Anxiety, Psychophysiology, and Pain Research Laboratory
The Anxiety and Psychophysiology Research Laboratory existed at Oklahoma State University when Dr. McNeil was a faculty member there from 1985 through 1994. The Anxiety, Psychophysiology, and Pain Research Laboratory has existed at West Virginia University from 1994 through the present.
The Anxiety, Psychophysiology, and Pain Research (APP) Laboratory is located
in the Life Sciences Building, which houses the Department of Psychology and
the Department of Biology on WVU’s downtown campus. The four-room APP suite
is situated in a secure research corridor on the second floor of the LSB, near
Dr. McNeil’s Psychology faculty office. The lab itself provides facilities
for holding meetings as well as housing three computers, two printers, and
one printer/scanner for use by lab members. Computers are hardwired to the
University’s intranet as well as the Internet.
In the laboratory, there is Coulbourn® psychophysiological data acquisition equipment that is computer-controlled, with automated data storage. This equipment also can be used remotely (e.g., in chronic pain clinics). To allow psychophysiological recording without interference, a Faraday shield, aka Faraday “cage” (unobtrusively) completely surrounds two of the lab rooms, blocking external static and non-static electric fields. The physiological equipment also has been configured to allow its use in biofeedback applications with clinical patients from the WVU Department of Psychology’s clinic, the Quin Curtis Center for Psychological Services.
The APP lab also has strong linkages with the WVU Health Sciences Center, particularly
the School of Dentistry. Numerous field studies have been conducted there. Access
to clinical populations (e.g., oral surgery patients, general dental patients;
family medicine patients) and research facilities is readily available there.
Laboratory Research Foci
Consistent with a high level of intellectual and scientific curiosity about human behavior generally, the areas of focus in the Anxiety, Psychophysiology, and Pain Research Laboratory are quite broad. Much of the research falls under the broad purview of pain and anxiety disorders. The interactions among anxiety, fear, and pain provide a linkage between the “Health Psychology” and “Anxiety Disorders” areas of interest that exist in contemporary psychology, psychiatry, social work, and other areas of health care. Since the dental setting is a “natural laboratory” for the study of pain, anxiety, and fear, the field of Behavioral Dentistry is another primary focus. Similarly, the interaction between pain and a variety of emotional states are an area of current interest, specifically focusing on “emotional pain.”
Another area of emphasis in the APP Lab is multiculturalism, particularly focusing on Appalachian populations, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and indigenous peoples globally. The disparities in health that face underserved groups is an interest, including problems with utilization, particularly those that are involved in avoidance behavior related to fear, anxiety, and phobia.
Multimodal and multimethod approaches to assessment are valued in the lab, so psychophysiological measures are an area of interest. There are some long-standing and continuing tertiary interests in social anxiety, including Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia. Historically and currently, much of the research in the lab has had an experimental psychopathology focus. Nevertheless, some other current interests include methods to enhance exposure therapies for dental phobia and other anxiety disorders.
One of the lab rooms is furnished as a dental
operatory, which can be used in laboratory-based studies
(e.g., as a “fear stimulus” in the assessment and treatment of dental phobia).
Matthew Arias defending his Master's thesis
Selected List of Current Research Projects
• Intensity of exposure stimuli as a factor of patient adoption and preference
for phobia treatment (Matthew Arias' dissertation)
• Effects of age on pain-related fear through a large cross-sectional study (Casey
Wright's master's thesis)
• Novel approach to present stimuli for self-directed exposure utilizing smartphone technology (Matthew Arias' master's thesis)
• Relations of stress, zonulin, and periodontal disease (F31 grant submission to the National Institutes of Health)
• Factors contributing to oral health disparities in Appalachia (2R01 DE014899; WVU Principal Investigator for a grant from the National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research/National Institutes of Health)
McNeil building a cabinet for a dental drill in the operatory room
Ethics and Science
Involvement in the APP Lab is intended to train students in the proper and ethical conduct of research. All lab members are expected to embody the highest ethical and professional principles and behaviors. Each semester, lab meetings include a discussion of applied research ethics.
As such the lab operates in accordance with the following documented ethical principles:
• Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct from the American Psychological Association
• Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct from the American Dental Association
• Declaration of Helsinki regarding Ethical Principles for Research involving Human Subjects
• The Belmont Report of 1979 regarding Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research
• United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Annual McNeil Lab Ski Trip
Cameron Ford, WVU Graduate Student in the Clinical Psychology Program, Helping Matthew Arias Develop Exposure Videos for His Master's Thesis
Psychophysiology Room in the APP Lab