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Research Projects

The Health and Anxiety Research Program (HARP) is dedicated to disentangling the often complex relations between anxiety and physical health/illness. Our research is centered at the intersection between emotional and physical health and illness with a particular focus on the role of anxiety in pain conditions.

Selected ongoing studies with active recruitment:


TITLE: Emotional Risk & Resilience Associated with Chest Pain in Cardiac Catheterization (PI: White)

Chest pain and discomfort in the absence of cardiovascular or other organic causes is termed NonCardiac Chest Pain (NCCP). Whereas some studies show a good prognosis for patients with NCCP following a negative coronary angiography, other studies show a higher mortality rate than the normal population or a rate not different from those with cardiac chest pain. This study examines medical and psychological risk and resilience associated with chest pain in patients undergoing cardiac catherization. Collaborators: Ronald Krone, MD, Medicine, Philip Ludbrook, MD, Medicine and Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine. Contact: Jennifer M. Craft, MA


TITLE: Developmental Trajectories and Family Factors in Anxiety and Pediatric Chest Pain (PI: White)

Chest pain is one of the most common, frightening physical complaints among pediatric patients. In most cases of pediatric chest pain, however, patients receive no organic explanation for their pain. Unfortunately, some of these patients continue to experience chest pain accompanied by emotional distress (i.e., anxiety, depression) and functional disability despite receiving medical reassurance. Aims of this study are to examine cardiovascular, stress, and emotional risk factors in 160 children and their parents (91 children with non-cardiac chest pain, 61 children with benign heart problems). Collaborator: R. Mark Grady, MD, Pediatric Cardiologist, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University. Contact: Cassandra J. McDonnell, MA


TITLE: Anxiety and Risk Propensity in a Normal Sample

Much research to date has investigated the consequences of elevated anxiety. Studies have shown that high anxious individuals tend to me more cautious, showing an attentional bias to threat and avoidance of risky situations. However, there has been little research examining the correlates of low anxiety. Theoretically, individuals with lower anxiety may show an increased propensity to engage in risky behavior. The present study is investigating the range of state/trait anxiety in a college sample and its relationship to a range of risk-taking behaviors as measured via self report and a behavioral lab task. It is predicted that levels of anxiety will be inversely related to risk taking propensity. Contact: JeanMarie Bianchi

We also have ongoing pilot studies of the treatment of anxiety in individuals who experience anxiety, depression, and uncomfortable and persistent chest symptoms.