Lab Members


Wendy Heller, PhD

Wendy Heller is Professor of Psychology in the Clinical/Community Division, Head of the Department of Psychology, former Director of Clinical Training, 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 a Ph.D. in Biopsychology from the University of Chicago. She is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (Illinois). Her research investigates 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 psychophysiological methods such as neuropsychological task performance, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and event-related brain potentials (ERPs).  She draws on psychological theories to model how fundamental emotion and personality constructs can be mapped onto brain systems to clarify neural mechanisms in 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 on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and especially the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).



Graduate Students:

Haley Skymba


Megan Finnegan


Megan obtained a B.S. in Cognitive Science from University of California, Merced. Her undergraduate research with Dr. Anne Warlaumont focused on the development of infant precursors of language using neural-level models of dopamine-modulated spike-timing dependent plasticity and articulatory synthesizers. Early PhD research focused on using fMRI to characterize the neural changes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention. Megan’s current research interests include utilizing neuroimaging data such as fMRI to specify the architecture of artificial neural networks. This is to understand how large-scale brain networks are instantiated at the neural population level. She hopes to apply these insights to develop a more comprehensive understanding of how clinical interventions such as meditation training exert their therapeutic effects.


Megan’s Website

Megan’s GitHub


Chris Perrielo


Maya Marder, M.S.

Profile picture for Maya Marder (She | Her)

Following a slightly unconventional path, Maya pursued a B.A. in Architecture from Columbia University, and worked as an architect, a pastry chef specializing in sugar & chocolate showpiece design, and in business development before turning to Psychology. Prior to UIUC, Maya served as the Lab Coordinator for the Neuroscience, Emotion, Cognition & Psychopathology lab at Stony Brook University, supervised by Dr. Aprajita Mohanty. Focusing on neural activation associated with threat perception in anxiety, Maya quickly gravitated towards the intersection of physiological (fMRI, EEG, Cardiac, Ocular) function and emotional expression. 

Active Research Questions:

Cognition and physiological activation associated with anxiety-related freeze behavior

  • Can we measure anxiety-related freezing behavior?
  • Does this freeze response manifest similarly in performance-threat contexts compared to when imminent danger is near?
  • What patterns of cognition and neural/cardiac/ocular activation are associated to “less-severe” threat processing?

How is cognition and performance affected by vulnerability to repetitive negative thinking (worry/rumination)? 

  • How does repetitive, negative thought affect our decision-making, perception, and performance under stress? 
  • Do the differences in the ways worry affect different identities? Does one’s susceptibility to stereotype threat influence this relationship?

Her clinical interests include neuropsychological assessment, interventions for internalizing symptoms, and supporting clients to explore equanimity, self-acceptance, and balance as they engage in the therapeutic process.



Corey Richier

Profile picture for Corey  Richier

I am a graduate student in the Clinical/Community program. I’m about as fully Illinoisan as one can be. I was born in Hinsdale, IL and grew up in Naperville before attending undergrad at Northern Illinois University. There, I graduated with degrees in secondary social studies education and psychology. I briefly worked as a high school teacher before switching careers. After teaching, I worked under Dr. Laurie Wakschlag in the Developmental Mechanisms lab at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine in downtown Chicago before finally settling in Urbana-Champaign for graduate school. My research interests are at the intersection of cognitive, clinical, and computational neuroscience. I utilize machine learning methods with neuroimaging data to examine mechanisms that support cognition and psychopathology, generally from a transdiagnostic perspective. Additionally, I have interests in neural network modeling as a method for investigating clinical mechanisms, models of cognition, neural function, and artificial intelligence.


Yue Li



Gregory A. Miller, PhD

Gregory A. Miller is Distinguished Professor in UCLA’s Department of Psychology and in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and is Interim Chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA. He studies psychological and neural mechanisms relating cognitive, emotional, and physiological aspects of normal human behavior and psychopathology, especially executive function, emotional dysregulation, and sensory processes, using psychophysiological methods emphasizing MRI, EEG, and EKG. He co-directs the UCLA Laboratory of Clinical and Affective Psychophysiology with Prof. Cindy Yee-Bradbury. In collaboration with Profs. Yee-Bradbury, Katie Karlsgodt, and Keith Nuechterlein at UCLA and Prof. Jeff Spielberg at the University of Delaware, his studies evaluate changes in brain connectivity in the context of cognitive training, exercise, and stress dynamics in schizophrenia using MRI, EEG, EKG, and cortisol methods. He is also Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he served as co-director of what is now the CANOPY Lab, Director of Clinical Training and Associate Head of the Department of Psychology, Director of the Biomedical Imaging Center, and Leader of the Cognitive Neuroscience Group at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. He holds a B.A. in Psychology and Social Relations from Harvard University and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (Illinois) and a Licensed Psychologist (Delaware). He is involved in several current collaborations with the CANOPY Lab, including studies exploring the differentiation of depression and anxiety and of types of anxiety as well as relevant brain mechanisms.

Website: UIUC Psychology Page
Website: UCLA Psychology 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.

Website: Aminda


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 

Grace Goodwin


Grace Goodwin received a B.A. in Psychology and Dance from Loyola Marymount University and is currently pursuing a Master of Science Degree in Psychological Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is interested in how neuroplasticity supports cognitive and emotional rehabilitation across domains of function and across the life span. With Dr. Wendy Heller and Dr. Karen Rudolph, she investigates emotional development in adolescence. Specifically, she examines the psychological mechanisms associated with change in emotion mindsets and role mindsets play in the development of psychopathology. Her other research interests lie in the cognitive and psychiatric sequelae of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). In collaboration with Dr. Aron Barbey, she utilizes fMRI and neuropsychological testing to identify functional connectivity and cognitive changes post-mTBI. In the future, she hopes to obtain a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

Angie Willoughby

Angie completed her undergraduate work at Brigham Young University in Psychology, with an emphasis in Neurocognitive Processes. In this time, she has done research in a variety of areas. She has worked with Autism using neuroimaging techniques, genetics in primates regarding the mu-opioid receptor, models of ADHD, and spousal support research in relation to colorectal cancer. She is currently pursuing her masters in Psychological Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and is researching aggression by using EEG techniques. Her research interests primarily lie in the field of neuroimaging and neurocognitive processes with an emphasis in neurodegenerative disorders. In the future, she hopes to obtain a PhD in this same field.

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.

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.

Joel Thomas

Joel Thomas - Picture

Joel completed his undergraduate degree at Harvard University earning a bachelor’s in Government and Certificate in Health Policy. As a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he studies the ontology of psychological distress. His work focuses on understanding how relational schemas function as causal mechanisms that link early trauma to adult psychopathology. His additional interests lie in psychological healing processes, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science.