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Lab Director: Suzanne Vrshek-Schallhorn, PhD

Dr. Suzanne Vrshek-Schallhorn received dual bachelors degrees in biology and psychology from Florida State University. In 2008, she completed her PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, supported for three years by a National Science Foundation predoctoral research fellowship. She completed an APA-accredited predoctoral clinical psychology internship at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center during 2007-2008. Dr. Vrshek-Schallhorn served as a postdoc at Northwestern University in the Department of Psychology, first as the NU project director of the Youth Emotion Project (2008 to 2010), and next as an NIH/NIMH NRSA postdoctoral research fellow (2010 to 2013). She is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina - Greensboro.

Dr. Vrshek-Schallhorn is primarily interested in the etiology (i.e., study of causes) of depression. Her work uses naturalistic life stress and lab-induced stress to study the main effects of stress and gene-environment interactions on depression and related outcomes, such as affective information processing performance.

Why study depression?

Depression has very large public health costs, but moreover, it exacts an immense emotional toll on its sufferers (and their loved ones), robbing life from their years and sometimes years from their lives.

Why Gene-Environment Interaction Research?

Behavioral genetic evidence demonstrates a moderate genetic contribution to risk for depression, and decades of life stress research document the influence of several forms of life stress. Vulnerability-stress models (and differential sensitivity models) suggest that some individuals are more vulnerable to the depressogenic effects of stress than others. Gene-environment interaction models that test specific genetic polymorphism are beginning to have explanatory power to show who is relatively more vulnerable to these effects of stress. Ultimately, characterizing polymorphisms involved in the pathway to depression will inform what biological systems are involved. This may provide new insights for depression treatment and prevention.

Dr. Vrshek-Schallhorn will accept one or more graduate students in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at UNC-Greensboro for the 2014-2015 academic year. Applicants to the UNCG experimental psychology masters program may also be considered. Planning to apply? Email Dr. Vrshek-Schallhorn to express your interest at [suzanne dot schallhorn at gmail dot com].

Select Publications
Vrshek-Schallhorn, S., Mineka, S., Zinbarg, R.E., Craske, M.G., Griffith, J.W., Sutton, J., Redei, E.E., Wolitzky-Taylor, K., Hammen, C., Adam, E.K. (In press.) Refining the candidate environment: Interpersonal stress, the serotonin transporter polymorphism, and gene-environment interactions on major depression. Clinical Psychological Science.

Wolitzky-Taylor, K., Vrshek-Schallhorn, S., Waters, A.M., Mineka, S., Zinbarg, R.E., Ornitz, E., Naliboff, B. Craske , M.G. (In Press). Adversity in early and mid-adolescence is associated with elevated startle responses to safety cues in late adolescence. Clinical Psychological Science.

Vrshek-Schallhorn, S., Wahlstrom, D., White , T., Luciana, M. (2013). The effect of brain dopamine depletion on emotion-based decision-making performance in healthy adults. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 105: 51-57.

Vrshek-Schallhorn, S., Doane, L.D., Mineka, S., Zinbarg, R.E., Craske, M.G., Adam, E.K. (2013). The Cortisol Awakening Response predicts major depression: Predictive stability over a four year follow-up and effect of depression history. Psychological Medicine, 43(03), 483-493.