Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Research

If you don’t get hit by a bus, then most likely inflammation will have a hand in your death. -

Sharon M Pearcey


Some stress is good; however, increased levels of stress can have devastating effects on the health and wellbeing of a person. In our lab, Dr. Doreen Wagner (Wellstar College of Nursing) and I study the physiological and behavioral correlates of stress. We collaborate with many other talented faculty members across the University studying hormones including cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, inflammatory markers such as CRP, and pro-inflammatory cytokines like Interleukin-6-Beta.

In addition to looking at many biomarkers associated with stress, we don’t discriminate against any type of stressor, either.  We have investigated the effects of surgical stress on post-operative delirium and the effects of startle on stress levels, compared the effects of a social stressor on recovering alcoholics with heavy drinkers and non-drinkers, and examined the effects of stress reduction activities such as yoga, meditation, humor, and Reiki therapy.  

By looking at real-world applications of stress and explaining the consequences of stress gone wild, we hope to bring awareness to the population that we need to take care of ourselves (and watch out for busses).

POSE LAB (Psychophysiology of Stress and Emotion)

In my latest collaboration with Dr. Ebony Glover (Psychological Science, NIH Grant PI) and Dr. Doreen Wagner (Nursing), we use the startle paradigm to investigates cortisol changes that occur in response to fear. In this paradigm, individuals are taught that they will get an air blast to the neck when they are shown an image. Then this behavior is extinguished. But some individuals have a more difficult time “unlearning” that fear. We would like to know why.

Biomarkers Related to Post-Operative Stress, Hypothermia, and Delirium

I collaborate with Dr. Doreen Wagner (Nursing) and Dr. Susan M. E. Smith (Molecular and Cell Biology) on a study investigating the relationship among post-operative stress, unplanned perioperative hypothermia, and delirium in critically ill surgical patients (American Association of Critical-Care Nurses [AACN] Grant, Wagner PI).  Specifically, we are measuring serum levels of biomarkers associated with oxidative stress (protein carbonyl and HNE protein adduct) and inflamatory stress (C-reactive protein, Interleukin 6, and S100β).

Undergraduate Research Assistants:

  • Justin MachadoJNT lab
  • Benjamin Ryle
  • Nicolle Sorto-Reyna
  • Taniyah Wright