CANOPY Lab Members:

Principal Investigator:

Wendy Heller, PhD

Wendy Heller is Professor of Psychology in the Clinical/Community Division, former Director of Clinical Training and Department Head in the Psychology Department, and a part-time Beckman Institute faculty member in the Cognitive Neuroscience Group. As of 2014 she was appointed Provost Fellow with a special focus on campus diversity. She holds a B.A. in Spanish and Psychology with Honors from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Biopsychology from the University of Chicago. 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).  She draws on psychological theories to model how fundamental emotion and personality constructs can be mapped onto brain systems to clarify the neural mechanisms of emotion and psychopathology. In turn, the neuropsychological  and neuroimaging findings are used to inform psychological theories of emotion and psychopathology. Her work has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).



Graduate Students:

  Juyoen Hur

 Juyoen completed her undergraduate education in Korea, and received her master’s degree at Harvard University in the Human Development and Psychology program.  While at Harvard, she conducted research in Social Neuroscience and Psychopathology  lab studying social and emotional processing in individuals at risk for schizophrenia. She  is now pursuing her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Illinois. Her research interest encompasses emotion, cognition and psychopathology, with a particular focus on the interaction of emotion and executive function in the development  and maintenance of anxiety and depression.


Allison Letkiewicz

Allison Letkiewicz

Allison completed her undergraduate work at The Catholic University of America in Psychology. As an undergraduate she worked in a Cognitive Aging Lab investigating implicit memory in healthy older adults and young adults, as well as a Psychophysiology Lab using EEG/ERP to investigate executive function. Afterward, she was a Post-baccalaureate IRTA at the NIMH for two years studying the neural mechanisms of fear and anxiety in healthy controls and patients using EMG and fMRI with Dr. Shmuel Lissek and Dr. Christian Grillon. She began her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the fall of 2011. Her current research interests include exploring the neural mechanisms of anxiety, depression, and their co-occurrence, as well as the interaction between emotion and cognition. In the future she hopes to integrate both basic and applied clinical science research.


 Chinmayi Tengshe

Chinmayi has a B.A. in Psychology and an M.Sc. in Cognitive  Psychology/Neuropsychology. She conducted research in the Social Neuroscience and  Psychopathology laboratory at Harvard University. Chinmayi began her graduate work in  Clinical Psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the fall of 2011.


Mike Niznikiewicz

Mike received his B.S. in Psychology and Neuroscience from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. He gained a background in experimental psychology and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) working as a research assistant in Dr. Mauricio Delgado’s Social and Affective Neuroscience lab studying the neural correlates of reward related learning. His current interests lie in the ways that brain functions are affected by vulnerabilities to psychopathology. Specifically, how performance in cognitive control tasks is affected by emotional distractors as a function of dimensional measures of psychopathology. Furthermore, he is also interested in how typical responses to feedback (e.g., rewards or punishments) on such tasks vary as a function of these same measures. Under the guidance of Dr. Wendy Heller, Mike hopes to be able to expand the understanding of psychopathology and ultimately inform more effective therapeutic practices with his work.


italy2Paul Sharp

Paul completed his undergraduate work at Temple University’s honors college, double majoring in psychology and political science. At Temple, Paul worked with Dr. Jason Chein and Dr. Laurence Steinberg in Temple’s Neurocognition Lab, investigating the neural correlates of reward sensitivity in adolescents and specifically how social context and mood affects said neural circuits and concurrent behavior. Following graduation in 2013, Paul came to Illinois to pursue his Ph.D., and his interests have begun to take shape since he arrived this past fall. Working with Dr. Brad Sutton, a bioengineer on campus, he is learning to use cutting-edge diffusion imaging techniques to track white matter pathways and their development in cognitive-affective circuits relevant to depression and anxiety, and will pursue a neuroengineering minor to support this goal. Paul plans to implement this methodology in an upcoming study investigating how mindfulness affects childrens’ neural development, with the theory in mind that cultivating mindfulness practice developmentally early promotes skills such as metacognition, sustained attention, and cognitive control, which may significantly mitigate and perhaps prevent future onset of anxiety and depression. Additionally, Paul is interested in how the brain represents emotion, and plans to use other neuroimaging techniques such as multivoxel pattern analysis to investigate theories of emotion representation and how such data can help refine the Heller lab’s model of anxiety which differentiates anxious apprehension from anxious arousal.


 Sima_Owl_2M. Sima Finy

Sima is a Ph.D. student in Clinical/Community Psychology at UIUC. She received her B.S. from The Ohio State University and her M.A. from UIUC. Sima’s program of research applies a multiple-levels-of-analysis approach (e.g., genetic, neuroendocrine, personality, neuropsychological, behavioral) to examining how individual differences in disinhibition contribute to the development of multiple forms of psychopathology, particularly during adolescence. Her master’s thesis examined how adolescents’ disinhibited behaviors and cortisol reactivity are influenced by interactions between psychosocial stress and personality traits to uncover how developmental changes are related to adolescent psychopathology. For her dissertation, Sima is investigating the effects of genetic risk and executive functions on ADHD traits in a large sample of youth. Her long-term goals are to identify mechanisms that contribute to adolescent psychopathology and, in turn, identify targets for intervention.



 Annie Weldon

Annie received her B.S. In Neuroscience and French from the University of Michigan, where she worked as an undergraduate research assistant with Dr. Kelly Ryan and Dr. Bruno Giordani at the Michigan Alzheimer Disease Research Center on projects related to caregiver burden. Following graduation, she gained experience with fMRI and neuropsychological assessment as a research assistant for Dr. Scott Langenecker at the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Annie’s current interests lie in studying how emotional attention differs among individuals at-risk for mood disorders. Specifically, she is working with Dr. Simona Buetti on an fMRI study that investigates the effect of perceived control in reaction to emotional events in subjects with depression or mania. Additionally, Annie is interested in assessing the effects of mindfulness meditation interventions on measures of working memory and cognitive control.



Faaiza Khan 

After graduating from Cornell University in 2014, Faaiza joined the University of Illinois to pursue her PhD in Clinical/Community Psychology. Faaiza is primarily focused on behavioral and psychobiological indicators of self regulation and how these processes relate to symptoms of emotional distress. She also has a particular interest in how interpersonal processes impact the experience of stress and how mindfulness-based interventions can yield ameliorative effects. Faaiza is currently working with Dr. Heller on a study that investigates how introducing mindfulness practices early on in development can affect self regulation and reduce risk for later psychopathology. In her free time, Faaiza enjoys working out and finding good eats in Urbana-Champaign!



Jayne Clinkenbeard 

After graduating from the University of Kansas in May 2015 with a B.A. in Psychology, Jayne became the CANOPY Lab Manager. She worked in clinical research at the University of Kansas, while studying childhood aggression and eating disorders. She pursued the CANOPY lab in order to explore the area of mood and emotion regulation in relation to anxiety and depression.



Gregory A. Miller, PhD

Gregory A. Miller is now Professor Emeritus in the UIUC Department of Psychology and Affiliate of the Beckman Cognitive Neuroscience Group. After last serving UIUC as the Director of the Beckman Biomedical Imaging Center, head of the Beckman Cognitive Neuroscience Group, and Program Director of the NIMH-funded “Training in Cognitive Psychophysiology” training grant, he is now Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at UCLA. His research pursues normal and abnormal brain mechanisms in cognition, emotion, and psychopathology. Miller’s research pursues mechanisms relating cognitive, emotional, and physiological aspects of normal and abnormal human behavior, using the methods of cognitive, affective, and clinical psychophysiology / neuroscience. The research integrates sMRI, fMRI, and dense-array scalp event-related brain potential (EEG/ERP)  and magnetoencephalography (MEG) measures as well as structured diagnostic interviews. In collaboration with Profs. Wendy Heller, Brad Sutton and Marie Banich, the MRI / ERP studies address questions of regional brain specialization in emotion and its effects on executive function, with a particular interest in differentiation of depression and anxiety.


Website: UIUC Psychology Website

Website: UCLA Page

Sarah Sass, PhD

Sarah completed her Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of Illinois and is now an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Tyler. She directs the Clinical Psychophysiology Research (CPR) Laboratory and pursues research regarding mechanisms and treatment of anxiety and depression.


Website: UT Tyler Website

Jeffrey Spielberg, PhD

Jeff is an Assistant Professor in the Clinical Science division of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Delaware. He was formerly a postdoctoral fellow working with Ron Dahl at UC Berkeley, after which he was an principle investigator at VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University School of Medicine. He completed his degree in Clinical Psychology in the Heller/Miller lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on the neural networks involved in goal pursuit, particularly those related to motivation and executive function. He is interested in how dysfunction in these processes contributes to the etiology and maintenance of anxiety and mood disorders, with a focus on on how developmental changes in these systems contribute to the increased risk for psychopathology observed in adolescence. He is also involved in the development of tools for probing brain networks, including a graph theory toolbox available at


Previous Website: METAlab

Aminda O’Hare, PhD


Aminda is now an Assistant Professor at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth after a postdoctoral position in the Heller/Miller lab. She comes from a diverse background of training within the field of cognitive neuroscience, and this has prepared her to bridge areas of interest between divisions of psychology. She is broadly interested in the intersection of cognition and emotion. Specifically, she is interested in how individual differences in sensitivity to emotion bias cognitive processing. For example, she has found that different types of anxiety and different genotypes can predict differences in cognitive processing at early stimulus detection, attentional shifting, attentional inhibition, and much later information search and decision-making.



simona_large (1)Simona Buetti, PhD

Simona is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is interested in understanding visual attention, emotion-cognition interactions, and response interference effects in individuals who vary in terms of their personality and emotional temperament (normal, at-risk for depression, at-risk for mania, at-risk for phobia). Some of her recent work focuses on the relationship between cognitive load, task difficulty and visual distractibility. Simona has also recently proposed a new two-stage theory of visual attention that is based on the premise that attention works to diminish uncertainty in a scene. Using behavioral and imaging methods, Simona is pursuing two lines of research on emotion-cognition interactions. The first focuses on the effects of stimulus relevance and its impact on emotion processing and attentional control. The second aims at understanding how the subjective experience of control over experimental events (real and illusory) changes the way participants respond to emotional events.


Website: Simona’s website

Rebecca Silton, PhDBecky_Silton_Psychology_1 %281%29

Rebecca is an Assistant Professor at Loyola University Chicago. Her lab primarily studies the influence of positive affect on cognitive and social function, with implications for psychopathology and health. Her lab’s work with clinical populations focuses on using EEG/ERP methods to study individuals with depression, postpartum depression, and chronic pain.


Website: WELL Lab