Julian Thayer, PhD

Distinguished University Professor of Psychological Science
Department of Psychological Science
University of California, Irvine

The Ohio Eminent Scholar Professor in Health Psychology Emeritus
Academy Professor
Department of Psychology
The Ohio State University

Faculty Profile
Julian Thayer, PhD

“Stress, Resilience, and Mental Health: A Neurovisceral Integration Perspective”

The intimate connection between the brain and the heart via the vagus nerve was enunciated by Claude Bernard over 150 years ago. Darwin in his classic book on the expression of emotion in man and animals also stressed the importance of the vagus nerve. In our neurovisceral integration model we have tried to build on this pioneering work and revive interest in the vagus. We have proposed that vagally-mediated heart rate variability (HRV) is a transdiagnostic marker for psychopathology. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies suggest an important role for HRV in the identification of those at risk for psychopathology as well as being a potential marker for treatment outcome. In the present talk I further elaborate our model and update it with recent results. Supportive evidence from recent studies of neuroimaging, fear conditioning, attention, and executive function show that low HRV predicts hypervigilance, poor safety learning, and inefficient allocation of attentional and cognitive resources. In addition, the role of vagal afferents in emotion and fear extinction will be discussed. Importantly, evidence will be presented on the potential role of HRV in resilience to poor outcomes. HRV may provide a transdiagnostic target for the understanding of the etiology as well as the diagnosis and treatment of stress-related mental disorders.

Dr. Julian F. Thayer received his Ph.D. from New York University in psychophysiology with a minor in quantitative methods. Dr. Thayer has held faculty positions at Penn State University and the University of Missouri. Before moving to the Ohio State University in 2006 as the Ohio Eminent Scholar Professor in Health Psychology. Dr. Thayer was Chief of the Emotions and Quantitative Psychophysiology Section in the Laboratory of Personality and Cognition at the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Thayer is currently Distinguished University Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine and the Ohio Eminent Scholar Professor in Health Psychology Emeritus and Academy Professor at The Ohio State University. He has also been a visiting professor at Sapienza University in Rome, the University of Bergen in Norway and the Free University of Amsterdam and a Research Fellow in Residence at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University. He has published over 400 research papers and book chapters covering a wide range of topics including behavioral medicine, cardiology, emotion, psychopathology, bioengineering, research design and multivariate statistical techniques.

Dr. Thayer has received numerous research awards including the Sigma Xi Research Recognition Award, the Early Career Award for Contributions to Psychosomatic Medicine from the American Psychosomatic Society, and distinguished scientist awards from the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, The Society for Psychophysiological Research, the Society of Behavioral Medicine, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, and the American Psychosomatic Society. From 2020 to 2022 he was identified by the Web of Science as a “Highly Cited Researcher”, a designation given to the top 0.1% of researchers. He is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Sciences, the Society of Behavioral Medicine, and the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. He has also received a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research on emotion in Norway and an Alexander von Humboldt Research Award to conduct research in Germany.

Dr. Thayer is an Associate Editor of Psychosomatic Medicine, former Associate Editor of Psychophysiology, and Bio-Psycho-Social Medicine, is on the editorial board of  Music and Medicine. He has also served as the program chair for the Society for Behavioral Medicine, the American Psychosomatic Society, and the Rocky Mountain Bioengineering Symposium. He is the Past-President of the Rocky Mountain Bioengineering Symposium and Past-President of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. Dr. Thayer is also a critically acclaimed musician with numerous recordings and international performances including with Charlie Mariano, Geri Allen, Scott Robinson, and Pheeroan ak Laff.

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