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 Faculty


Kaoru Nashiro, PhD

Research Assistant Professor

Current Research Interests:  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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Alexandra Ycaza Herrera, PhD

Research Assistant Professor

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

Personal Website

Post Doctoral Scholars


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

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Shelby Bachman

Graduate Student

Current Research Interests: The influence of emotional arousal on memory, attention, brain structure & brain function across the lifespan

Google Scholar

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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.

Google Scholar


Shubir Dutt

Graduate Student

Current Research Interests: Examine the role of the brainstem and its nuclei in cognitive aging and progression to neurodegenerative disease using structural and functional neuroimaging.

Google Scholar


Jungwon Min

Graduate Student

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


Shai Porat

Graduate Student

Current Research Interests: 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

Project Manager

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


Vardui Grigoryan

Project Assistant

Current Research Interests: Emotional dysregulation and motivation dysfunction in individuals with mental disorders; how to stop stigma and discrimination from preventing individuals from receiving the treatment and care they deserve.


Ringo Huang

Research Associate

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

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Hyun Joo Yoo, PhD

Research Associate

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

Former Lab Members’ Websites and Publications

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

David Clewett, PhD
Assistant Professor, University of California, Los Angeles (PublicationsWebpage)

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

Briana Kennedy, PhD
Lecturer, University of Western Australia (Webpage)

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 (Publications)

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