Welcome to the emotion and sensation research group.New Doctor 1

I have two main areas of scholarly interest. The first is medical psychology or what is often called health psychology. The second is the science of affect.

Within medical psychology, my publications have focused on pain, a universal phenomenon, now regarded by some clinicians as a fifth vital sign, and always a challenge for scholars of the mind. One path of enquiry I have pursued is the language of pain and the clues it holds for underlying pathophysiology and diagnoses of pain syndromes; this research is funded by an R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health. This 2-year project involves multiple clinics (including the University of Texas Health Sciences Center) and is aimed at psychometrically validating a new instrument I have developed called the Pain Descriptor System.

Both in research and teaching, I view a variety of medical ailments as influenced by basic principles of psychosomatics. These go well beyond mere conjunction of psyche and soma to what I call “dynamic interactions” between physical symptoms and affective phenomena such as anxiety, depression, and anger. In the treatment of such conditions, I espouse the use of cognitive-behavioral techniques within a broader interdisciplinary framework for health promotion and disease prevention.

Within the area of affect science, I have proposed a construct called the core of negative affect that encompasses anxiety, depression, and anger. The third element in this triad has been under-researched and is now a primary focus of my attention. Most of my publications on this topic have tackled the problem of maladaptive anger. My recent work in this area focuses on integrative psychotherapy for dysfunctional anger and the assessment of multiple dimensions of anger apparent in clinical cases as well as in everyday life. A cognitive-motivational model is fundamental to the assessment and regulation of anger and it offers a heuristic for the study of other emotional disorders too.

These pursuits address important problems and prospects for improvement in the human condition. They won’t bring us immortality or nirvana but they are likely to make us healthier and happier.

Ephrem Fernandez, Ph.D.

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