WHO WE STUDY
Adults of all ages
Most people spend the majority of their lives as healthy adults who experience and express different kinds of emotions and social behaviors, and have the capacity to effectively regulate them using different form of self control. As such, much of the research in the SCAN Lab concerns adult behavior. Many studies have focus on young adulthood, which (roughly speaking) spans ages 18 to 40, in part because it is a time of life when we are in possession of a fully developed set of social, cognitive and emotional skills that can be deployed in response to the wide array of personal and professional challenges to emotional well-being and social connectedness that are part and parcel of this phase of life. After young adulthood, we grow through middle and into older adulthood, a rapidly growing segment of the population that - like every phase of life - experiences its own unique social and emotional challenges and opportunities. A growing focus of the SCAN Lab is understanding the transition from young adulthood to older adulthood in terms of our evolving tendencies to experience a shifting palette of emotions, to value social relationships in new ways, and to exert self-control.
Children and adolescents
The roots of adult behavior can often be found in our childhood and adolescent experiences. For their part, children develop close relationships with family members and their first significant friendships. In the context of these relationships, and then expanding beyond them, children may display an increasing capacity to understand that their thoughts and feelings may be different from the thoughts and feelings experienced by others, even in the same situation. The ability to understand and share other’s emotions develops alongside the ability to exert self control over emotional impulses, and both abilities take on added importance during the transition to adolescence when the range of possible social experiences, relationships and influences rapidly expands, which brings along with it new kinds of emotional highs and lows. Successfully navigating this exciting and challenging time of life, learning when and how to successfully regulate our emotional impulses while simultaneously expanding our capacity for intimacy and close relationships is one of life’s greatest challenges. In the SCAN Lab we collaborate with developmental researchers like Nim Tottenham and and Walter Mischel at Columbia, and B. J. Casey at Weill Cornell, to understand the development of these critical social and emotional capacities during childhood and adolescence.
There is an old saying that, “Into every life some rain must fall.” Indeed, we all experience some degree of social and emotional bad weather and attempt to weather the storms until they pass. In the SCAN Lab, we collaborate with clinicians to better understand when, how and for whom, bad ‘emotional weather’ may endure and ultimately lead to the development and maintenance of chronically problematic emotions and/or social relationships. In like fashion, we also study the way we are drawn to, use or abuse, and may attempt to control our use of alcohol, cigarettes and controlled substances. Our goal is to take the models we build for understanding the normative, typical development of emotion, social behavior and self-control and translate them into clinical contexts where these capacities may not function effectively - but may also have the potential for improvement through intervention and treatment. This translational approach has guided collaborative research on various groups, including individuals with Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder, as well as smokers, problem drinkers and methamphetamine users. Clinical collaborators on this work include John Mann, Barbara Stanley, Jeffrey Miller, Nasir Naqvi, Carl Hart and others at CUMC; James Murrough at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine; Jennifer Bartz at McGill (formerly of Mt. Sinai); Jon Morgenstern at Northwell (formerly of CUMC); Michael Green, Bill Horan and others at UCLA; David Penn at UNC.