognitive control of emotion has only recently started to emerge in the literature. Although a number of issues remain unclear, available evidence suggests that the engagement of cognitive strategies (e.g., reappraisal) to control emotions is associated with increased activity in brain regions typically involved in executive control (i.e., anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex). These, in turn, modulate (i.e., up vs. down activity in the brain regions typically associated with emotional processing (e.g., the amygdala). This line of research is worth pursuing as optimal cognitive control of emotional responses is a key component of healthy social behavior, and maladaptive regulation strategies constitute a core feature of various affective disorders.

Issues Related to the Processing of Emotional Information in Social Contexts.

While investigating the basic mechanisms by which emotion affects cognition is fundamental to understanding various facets of affective-cognitive interactions, it is equally important to investigate the mechanisms by which emotion affects cognition in social contexts. Therefore, in addition to investigating the neural circuitry underlying fundamental aspects of affective-cognitive interactions, we are developing research projects that specifically investigate the neural mechanisms underlying the processing of emotional information as social cues. This direction is of crucial importance as proper processing and interpretation of emotional social cues are key components of successful social behavior.

Individual Differences Concerning the Neural Circuitry of Emotional-Cognitive Interaction in both Clinical and Non-Clinical Populations.

Although pursuing the first three proposed lines of research has clear clinical relevance, it is important not only to infer the clinical implications of the findings from healthy populations but also to directly investigate the very same issues in clinical cohorts. Thus, our plans in this direction are to significantly develop the clinical component of our current research, through collaborations with clinical researchers. For instance, in addition to our on-going investigations of the neural mechanisms associated with emotional processing in depression and PTSD, and with the effects of therapeutic intervention on these mechanisms (performed in collaboration with researchers from Duke University and Yale University), we currently planning investigation of similar issues in other affective disorders, with a focus on social anxiety.