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Health Psychology

The BBS Program includes a concentration in Health Psychology. This specialty area is designed to provide interdisciplinary training in both theory and methods focused on physical health across the lifespan. Our faculty have expertise in health behaviors (e.g., smoking, diet, physical fitness), clinical indicators of health (e.g., blood pressure, cardiometabolic risk), and immunologic processes. In addition, students can take advantage of training opportunities across campus, including options for research and coursework in Public Health, Human Development and Family Science, Sociology, and Foods and Nutrition.


Core BBS Health Psychology Faculty

Dr. Katie Ehrlich studies how children’s social experiences shape their mental and physical health. Her laboratory utilizes a variety of research methods to evaluate social and emotional functioning, including structured behavioral observations, clinical interviews, self-reports, and performance-based tasks. In addition, she incorporates clinical health measures and indices of cellular function and adaptive immunity. Current projects examine (a) the links between social experiences and children’s antibody production following vaccination, (b) intergenerational transmission of health disparities among African American families, and (c) skin deep resilience, depression risk, and cognitive development in adolescence.

Laboratory: Health and Development Laboratory


Dr. Janet Frick studies individual and developmental differences in infant visual attention, with a primary focus on the cognitive and social influences of early attention, learning, and memory. She utilizes both laboratory and community-based observational studies of infant and toddler behavior. Some of her recent collaborative work has included examination of nutritional influences on the early development and function of the visual system, with a focus on how such individual differences impact early learning and memory.

Laboratory: Infant Research Laboratory


Dr. Randy Hammond studies how lifestyle, primarily dietary, influences both the development of degenerative disease and the normal function of the central nervous system. For example, he uses psychophysical methods to measure the concentration of the dietary carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin within the fovea (termed macular pigment or the macula lutea) and have related those pigments to various aspects of retinal and brain function.

Laboratory: Vision Sciences Laboratory


Dr. Philip Holmes studies neurobiological mechanisms responsible for cognitive, motivational, and emotional functions, with a focus on brain catecholamine and peptide neurotransmitters.  This research involves a combination of molecular, genetic, pharmacological, and behavioral approaches in rodent models. His research has revealed the essential role noradrenergic systems play in mediating the beneficial effects of exercise on synaptic plasticity and stress resilience.  He also studies how endocrine and immune systems impact brain catecholamines to influence learning, memory, and emotional behavior.  

Laboratory: Behavioral Neuropharmacology Laboratory


Dr. Richard Slatcher focuses on understanding the effects of peoples' close relationships on their health and well-being from a social psychological perspective.

Laboratory: Close Relationships Laboratory


Dr. Lawrence Sweet integrates multimodal neuroimaging and neuropsychological assessments to examine brain-behavior relationships in clinical and at-risk populations (e.g., addictions, cardiovascular disease, early life adversity, aging). The Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory (CNS Lab) specializes in experimental design, and data acquisition, analyses, and interpretation for studies that employ functional magnetic resonance imaging, structural morphometry, and white matter lesion quantification. The CNS Lab is responsible for data analyses and consultation for several local and multi-site NIH-funded research studies.

Laboratory: Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory 


Dr. Michelle vanDellen studies self-regulation, the processes by which people choose, pursue, and disengage from goals. Her work is driven by two core assumptions: 1) goal pursuits are inherently interpersonal and 2) cognition and motivation interact to drive self-regulatory processes. She applies her work to a broad range of domains, including health behaviors of smoking (with a particular emphasis on dual-smoker couples), eating, and physical fitness. 

Laboratory: Motivation and Behavior Laboratory


Affiliated Health Psychology Faculty

Dr. Steven Beach is interested in the interconnected nature of problems in the family, problems with depression, and health-related outcomes. He also has focused on identifying ways to utilize social relationships as a method of enhancing health and well-being by constructing or enhancing resilience-promoting social resources (Brody, Yu, & Beach, 2016). His current work focuses on identifying biological markers, inflammatory processes, and epigenetic mediators of environmentally triggered effects on health and health behavior (Beach, Lei, Brody, Miller, Chen, Mandara, Philibert, 2017). This work contributes to the understanding of modifiable environmental factors that may indirectly drive biological and behavioral risk processes. Of particular interest are biological effects of family and social relationships.

Laboratory: Beach Laboratory


Dr. Ron Blount studies medical adherence, quality of life and adjustment to illness, medical outcomes, transition from pediatric to adult medical care, and related topics. His primary patient research groups include solid organ transplant recipients, patients with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiac conditions, and their families. Additionally, he has a variety of pediatric research interests and is currently or has recently conducted research on therapeutic camps and Tourette syndrome.

Laboratory: UGA Pediatric Psychology Lab


Dr. Adam Goodie studies decision making under uncertainty, including risky decisions that affect psychopathology, health care, and safety.

Laboratory: Georgia Decision Laboratory


Dr. Justin Lavner is interested in interventions to promote physical, mental, and relational health among couples and families. He is currently conducting a randomized controlled trial testing two interventions for first-time African American mothers and their newborn infants aimed at reducing health disparities early in the lifespan.


Dr. Anne Shaffer studies social and emotional processes in families and close relationships. She is currently studying how intensive parenting behaviors are linked to poorer mental health and systemic inflammation in parents.

Laboratory: FRESH (Family Relationships, Emotions, Stress and Health) Laboratory

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