Why are habits so hard to break? Are there clues from our brains that might lead to novel ways to tap into basic learning processes to "hack" our minds into better health?
Here's a 10 minute TED talk that sum's up my research career.
As the Director of Research and Innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center and Associate Professor of Behavoral and Social Sciences in the School of Public Health and Psychiatry at the Medical School, I am interested in habit formation and behavior change science. I bring together theory, basic and translational neuroscience with the development of consumer and clinical training tools to improve health.
I received by BA in chemistry from Princeton University and my MD/PhD from Washington University in St. Louis, where my thesis work focused on molecular mechanisms of stress hormone regulation of the immune system using conditional knockout mouse models. After training in mindfulness meditation during medical and graduate school, I completed residency training in Psychiatry at Yale. I then joined the faculty at Yale, where I received training in clinical trials and neuroimaging, and shifted my focus from animal models of stress to the elucidation of neurobiological mechanisms underlying the interface between stress, mindfulness and habit formation as part of the addictive process. My aim is focused on translating these findings into the development of effective behavior change therapeutics.
Based on theoretical and mechanistic insights, we have developed novel mindfulness programs for behavior change, including both in-person and app-based treatments for smoking, emotional eating, and anxiety. My lab’s current research interests include the intersection between mindfulness, emotion regulation and behavior change. My lab is studying these via multiple modes, including linking theoretical models to behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms of action using experience sampling (aka ecological momentary assessment), EEG (e.g. source-estimated EEG neurofeedback), and fMRI methodologies. Additionally, my work bridges basic and clinical sciences through translational research that includes design, testing, and implementation of digital therapeutics, such as app-based delivery of mindfulness training in real-world settings.
I have summarized the theory and neuroscience in the book The Craving Mind, and how to apply it to changing habits ranging from anxiety to procrastionation to addicction in the book Unwinding Anxiety (New York Times best-seller in 2021).