Wendy Heller

Description

Address

Biography

Wendy Heller is Professor and Department Head of the Psychology Department, and a part-time Beckman Institute faculty member in the Social and Emotional Well-Being Group. She holds a B.A. in Spanish and Psychology with Honors from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Biopsychology from the University of Chicago. She directs the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience of Psychopathology Lab (CANOPY lab). Her research investigates the neural mechanisms associated with emotion-cognition interactions and their implications for psychopathology. She is particularly interested in examining cognitive and emotional risk factors associated with the development or maintenance of anxiety and depression. She uses behavioral and neuroimaging methods such as neuropsychological task performance, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and event-related potentials (ERPs). Her work has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Honors

Fellow of the American Psychological Society (APS) (2009); "Larine Y. Cowan Make a Difference Award" for remarkable leadership and commitment to diversity at the University of Illinois (2010); NIMH Individual Faculty Scholar Award (1991-1993); NIMH Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Award (1985-87).

Research

Neuropsychological research has demonstrated that not only are different regions of the brain specialized for different cognitive functions, they also differ in the role they play in emotional processing. Areas of the brain that are involved in information processing are thus, concurrently and in a complementary manner, engaged in a variety of emotional processes, which may influence or interact with cognition at various stages of the learning or memory process. Heller's research focuses on examining how activity and function of different brain regions influences cognitive, emotional, and social functioning and their implications for depression and anxiety. Her studies combine experimental paradigms from cognitive psychology with behavioral measures such as performance on neuropsychological tasks and measures of central nervous system activity such as EEG/ERPs and fMRI.

Heller’s work focuses on understanding the neural mechanisms that implement emotional processing and experience and on applying these models to understanding the cognitive and emotional characteristics of psychopathology, especially mood and anxiety disorders.  She uses neuropsychological and neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI to identify neural subsystems that are spatially and functionally distinct and that are involved in implementing unique constellations of both emotional and cognitive processes. Our work has shown that depression is associated with deficits in activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in the ability to modulate top-down attentional processing. This may be the source of difficulties in concentration and efficient task performance in depression. However, it appears that different types of anxiety interact differently with brain activity in this region, which has implications for the development of cognitive problems in depression. We have provided compelling evidence for different patterns of brain activity associated with each of two types of anxiety: anxious apprehension (verbal rumination, worry) and anxious arousal (intense fear and/or panic). The nature of cognitive processing in mood and anxiety disorders appears to depend on the degree to which these different dimensions of depression and anxiety are present. Our work showcases state of the art approaches that have been identified as crucial in developing a novel classification of mental disorders (see Hyman, 2007, Nature Reviews/Neuroscience). In addition, we pioneered a  dimensional approach in the context of a cognitive neuroscience investigation of  psychopathology (Gray, 2002). Our work has contributed significantly to the effort to identify an endophenotype for depression (Bruder et al., 2007, Biological Psychiatry). Our findings are relevant not only for understanding severe mental disorders. We have observed the same patterns in nonclinical populations (e.g. college students) with mild levels of depression and anxiety. Therefore, our results help to elucidate the role of cognition/emotion interactions in risk and vulnerability to more serious disorders of psychopathology.  Heller’s more recent work has examined individual differences in personality (e.g., schizotypy), motivation (e.g., approach/avoidance temperament), attachment, and executive function, and their relationship to brain function and psychopathology.

Publications

  • 2015
    • Kaiser, R. H.; Andrews-Hanna, J. R.; Spielberg, J. M.; Warren, S. L.; Sutton, B. P.; Miller, G. A.; Heller, W.; Banich, M. T., Distracted and Down: Neural Mechanisms of Affective Interference in Subclinical Depression. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 2015, 10, (5), 654-663, DOI:10.1093/Scan/Nsu100.

    • Spielberg, J. M.; Miller, G.A.; Heller, W.; Banich, M. T., Flexible brain network reconfiguration supporting inhibitory control. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2015, 112: 10020-10025. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1500048112.

    • Sharp, P. B.; Miller, G. A.; Heller, W. (2015). Transdiagnostic dimensions of anxiety: Neural mechanisms, executive functions, and new directions. International Journal of Psychophysiology 2015, DOI:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2015.07.001.

    • Hur, J.; Miller, G. A.; McDavitt, J.; Spielberg, J. M.; Crocker, L. C.; Infantolino, Z. P.; Towers, D. N.; Warren, S. L.; Heller, W, Interactive effects of trait and state affect on top-down control of attention. Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience 2015. DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsu163. PMID: 25556211.

    • Infantolino, Z. P.; Crocker, L. D.; Heller, W.; Yee, C. M.; Miller, G.A., Psychophysiology in pursuit of psychopathology. In J.T. Cacioppo, L.G. Tassinary, & G.G. Berntson (Eds.), Handbook of psychophysiology (4th edition). In press. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    • Hur, J.; Miller, G. A.; McDavitt, J. R. B.; Spielberg, J. M.; Crocker, L. D.; Infantolino, Z. P.; Towers, D. N.; Warren, S. L.; Heller, W., Interactive Effects of Trait and State Affect on Top-Down Control of Attention. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 2015, 10, (8), 1128-1136.
    • Lake, J. I.; Infantolino, Z. P.; Spielberg, J. M.; Crocker, L. D.; Yee, C. M.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A., Intolerance of Uncertainty Modulates Performance and Neural Activity During the Anticipation of Punishment. Psychophysiology 2015, 52, S23-S23.
    • Letkiewicz, A. M.; Silton, R. L.; Mimnaugh, K. J.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A.; Sass, S. M., Child Abuse and Altered Processing of Negative Stimuli in Adulthood. Psychophysiology 2015, 52, S48-S48.
    • Sharp, P. B.; Miller, G. A.; Heller, W., Transdiagnostic Dimensions of Anxiety: Neural Mechanisms, Executive Functions, and New Directions. International Journal of Psychophysiology 2015, 98, (2), 365-377.
    • Spielberg, J. M.; Miller, G. A.; Heller, W.; Banich, M. T., Flexible Brain Network Reconfiguration Supporting Inhibitory Control. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015, 112, (32), 10020-10025.
  • 2014
    • Snyder, H.R., Kaiser, R.H., Warren, S.L., & Heller, W. (2014). Obsessive-compulsive disorder is associated with broad impairments in executive function: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychological Science. doi:10.1177/2167702614534210

    • Fisher, J.E., Miller, G.A., Sass, S.M., Silton, R.L., Edgar, J.C., Stewart, J.L., Zhou, J., & Heller, W. (2014). Neural correlates of suspiciousness and interactions with anxiety during emotional and neutral word processing. Frontiers in Psychology: Personality and Social Psychology, 5:596. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00596

    • Letkiewicz, A.M., Miller, G.A., Crocker, L.D., Warren, S.L., Infantolino, Z.P., Mimnaugh, K.J., Heller, W. (2014). Executive function deficits in daily life prospectively predict increases in depressive symptoms. Cognitive Therapy and Research, doi: 10.1007/s10608-014-9629-5 

    • Kaiser, R.H., Andrews-Hanna, J.R., Spielberg, J.M., Warren, S.L., Sutton, B.P., Miller, G.A., Heller, W., Banich, M.T. (2014). Distracted and down: neural mechanisms of affective interference in subclinical depression. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. doi:10.1093/scan/nsu100

    • Sadeh, N., Spielberg, J. M., Warren, S. L., Miller, G. A., & Heller, W. (2014). Aberrant neural connectivity during emotional processing associated with posttraumatic stress. Clinical Psychological Science. doi: 10.1177/2167702614530113

    • Sass, S.M., Heller, W., Fisher, J.E., Silton, R.L., Stewart, J.L., Crocker, L.D., Edgar, J.C., Mimnaugh, K. J., & Miller, G.A. (2014). Electrophysiological evidence of the time course of attentional bias in nonpatients reporting symptoms of depression with and without co-occurring anxiety. Frontiers in Psychology, Personality Science and Individual Differences. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00301

    • Spielberg, J. M.; Miller, G. A.; Warren, S. L.; Sutton3, B. P.; Banich, M.; Heller1, W., Transdiagnostic Dimensions of Anxiety and Depression Moderate Motivation-Related Brain Networks During Goal Maintenance. Depression and Anxiety 2014, 31, (10), 805-813, DOI:10.1002/Da.22271.

  • 2013
    • Fisher, J.E., Heller, W. & Miller, G.A. (2013). Neuropsychological differentiation of adaptive creativity and schizotypal cognition. Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 70-75.

    • Miller, G. A., Crocker, L.D., Spielberg, J.M., Infantolino, Z.P., & Heller, W. (2013). Issues in localization of brain function: The case of lateralized frontal cortex in cognition, emotion, and psychopathology. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 3.   

    • Crocker, L.D., Heller, W., Warren, S.L., O’Hare, A.J., Infantolino, Z.P., & Miller, G.A. (2013). Relationships among cognition, emotion, and motivation: Implications for intervention and neuroplasticity in psychopathology. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7:261. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00261

    • Spielberg, J.M., Heller, W., & Miller, G.A. (2013). Hierarchical brain networks active in approach and avoidance goal pursuit. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7:284. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00284

    • Sussman, T. J., Heller, W., Miller, G. A., & ^Mohanty, A. (2013). Emotional distractors can enhance attention. Psychological Science, 24, 2322-2328. DOI: 10.1177/0956797613492774 

    • Sadeh, N.; Spielberg, J. M.; Heller, W.; Herrington, J. D.; Engels, A. S.; Warren, S. L.; Crocker, L. D.; Sutton, B. P.; Miller, G. A., Emotion Disrupts Neural Activity During Selective Attention in Psychopathy. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 2013, 8, (3), 235-246.

    • Spielberg, J. M.; De Leon, A. A.; Bredemeier, K.; Heller, W.; Engels, A. S.; Warren, S. L.; Crocker, L. D.; Sutton, B. P.; Miller, G. A., Anxiety Type Modulates Immediate Versus Delayed Engagement of Attention-Related Brain Regions. Brain Behavior 2013, 3, (5), 532-551.

    • Warren, S. L.; Crocker, L. D.; Spielberg, J. M.; Engels, A. S.; Banich, M. T.; Sutton, B. P.; Miller, G. A.; Heller, W., Cortical Organization of Inhibition-Related Functions and Modulation by Psychopathology. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2013, 7, DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00271.

  • 2012
    • Heller, W., & Mukherjee, D. (2012). Implications of memory loss for personal and social identity, and a role for mindfulness. American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 4, 55-56.

    • Crocker, L.D., Heller, W., Spielberg, J.M., Warren, S.L., Bredemeier, K., Sutton, B.P., Banich, M.T., & Miller, G.A. (2012). Neural mechanisms in attentional control differentiate trait and state negative affect. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 3.

    • Spielberg, J. M.; Miller, G. A.; Warren, S. L.; Engels, A. S.; Crocker, L. D.; Banich, M. T.; Sutton, B. P.; Heller, W., A Brain Network Instantiating Approach and Avoidance Motivation. Psychophysiology 2012, 49, (9), 1200-1214.

    • Spielberg, J. M.; Miller, G. A.; Warren, S. L.; Engels, A. S.; Crocker, L. D.; Sutton, B. P.; Heller, W., Trait Motivation Moderates Neural Activation Associated with Goal Pursuit. Cognitive Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience 2012, 12, (2), 308-322.

  • 2011
    • Silton, R. L.; Heller, W.; Engels, A. S.; Towers, D. N.; Spielberg, J. M.; Edgar, J. C.; Sass, S. M.; Stewart, J. L.; Sutton, B. P.; Banich, M. T.; Miller, G. A., Depression and Anxious Apprehension Distinguish Frontocingulate Cortical Activity During Top-Down Attentional Control. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 2011, 120, (2), 272-285.

    • Spielberg, J. M.; Miller, G. A.; Engels, A. S.; Herrington, J. D.; Sutton, B. P.; Banich, M. T.; Heller, W., Trait approach and avoidance motivation: Lateralized neural activity associated with executive function. Neuroimage 2011, 54, (1), 661-670.

    • Spielberg, J. M.; Heller, W.; Silton, R. L.; Stewart, J. L.; Miller, G. A., Approach and Avoidance Profiles Distinguish Dimensions of Anxiety and Depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research 2011, 35, (4), 359-371.

  • 2010
    • Warren, S. L.; Bost, K. K.; Roisman, G. I.; Silton, R. L.; Spielberg, J. M.; Engels, A. S.; Choi, E.; Sutton, B. P.; Miller, G. A.; Heller, W., Effects of Adult Attachment and Emotional Distractors on Brain Mechanisms of Cognitive Control. Psychological Science 2010, 21, (12), 1818-1826.

    • Engels, A. S.; Heller, W.; Spielberg, J. M.; Warren, S. L.; Sutton, B. P.; Banich, M. T.; Miller, G. A., Co-occurring anxiety influences patterns of brain asymmetry in depression. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience 2010, 10, 141-156.

    • Herrington, J. D.; Heller, W.; Mohanty, A.; Engels, A. S.; Banich, M. T.; Webb, A. G.; Miller, G. A., Localization of asymmetric brain function in emotion and depression. Psychophysiology 2010, 47, (3), 442-454.

    • Sass, S. M.; Heller, W.; Stewart, J. L.; Silton, R. L.; Edgar, J. C.; Fisher, J. E.; Miller, G. A., Time course of attentional bias in anxiety: Emotion and gender specificity. Psychophysiology 2010, 47, (2), 247-259.

    • Silton, R. L.; Heller, W.; Towers, D. N.; Engels, A. S.; Spielberg, J. M.; Edgar, J. C.; Sass, S. M.; Stewart, J. L.; Sutton, B. P.; Banich, M. T.; Miller, G. A., The time course of activity in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex during top-down attentional control. Neuroimage 2010, 50, (3), 1292-1302.

    • Stewart, J. L.; Silton, R. L.; Sass, S. M.; Fisher, J. E.; Edgar, J. C.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A., Attentional bias to negative emotion as a function of approach and withdrawal anger styles: An ERP investigation. International Journal of Psychophysiology 2010, 76, (1), 9-18.

    • Bredemeier, K.; Spielberg, J. M.; Silton, R. L.; Berenbaum, H.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A., Screening for Depressive Disorders Using the Mood and Anxiety Symptoms Questionnaire Anhedonic Depression Scale: A Receiver-Operating Characteristic Analysis. Psychological Assessment 2010, 22, (3), 702-710. 

    • Fisher, J. E.; Sass, S. M.; Heller, W.; Silton, R. L.; Edgar, J. C.; Stewart, J. L.; Miller, G. A., Time Course of Processing Emotional Stimuli as a Function of Perceived Emotional Intelligence, Anxiety, and Depression. Emotion 2010, 10, (4), 486-497. 

    • Sass, S. M.; Heller, W.; Fisher, J. E.; Silton, R.; Stewart, J. L.; Crocker, L. D.; Edgar, J. C.; Miller, G. A., Time Course of Attentional Bias Distinguishes Anxiety, Depression, and Their Comorbidity. Psychophysiology 2010, 47, S47-S47.

  • 2009
    • Herrington, J. D.; Koven, N.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A.; Nitschke, J. B., Frontal asymmetry in emotion, motivation, personality and psychopathology: Electrocortical and hemodynamic neuroimaging. In The neuropsychology of mental illness Wood, S. J.; Allen, N.; Pantelis, C., Eds. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 2009; pp 49-66.

    • Banich, M. T.; Mackiewicz, K. L.; Depue, B. E.; Whitmer, A. J.; Miller, G. A.; Heller, W., Cognitive control mechanisms, emotion and memory: A neural perspective with implications for psychopathology. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 2009, 33, (5), 613-630.

    • Fisher, J. E.; Miller, G. A.; Heller, W.; Cortes, C. R.; Tagamets, M. A., Relationship of Context Maintenance to Positive Symptoms and Creativity. Schizophrenia Bulletin 2009, 35, 261-261.

  • 2008
    • Levin, R. L.; Towers, D. N.; Edgar, J. C.; Engels, A. S.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A., Depression and inhibition associated with reduced ACC theta and PFC alpha. Psychophysiology 2008, 45, S29-S29.

    • Mohanty, A.; Heller, W.; Koven, N. S.; Fisher, J. E.; Herrington, J. D.; Miller, G. A., Specificity of emotion-related effects on attentional processing in schizotypy. Schizophrenia Research 2008, 103, (1-3), 129-137.

    • Spielberg, J. M.; Heller, W.; Engels, A. S.; Levin, R. L.; Miller, G. A., Trait approach/avoidance motivation and neural processes associated with cognition. Psychophysiology 2008, 45, S46-S46.

    • Spielberg, J. M.; Heller, W.; Stewart, J. L.; Levin, R. L.; Miller, G. A., Prefrontal cortex, emotion, and approach/withdrawal motivation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2008, 2, 135-153.

    • Stewart, J. L.; Levin-Silton, R.; Sass, S. M.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A., Anger Style, Psychopathology, and Regional Brain Activity. Emotion 2008, 8, (5), 701-713.

    • Stewart, J. L.; Warren, S. L.; Spielberg, J. N.; Engels, A. S.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A., Cognitive control of negative emotion as a function of anger style: An fMRI investigation. Psychophysiology 2008, 45, S85-S85.

    • Towers, D. N.; Engels, A. S.; Stewart, J. L.; Speilberg, J. M.; Miller, G. A.; Heller, W., Choosing sides? Happily approaching left frontal cortex in psychopathology and emotion. Psychophysiology 2008, 45, S2-S2.

    • Warren, S. L.; Miller, G. A.; Heller, W., Emotional facilitation and disruption of memory. In Learning and memory: Parallels across species and approaches, Guadagnoli, M.; de Belle, S.; Entyre, B.; Benjamin, A. S.; Polk, T., Eds. Elsevier: Holland, 2008.

    • Engels, A. S.; Spielberg, J. M.; Warren, S. L.; Sutton, B. P.; Banich, M. T.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A., Differential functional lateralization in anxiety. Psychophysiology 2008, 45, S29-S29.

  • 2007
    • Fisher, J. E.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A., Semantic associations, lateralized frontal function, and context maintenance in schizotypy. Neuropsychologia 2007, 45, (4), 663-672.

    • Miller, G. A.; Elbert, T.; Sutton, B. P.; Heller, W., Innovative clinical assessment technologies: Challenges and opportunities in neuroimaging. Psychological Assessment 2007, 19, (1), 58-73.

    • Mohanty, A.; Engels, A. S.; Herrington, J. D.; Heller, W.; Ho, M. H. R.; Banich, M. T.; Webb, A. G.; Warren, S. L.; Miller, G. A., Differential engagement of anterior cingulate cortex subdivisions for cognitive and emotional function. Psychophysiology 2007, 44, (3), 343-351.

    • Engels, A. S.; Heller, W.; Mohanty, A.; Herrington, J. D.; Banich, M. T.; Webb, A. G.; Miller, G. A., Specificity of regional brain activity in anxiety types during emotion processing. Psychophysiology 2007, 44, (3), 352-363.

    • Astolfi, L.; Fallani, F. D.; Cincotti, F.; Mattia, D.; Marciani, M. G.; Bufalari, S.; Salinari, S.; Colosimo, A.; Ding, L.; Edgar, J. C.; Heller, W.; Miller, G. A.; He, B.; Babiloni, F., Imaging functional brain connectivity patterns from high-resolution EEG and fMRI via graph theory. Psychophysiology 2007, 44, (6), 880-893.

    • Sass, S. M.; Heller, W.; Stewart, J. L.; Levin, R. L.; Edgar, C. J.; Fisher, J. E.; Miller, G. A., Time course of attentional bias in anxiety. Psychophysiology 2007, 44, S51-S51.

  • 2006
    • Heller, W.; Mukherjee, D.; Levin, R. L.; Reis, J. P., Characters in contexts: Identity and personality processes that influence individual and family adjustment to brain injury. Journal of Rehabilitation 2006, 72, (2), 44-49.

    • Mukherjee, D.; Levin, R. L.; Heller, W., The cognitive, emotional, and social sequelae of stroke: Psychological and ethical concerns in post-stroke adaptation. Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation 2006, 13, (4), 26-35.

    • Stewart, J. L.; Levin, R. L.; Heller, W.; Sass, S. M.; Miller, G. A., Anger style, psychopathology, and regional brain activity. Psychophysiology 2006, 43, S95-S95.

Press

The Communications Office maintains the information included in Beckman Institute's online directory listings. In order to update your directory listing, please submit the following information to directoryupdates@beckman.illinois.edu:

  • a short bio including information on your educational background and your field
  • any honors and awards you may have received
  • a description of your research (approximately 200-400 words)
  • a list of recent representative publications
  • a photo of yourself (you can submit one or we can take one for you)