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Research Projects

Our Current Focus

Actively Enrolling

This is a multi-session study offering a 14-day at-home training program for stress reduction in IBS. There will also be two study appointments at CMU, each about 90 minutes long, and a remote follow-up. You may be eligible to participate if you are 18 years or older, diagnosed with IBS, fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and available 3-4 months for brief study activities. We are actively enrolling participants and collecting data.

In this remote study, participants complete online monthly writing activities once a month for 6 months, respond to questionnaires, and agree to use a special pill bottle for your aromatase inhibitor medication. We are actively enrolling participants and collecting data.

This is a remote study offering a 2 week digital mindfulness training program for late adolescents coping with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There will also be 2 online surveys and the completion of an at-home microbiome collection. You may be eligible to participate if you are between the ages of 15-19 and diagnosed with IBS. We are actively enrolling participants.

Past Projects

Teen IBS Study

This remote study recruited adolescents (ages 12-17) who have been diagnosed with IBS. Participants completed writing exercises to assess their effectiveness in improving well-being and GI symptoms. The study consisted of 3 remote assessments and the completion of short online writing exercises over the course of a month. Participant recruitment has closed and data analysis will begin soon.

Clairton School Project

In this project we assess outcomes for the Awaken Pittsburgh Program and the CHILL Project by AHN in the Clairton school district. Both programs are year-long curricula designed to transform school culture through mindful awareness skill learning.  For faculty and staff, we assess for impacts on professional quality of life, mindfulness, and stress while for students, we study impacts on mental and emotional well-being throughout the school year. Participants complete brief surveys to evaluate the success of the programs. We are actively conducting data analysis.

Dosing Trial

This in-lab, experimental study examines how different amounts of mindfulness (e.g., number of lessons/days of practice) impacts responses to a physical challenge task. Data collection and analysis complete.

CMU-Highmark Health Call Center Project

In this remote project, we assess the impact of stress management programs in call center employees at the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) call center. Participants are assigned to a 14-day smartphone stress management program involving daily guided practices. Upon completion of the practice, participants assess their affect, mindfulness, social connections, sleep, and workplace satisfaction and productivity through a survey. We are actively conducting data analysis.

Cold Pressor Task

This in-lab, experimental study examined the effects of attention skills on performance during behavioral stress tasks such as the cold-pressor challenge task. We asked participants (CMU students recruited through SONA) to keep their hand submerged for as long as possible in very cold water. Data collection and analysis complete.

Headspace Project

There has been tremendous growth and interest in smartphone mindfulness programs, and Headspace is the most popular smartphone app worldwide. We have recently completed data collection on Headspace in the workplace, exploring how this mindfulness training program changes the brain, health, and one’s work. 

The Adversity Project

While we know a great deal about how stress can increase our susceptibility to a broad range of health problems, we know much less about what makes people resilient under stress. In fact, the modal response to life adversity is one of resilience. We are conducting a large qualitative interview study exploring how people respond to adversity, and coding these interviews for cross-cutting themes. We are exploring stress-buffering factors such as social connections, mindset, meaning, mindfulness, coping flexibility, and early life factors across a variety of adversity experiences in these rich interviews. Data collection and analysis complete.


The primary goal of the Life@CMU study is to identify and gain a deeper understanding of the psychological, social, and institutional factors that affect students’ overall health and academic success. We observe the day-to-day experiences of first-year students throughout their first semester using Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA). Participants report on current activities, social interactions, stress and traumatic experiences, mood, coping strategies, and health behaviors. Using a provided Fitbit and a mobile context AWARE app, participants also recorded continuous passive sensing measures of activity, sleep, location, and smartphone use behaviors during the entire semester. We are actively conducting data analysis.

Stress Reduction Training for Healthy Aging

Humans have a basic need to be socially connected, and social connection is an important factor for healthy aging and longevity. We are conducting the first rigorous and mechanistic test of whether stress management training programs (either mindfulness meditation or relaxation and health education) can foster social connection and inflammatory health among older adults. We are actively conducting data analysis.

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