**What follows are some of my main research interests, former and ongoing projects. As I get a lab and new projects up and running at the University of Portsmouth this page will be updated with fresh material.**
Disgust and Sexual ArousalIn collaboration with Lisa Dawn Hamilton, Cindy Meston and Daniel M.T. Fessler we are examining the relationship between disgust and sexual arousal. Using the vaginal plethysmograph, an instrument used to measure sexual arousal in women we have found that disgust stimuli decrease sexual arousal and that sexually aroused women are more disgust sensitive than women viewing control stimuli.
Research at the Center for Women's Mood DisordersAt the Center for Women's Mood Disorders I worked on a study of transdermal estrogen replacement therapy in the perimenopause. A great deal of evidence points to estrogen deprivation as a key factor in the development of both depression and cardiovascular disease in the perimenopause. The primary objective of this study is to identify the risk factors involved in the development of these diseases and investigate the role that estrogen plays in their development. In addition to work on the menopause study, I am exploring data from other studies with Susan Girdler including differences in pain sensitivity as a function of abuse history and endocrine differences betarget="_blank"tween women with and without premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Progesterone, Disgust and Disease AvoidanceMy doctoral dissertation centered on the effects of progesterone on women's psychology. The rationale for this research is anchored in the endocrinology of immunity. Progesterone causes the downregulation of pro-inflammatory immune responses. This immunomodulation facilitates pregnancy by preventing the woman's immune system from attacking the half-foreign blastocyst. Because of adaptive immunomodulation, women face a critical problem during the high progesterone, or luteal, phase of the menstrual cycle, as the relaxation of inflammatory responses temporarily leaves women more vulnerable to infection. My research investigates the behavioral prophylaxis hypothesis, the idea that patterned changes in attitudes and emotions can lead to alterations in behavior that mitigate or compensate for a reduction in immune function. See a publication of this research here .
The Fertile Window and Risk Sensitivity
Another facet of my research examines menstrual cycle changes in the psychology of avoiding sexual assault. There is some evidence that women engage in fewer actions that would put them at risk for sexual assault(e.g. taking out the trash alone at night) when they are in the most fertile phase of their menstrual cycle. Carin Perilloux, David Buss and I have extended this research using ovulation tests and a comprehensive battery of questions investigating recent social activities, attitudes, and behaviors. We have found a that women show a decrease in such risky behavior as their conception risk increases. Substantiating the hormonal basis of such changes we found that women on hormonal contraceptives (i.e. women who do not experience cyclic shifts in hormone levels) do not show shifts in these behaviors across the menstrual cycle. This paper. under review details our findings
At the Hygiene Centre I managed an infrared sensor system in North London that recorded hand washing in real time. Currently, I am finishing a manuscript in collabortion with they Hygiene Centre and others reporting the effects of media keywords related to H1N1 on hand washing. Recently, Carin Perilloux, David Buss and I have finished manuscripts regarding how parents influence the sexual and romantic lives of their sons and daughters differently. Ongoing research with Daniel M.T. Fessler examines effects of menopause on disgust sensitivity, endocrine and social cues on homosocial and homosexual attitudes and the influence of disgust cues on behavior.