Professor of Medical Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
My major current research interests are the behavioral, cardiovascular, and neuroendocrine effects of caffeine consumption
. The focus has been on potential public health issues associated with caffeine consumption such as increases in risk for cardiovascular disease in habitual caffeine consumers and mood and performance disturbances associated with periods of caffeine deprivation. I am currently engaged in four research areas.
1.) Laboratory studies
effects on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine measures of stress reactivity
. -- My research has repeatedly shown that caffeine can augment or potentiate cardiovascular and neuroendocrine stress responses in the laboratory. Recently we have investigated how caffeine affects other patterns of simple and complex cardiovascular responses.
2.) Ambulatory studies
of the cardiovascular
and neuroendocrine effects of caffeine
. -- This research will establish whether laboratory effects generalize to the real world. Thus far I have shown that caffeine administration can potentiate epinephrine excretion during normal workday activities, suggesting that caffeine may have intensified the neuroendocrine effects of work-related stress
, and that caffeine administration can raise ambulatory blood pressure and heart rate during the workday.
3.) Studies of brief caffeine deprivation
. -- I am investigating how brief periods of caffeine deprivation may affect mood, physical symptoms, and cognitive or psychomotor performance. Subjects are tested a midday following mornings of caffeine intake or caffeine abstinence to simulate what happens when habitual coffee drinkers are deprived of morning coffee. Studies to date have consistently demonstrated increases in negative mood and decreases in alertness along with headache, even in this relatively short period of time. Thus far no effects on performance have been observed, but I am investigating a variety of tasks and task factor to determine the conditions necessary to observe experimentally the cognitive deficits that subjects report.
4.) Interactions between coffee drinking and cigarette smoking
. -- These studies explore whether caffeine or coffee increases the health risks associated with smoking or serves to maintain smoking behavior in ways that make quitting more difficult. Thus far I have tested: the separate and combined effects of caffeine and smoking on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine measures of sympathetic activity and mood; the effects of single and combined caffeine and smoking abstinence on mood, symptoms, and cognitive performance; whether changes in daily caffeine dose alter smoking behavior; and whether coffee drinking could stimulate smoking by serving as a learned cue for smoking behavior.
A second research area concerns the health effects of meditation training
. We are currently conducting a controlled clinical trial testing the effects of meditation as a behavioral adjunct for reduction of blood pressure. The study involves both laboratory and ambulatory measurements of blood pressure outcome, and investigates stress-reduction as a mechanism for clinical treatment effects.
I have conducted preliminary research in several other areas. More extensive programs in these areas are currently under development.
1.) Behavioral factors
in glycemic control
in Type II diabetes
. -- These include studies of the role of stress reactivity in glycemic control in patients with diabetes; the potential benefits of stress management education to improve glycemic control; the detrimental effects of caffeine and nicotine consumption on glycemic control; and the relationships between personality traits, self-care behaviors, and glycemic control.
2.) The role of oxidative stress
in the harmful effects of cigarette smoking
. -- I have demo