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BEAMS Lab

Department of Psychology

BEAMS Lab

How do social relationships affect biological processes and what does it mean for family mental health?


For years, psychological scientists have argued about whether Nature or Nurture is more important for mental health. In the Biology, Environments, and Mood Studies (BEAMS) Lab, we're broadly interested in how these forces work together—how experiences in our environments can change biological processes and how biological risk can modify the effects of experiences. By identifying these dynamic transactions, we hope to better understand what contributes to mental health problems in families so that we can improve treatment and reduce suffering.

Our lab is particularly interested in understanding depression, which is one of the most commons forms of psychopathology, the leading cause of disability worldwide, and a significant contributor to tragic outcomes including suicide and comorbid illness. To understand what causes depression, our lab considers multiple aspects of biology including epigenetic processes, peripheral markers of immune functioning, indices of cellular aging, and metabolomic profiles. We couple these biological processes with investigations into both social and physical environments, including aspects of relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners as well as physical exposures, such as to pollutants or intrauterine signals. Because our lab views depression as falling along a continuum, we study families across a range of functioning from very healthy to very distressed. We believe every family has the potential to contribute meaningfully to science!

We hope you'll explore these pages to get a better sense of who we are, what we study, and ways to get involved in our work.