Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience
University of Arizona
Current Research Update: “My research focuses on how the ability to reflect upon and describe emotion influences mental and physical health as well as how emotional arousal influences the functioning of the heart and the propensity for sudden cardiac death.”
How IMHR Helped Facilitate This Work: “I received two grants on depression from IMHR (2005 and 2006). These grants were instrumental in my getting a larger grant for $450,000 from the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission. The latter data set involved fMRI and vagal tone measures before and during treatment in depressed patients and a healthy control group. This data set provided the basis for my supervising the research of a graduate student, Ryan Smith, who obtained his Ph.D. in experimental psychology under my supervision. We published 7 (1-7) papers (and an eighth with another set of researchers ) that advanced our understanding of how depression is associated with dysregulation of bodily physiology. Ryan and I then wrote a major theoretical paper on depression inspired by this body of research (9).
Ryan and I discovered through this work on depression that we had a very synergistic working relationship. To date we have published 32 papers or chapters together, with more on the way. It is not clear that any of this productivity would have happened if not for the initial IMHR grants.
I also received a collaborative grant from IMHR in 2008 to work with Dr. Cynthia Stonnington at the Mayo Clinic. We published two papers from this data set (10,11). The findings from this data set have provided an extremely useful new method for identifying a subtle but important way of capturing deficits in emotional awareness in patients with persistent somatic symptoms. The method we used in this study involved using animations of moving triangles that either portray poignant narratives, goal directed activity or random movement. This method enables us to obtain a measure of deficient emotional awareness without asking participants about their emotions or conveying in any way that we are interested in their emotions. This method is being used in other studies now but, even more importantly, has advanced understanding of the nature of the deficit in emotional awareness in the context of persistent somatic symptoms and other contexts (essentially not only do these patients have difficulty detecting emotional signals when such signals are present but also they do not expect or anticipate others to have emotions as readily as do healthy volunteers). The findings from this study were instrumental in supporting a new theory of impaired emotion processing called “affective agnosia” (12) which has led to the “three process model of emotion processing” (13) which in turn has led to a new way of conceptualizing the clinical problem known as alexithymia (“lacking words for emotions”) (14). In other words, this grant has spawned important empirical and theoretical progress that could have far reaching effects on mental health in Arizona and beyond.
1. Smith RS, Chen K, Baxter L, Fort CL, Lane RD. Gray matter volume changes associated with antidepressant and cognitive-behavioral therapy for major depression: A longitudinal voxel-based morphometry study. Journal of Affective Disorders 2013; 146: 414-419.
2. Lane RD, Weidenbacher H, Smith RS, Fort CL, Thayer JF, Allen JJB. Subgenual anterior cingulate cortex activity covariation with cardiac vagal control is altered in depression. Journal of Affective Disorders 2013; 150(2): 565–570.
3. Smith R, Fass H, Lane RD. Role of medial prefrontal cortex in the representation of one’s own subjective emotional responses. Consciousness and Cognition 2014; 29: 117-130.
4. Smith R, Allen JJB, Thayer JF, Fort C, Lane RD. Increased association over time between regional frontal lobe BOLD change magnitude and cardiac vagal control with sertraline treatment for major depression. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 2014; 224(3): 225-233.
5. Smith R, Allen JJB, Thayer JF, Fort C, Lane RD. Altered functional connectivity between medial prefrontal cortex and the inferior brainstem in major depression during appraisal of subjective emotional responses: A preliminary study. Biological Psychology 2015; 108: 13-24.
6. Smith R, Baxter LC, Thayer JF, Lane RD. Disentangling introspective and exteroceptive attentional control from emotional appraisal in depression using fMRI: A preliminary study. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 2016; 248, 39-47, 2016.
7. Smith R, Allen JJB, Thayer JF, Fort C, Lane RD. Regional frontal lobe response magnitudes during affective shifting covary with resting heart rate variability in healthy volunteers but not depressed subjects. Journal of Psychophysiology 2016 (July 27).
8. Schafer S, Allen JJB, Wager TD, Mercado R, Thayer JF, Lane RD. Partial amelioration of medial visceromotor network dysfunction in major depression by sertraline. Psychosomatic Medicine 2015; 77:752-761.
9. Smith R, Killgore WD, Lane RD. Nested positive feedback loops in major depression: An integration and extension of previous models. Brain, Behavior and Immunity 2018; 67: 374-397.
10. Stonnington CM, Ritenbaugh C, Locke DEC, Hsu C-H, Lane RD. Somatization is Associated with Deficits in Affective Theory of Mind. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 2013; 74(6):479-85.
11. Lane RD, Hsu C-H, Ritenbaugh C, Locke DEC, Stonnington CM. Role of Theory of Mind in emotional awareness and alexithymia: Implications for conceptualization and measurement. Consciousness and Cognition 2015; 33: 398-405.
12. Lane RD, Weihs KL, Herring A, Hishaw A, Smith R. Affective agnosia: Expansion of the alexithymia construct and a new opportunity to integrate and extend Freud’s legacy. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 2015; 55:594-611.
13. Smith R, Killgore WD, Lane RD. The structure of emotional experience and its relation to trait emotional awareness: a theoretical review. Emotion 2018;18(5):670.
14. Smith R, Kaszniak AW, Katsanis J, Lane RD*, Nielsen L* (*joint senior authors). The importance of identifying underlying process abnormalities in alexithymia: Implications of the three-process model and a single case study illustration. Consciousness and Cognition 2019; 68: 33-46.