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Cardiac Neuroscience Lab


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

The College Pile Up Study

NOTICE: Recruiting Study Participants
We are recruiting first-year Rutgers students for the College Pile Up study. Our goal is to understand how typical college health behaviors, such as drinking alcohol and experiencing high levels  of stress, affect the cardiovascular system. Find out how you can get involved here.

Clinical Trial

Project IMPACT: In-the-Moment Protection from Automatic Capture by Triggers. National Institutes of Health (NIH/NIAAA), R01AA023667, 2/20/2015 to 12/31/2019.
A five-year research study that examines how rhythmic breathing interventions affect individual experiences of triggers and cravings in early recovery from substance use disorders.

Psychophysiology Studies 

Changes in Cardiovascular Control Mechanisms Related to Binge Drinking during College. NIH/NIAAA, R01AA027017, 9/15/2018 – 6/30/2023.
This five-year research study examines the cumulative effects of binge drinking on the cardiovascular system over two years.
Neural and Autonomic Markers of Alcohol Use Behavior Change in Emerging Adulthood: A Prospective Study. NIH/NIAAA. F31AA027147, 09/01/2018-08/31/2020.
This two-year fellowship project aims to identify neural and cardiovascular predictors of alcohol use behavior change in individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 years
Deconstructing the Temporal and Multi-Level Influences of the Baroreflex Mechanism on Alcohol Use Behaviors. NIH/NIAAA. K02AA025123, 5/5/2017 – 5/4/2022.
A five-year career development and research grant that seeks to bring the science of how rhythmic breathing interventions works in line with the growing evidence for its clinical utility.
The Baroreflex Mechanism: Translation to AUD Treatment and Prognostic Models. NIH/NIAAA, K24AA021778, 9/1/2013 – 8/31/2018.
This career development and patient oriented research grant seeks to develop and evaluate practical behavioral treatments that improve communication between the heart and brain to help people regulate emotion and drinking behavior.

Neuroimaging Studies 

fMRI and Integrated Neurocardiac Control of Alcohol Cue Reactivity. NIH/NIAAA, R21AA022748, 2/1/2014 – 1/31/2017.
A study simultaneously measuring heart and brain activity to test whether a brief biobehavioral intervention can diminish reactivity to alcohol picture cues.
Marijuana Cues, Arousal and the Central Autonomic Network. NIH/National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA), R03DA031060, 7/1/11 – 6/30/14.
A study of differences in integrated brain and cardiovascular system response to marijuana-related picture cues in regular marijuana users compared to matched controls who do not use marijuana.

Recent Publications and Presentations

  • Lesnewich, L.M., Conway, F. N., Buckman, J. F., Brush, C. J., Ehmann, P. J., Eddie, D., Olson, R. L., Alderman, B. L. & Bates, M. E. (2019). Associations of depression severity with heart rate and heart rate variability in young adults across normative and clinical populations. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 142, 57-65.
  • Alayan, N., Eddie, D., Eller, L., Bates, M.E. & Carmody, D.P. (2019). Substance craving changes in university students receiving Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback: A longitudinal multilevel modeling approach. Addictive Behaviors, 97, 35-41.
  • Brush, C.J., Olson, R.L., Ehmann P.J., Bocchine, A.J., Bates, M.E., Buckman, J.F., Leyro, T.M. & Alderman, B.L. (2019). Lower resting cardiac autonomic balance in young adults with current major depression. Psychophysiology, 56(8), e13385.
  • Leyro, T. M., Buckman, J. F., & Bates, M. E. (2019). Theoretical implications and clinical support for heart rate variability biofeedback for substance use disorders. Current Opinion in Psychology, 30, 92-97.
  • Borges, A.M., Selby, E., Bates, ME., Zvolensky, M., & Leyro, T.M. (2019). Examining the relation between physiological and psychological components of stress reactivity and recovery in cigarette smokers. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 44(2), 131-141.
  • Eddie D, Bates ME, Vaschillo EG, Lehrer PM, Retkwa M & Miuccio M (2018). Rest, reactivity, and recovery: A psychophysiological assessment of borderline personality disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9, 505.
  • Alayan N., Eller L., Bates, M.E. & Carmody, D.P. (2018). Current evidence on heart rate variability biofeedback as a complementary anti-craving intervention. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 24(11), 1039-1050.
  • Eddie D, Conway FN, Alayan N, Buckman J, Bates ME. (2018) Assessing heart rate variability biofeedback as an adjunct to college recovery housing programs. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 92: 70-76.
  • Buckman JF, Vaschillo EG, Fonoberova M, Mezic I, Bates ME. (2018). The translational value of psychophysiology methods and mechanisms: Multi-level, dynamic, personalized. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 79(2): 229-238.
  • Vaschillo EG, Vaschillo B, Buckman JF, Heiss S, Singh G, Bates ME. (2018). Early signs of cardiovascular dysregulation in young adult binge drinkers. Psychophysiology 55(5): e13036.
  • Eddie D, Bates ME. (2017). Toward validation of a borderline personality disorder-relevant picture set. Personality Disorders 8(3): 255-260.
  • Career development panel discussion: Get advice and feedback from experts in the field. August 2018. Panel member. Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.
  • From cognitive function to cardiovascular function, and back again. Co-author: M. Bates. Symposium: “Neurocognitive compromise with substance misuse: Might active interventions help?” (Chair: Julianne Price). March 2018. Collaborative Perspectives on Addiction conference.
  • 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.
  • 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, Albuquerque, NM.


Core Faculty:
Marsha Bates, Ph.D., Director
Jennifer F. Buckman, Ph.D., Associate Director
Bronya Vaschillo, M.D.
Evgeny Vaschillo, Ph.D.
Affiliated Faculty:
Brandon Alderman, Ph.D. (Rutgers-NB)
Bharat Biswal, Ph.D. (NJIT)
Suril Gohel, Ph.D. (Rutgers-Newark)
Teresa Leyro, Ph.D. (Rutgers-NB)
Paul Lehrer, Ph.D. (RBHS)
Igor Mezic, Ph.D. (UCSB)
Edward Selby, Ph.D. (Rutgers-NB)
Postdoctoral Associates:
Sungjin Im, Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology)
Mateo Leganes-Fonteneau (Cognitive Psychology)
Jessica Saalfield, Ph.D. (Behavioral Neuroscience)
Graduate Students:
Laura Lesnewich
Sarah Grace Helton
Research Staff:
Julia Morgano, M.S.W.
Sabrina Todaro
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