Principal Investigator


Mara Mather, PhD

Professor of Gerontology and Psychology

At the core of our sense of self and personal history are emotional memories. Although emotional or stressful experiences tend to be memorable, emotional arousal can also impair various aspects of memory. In recent years, research into arousal and memory has focused on the key role of the amygdala in enhancing perception and memory of emotionally arousing stimuli. But enhanced memory for arousing information is only part of the story—there is also abundant evidence that arousal enhances some aspects of memory while impairing other aspects. In our lab, we are testing the theory that arousal enhances high-priority neural representations but suppresses low-priority neural representations of stimuli. We also are examining how age-related changes in inhibitory processes affect the influence of arousal.

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Research Assistant Professor

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Kaoru Nashiro, PhD

Research Assistant Professor

Current Research Interest:  My research interests include understanding the underlying mechanisms of emotional well-being, emotion regulation, cognitive control, interoception and mindfulness across the adult lifespan.

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Post Doctoral Scholars

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Briana Kennedy, PhD

Post Doctoral Scholar

Current Research Interest: Interactions between emotion and attention – especially their underlying mechanisms and how they change with age and Alzheimer’s Disease

Personal Website

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Alexandra Ycaza Herrera, PhD

Post Doctoral Scholar

Current Research Interest: Influence of female sex hormones on the stress response and cognition in younger and post-menopausal women.

Personal Website


Sara Gallant, PhD

Post Doctoral Scholar

Current research interests: How age impacts the influence of emotional arousal on memory selectivity and associated neural mechanisms.

Graduate Students

Kelly Durbin

Kelly Durbin

Graduate Student

Current Research Interests: Understanding the effects of healthy aging and neurodegeneration on various aspects of cognition (e.g., memory, selective attention) and emotional processing using behavioral, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging techniques.


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Jungwon Min

Graduate Student

Current Research Interest: How decision making interacts with emotion and how that interaction is modulated by developmental stages, how activity in the locus coeruleus affects memory and attention, employing various research methods to better measure emotion and cognition.

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Padideh Nasseri

Graduate Student

Current Research Interest: Understanding interactions between emotion and decision making, particularly in aging, using behavioral, physiological and neuroimaging techniques.

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Shai Porat

Graduate Student

Current Research Interest: Understanding the relationships between memory, emotion, sleep, and aging by utilizing heart-rate variability, genetics, and neuroimaging.

Staff Members

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Christine Cho

Staff Member

Current Research Interest: The effects of aging on memory and cognition; the relationship between emotion, stress, and behavior; neuropsychological effects of trauma.

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Hyun Joo Yoo, PhD

Staff Member

Current Research Interest: The relationships between brain function, physiological response, and emotion regulation. Effects of arousal on memory and cognition.

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Ringo Huang

Staff Member

Current Research Interest: Understanding psychophysical markers, such as the pupillary response, in aging and neurodegenerative diseases.


Ajay Anand

Part-time Staff Member


Former Lab Members’ Websites and Publications

Sarah Barber, PhD
Assistant Professor, Georgia State University (Publications, Lab)

David Clewett, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, New York University (PublicationsWebpage)

Steven Greening, PhD
Assistant Professor, Louisiana State University (Publications, LabWebpage)

Marisa Knight, PhD
Associate Professor, University of San Francisco (Webpage)

Tae-Ho Lee, PhD
Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech (Publications, Lab)

Nichole Lighthall, PhD
Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida (Publications, Lab)

Bruna Martins, PhD
Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (PublicationsWebpage)

Shawn Nielsen Alvarado, PhD
Field Application Scientist, Molecular Devices (Publications, LinkedIn)

Deanna Novak Carey, PhD
User Experience Researcher, Google (Linkedin)

Phil Opitz, PhD
Manager, Research Science, Connections, Amazon (LinkedIn)

Allison Ponzio
Honors Research in Science Program Head, Marlborough School (Publications, LinkedIn)

Michiko Sakaki, PhD
Associate Professor, University of Reading (Publications, Webpage)

Jo Ann Sison
Principal Human Factors Researcher, SF Motors Inc (LinkedIn)

Matthew Sutherland, PhD (PublicationsWebpage)

Diana Wang, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Southern California (Publications)