David Cicero, PhD
The goal of my research is to understand the mechanisms involved in the development of psychosis and to use that understanding to improve our ability to predict and prevent future psychosis. Most social-cognitive models of psychosis have included two specific components: Aberrant salience (i.e., the unusual or incorrect assignment of significance or importance to stimuli, which is thought to be associated with dopamine dysregulation; Kapur, 2003) and self-processing (i.e., the way in which an individual processes information related to the self).
My research program focuses on: (a) defining and measuring the constructs of aberrant salience and psychotic-like experiences; (b) examining the relations between self-processing and psychotic and psychotic-like experiences; and (c) investigating the interaction between aberrant salience and self-processing in psychosis. My research uses questionnaire and interview assessments of psychotic symptoms, basic social cognitive neuroscience tasks to measure aberrant salience and self-processing, experimental psychopathology paradigms to understand normal and abnormal belief formation, and advanced statistical techniques to examine the factor structure of psychotic-like experiences.
Aaron M. Neis
My research interest currently involves looking at minor physical anomalies (MPAs) that have been observed in individuals with schizophrenia and determining if there is a link to individual or groups of MPAs to the symptoms structure of the disease. My hopes with this research is to improve knowledge of how the symptoms and the MPAs are associated and eventually develop methods to improve early detection of individuals that may be at risk for the development of the disease.
I am originally from New Mexico and I completed my Bachelor’s degree at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. After graduation, I stayed at Wesleyan for a couple of years as an RA in a lab studying the effect of cognitive remediation training on the ability to benefit from social skills training in individuals with schizophrenia. My current research involves (1) undergraduate perceptions of the causes and treatments of Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome (APS) and the influence of ethnicity on these beliefs and (2) patterns of internet usage in individuals with elevated levels of psychotic-like experiences and how these might be related to aspects of social cognitive dysfunction.
I grew up in Los Angeles, CA and received by Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. At Miami, I worked as a research assistant in a schizophrenia lab testing a new family therapy for patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. My main research interest involves the intersection of mental illness and violence. My thesis involves examining, longitudinally, how childhood mental health relates to violent activity later in life. Other research interests of mine include the development of psychopathy, personality disorders, and the treatment of those deemed not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI).
Current Undergraduate Research Assistants
I am from California and am a Psychology major working on the last year of my undergraduate degree. I will be taking a year off from college following graduation to focus on some volunteer work here on the island as well as spending an extra year working on research with Dr. Cicero. My goal is to ultimately obtain a PhD in Clinical Psychology and to open my own private practice.
Wai Kuk Kwok
HEAL Lab Grads
2015 HEAL lab hike – (from left) Jonathan Cohn, Theo Ueki, Aaliyah Paxson, David Cicero