Cardiac Neuroscience Laboratory (CNL)

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Project IMPACT is a five-year research study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) that examines how rhythmic breathing interventions affect individual experiences of triggers and cravings in early recovery from substance use disorders.



This NIAAA and NIDA supported lab conducts brain-heart research by integrating the conceptual models and methods of psychology, neuroscience, physiology, exercise science, and computational modeling. Our research is aimed at understanding the relations between alcohol and other drug use behaviors, cognition, emotional regulation, and neurocardiac signaling. We are developing novel interventions for biobehavioral disorders such as addiction. The lab provides team science training for undergraduate and graduate students, post-baccalaureate research assistants, postdoctoral fellows, and early career faculty.

Research Aim(s): 

*  To better understand the role of heart rate variability and the baroreflex mechanism in behavioral flexibility

*  Translation of basic knowledge about neurocardiac signaling to develop novel interventions to interrupt craving and negative affective states that promote relapse

*  Collaborative research at the Rutgers Brain Imaging Center (RUBIC), Rutgers-Newark, to develop functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and psychophysiological assessment tools to understand integrated brain-body feedback systems

*  Collaborative research with systems analysts and computational modelers at UC-Santa Barbara and AIMdyn, Inc., to build personalized medicine and prognostic models

*  Collaborative research with neuroscientists, physiologists, exercise scientists, and a community partner/treatment provider, The Center for Great Expectations (Somerset, NJ) to examine the real world utility of our translational science models

*  Identification of genes that underlie physiological and psychological adaptive responding

Active Research Projects: 
  • Project IMPACT: In-the-Moment Protection from Automatic Capture by Triggers. National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), R01AA023667, 2/20/2015 to 12/31/2019. ACTIVE.
  • fMRI and Integrated Neurocardiac Control of Alcohol Cue Reactivity. National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), R21AA022748, 2/1/2014 to 1/31/2017. Ongoing analyses.
  • Deconstructing the Temporal and Multi-Level Influences of the Baroreflex Mechanism on Alcohol Use Behaviors, NIH, NIAAA. K02AA025123, 5/5/2017 - 5/4/2022. ACTIVE.
  • The Baroreflex Mechanism: Translation to AUD Treatment and Prognostic Models, NIH, NIAAA, K24AA021778, 9/1/2013 to 8/31/2018. ACTIVE.
  • Examining the Vascular Tone Baroreflex as a Target for Alcohol Use Intervention, NIH, NIAAA, R21AA020367, 2/1/2012 – 1/31/2015. Ongoing analyses. 
  • Marijuana Cues, Arousal and the Central Autonomic Network, NIH,National  Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA), R03DA031060, 7/1/11 to 6/30/14. Ongoing analyses. 
  • Multi-scale Neurophysiological Control Systems of MOBCI (mechanisms of behavior change initiation), NIH, NIAAA, HHSN275201000003C, 4/9/10 to 7/8/13. Ongoing analyses.
  • Cocaine, Appetitive Memory, and Neural Connectivity, K01DA029047, 4/01/11 to 03/31/16. Ongoing analyses.
  • Exploring genetic influences on alcohol use using novel statistical methods, K01AA017473, 7/1/09 to 6/30/14. Ongoing analyses.
  • Alcohol, memory and affective regulation. R01 AA015248, NIH, NIAAA, 7/1/04 to 6/30/10. Ongoing analyses.
  • Memory processes, emotional regulation, and developmental stageof drug exposure. NIH, NIDA, 91/03 to 8/31/09 - A component of a Specialized Transdisciplinary Prevention Research Center – Drug abuse prevention during developmental transitions. Ongoing analyses.

Recent Press and Presentations: 

Mechanisms of Behavior Change: The translational value of psychophysiology methods. In symposium, “New Findings in the Study of Mechanisms of Behavior Change (MOBC)." June 2017. Annual Pre-Conference Satellite Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, Denver, CO.

Exploring Heterogeneity in the Stress-Alcohol Diathesis Across the Lifespan, Symposium Disscusant. May 2017. International Congress on Alcoholism and Stress, Volterra, Italy.

Anxiety, depression and stress in a high risk college environment: Improving HRV and neurocardiac signaling to prevent relapse, In symposium, "Exploring Heterogeneity in the Stress-Alcohol Diathesis Across the Lifespan." May 2017. International Congress on Alcoholism and Stress, Volterra, Italy.

HRV as a mechanism of change: Linking brain and behavior. In symposium, “Heart rate variability as a dynamic, real-time indicator of active brain and behavior mechanisms.” March 2017. Collaborative Perspectives on Addiction conference, Albuquerqu, NM.

Smartphone apps to measure and intervene in real-time physiological responses to triggers.In symposium: “Interactive Alcohol Research and Clinical Practice---Mobile Technology for Every Occasion.” ). August 2016. American Psychological Association Conference, Denver, CO.

Test of an innovative behavioral manipulation of neurocardiac signaling as an intervention to modulate alcohol cue reactivity. Invited address. Science of Change Meeting, held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biological Psychiatry, Atlanta, GA.


Training Offered: 
The lab provides team science training for undergraduate and graduate students, post-baccalaureate research assistants, postdoctoral fellows, and early career faculty.

Video demonstrating the resonance frequency breathing practice taught in heart rate variability biofeedback.

Core Faculty: Marsha E. Bates, Ph.D., Director
Jennifer F. Buckman, Ph.D., Associate Director
Suchismita Ray, Ph.D.
Bronya Vaschillo, M.D.
Evgeny Vaschillo, Ph.D.
Affiliated Faculty: Brandon Alderman, Ph.D.(Rutgers-NB)
Bharat Biswal, Ph.D. (NJIT)
Paul Lehrer, Ph.D. (RBHS)
Igor Mezic, Ph.D. (UCSB)
Eun Young Mun, Ph.D. (Rutgers-NB)
Edward Selby, Ph.D. (Rutgers-NB)
Graduate Students:
Laura Banu Lesnewich
Sarah Grace Helton
Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistants:  
Other information: 

Recent Former Students and Post-Doctoral Fellows:

Sydney Heiss - University of Albany, State University of New York
Alex Puhalla - Graduate Student in Clinical Psychology, Temple University
Tam Nguyen - Graduate Student in Clinical Psychology, UCSD
Prabhav Deo - Medical Student, New Jersey Medical School
Tomoko Udo - Assistant Professor, SUNY, Albany
Ryan Holland - Medical Student, SUNY Syracuse
Sydney Heiss - Graduate Student in Clinical Psychology, SUNY, Albany
Michelle Retkwa - Graduate Student in Physical Therapy - Kean University
David Eddie - Fellow in Clinical Psychology - Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital