Mood and Emotion Regulation Laboratory (MER Lab)


Think about the last time that something "got under your skin." Maybe it was a piece of bad news, an argument with a friend or loved one, or an upcoming challenge that you did not feel prepared to take on. These events are common, and it is normal to feel nervous, upset, frustrated, or sad when they happen. Our emotions serve essential functions in our lives: they inform our decisions, guide our behaviors, and, at times, direct us like a compass toward our goals. Negative emotions, which we generally find unpleasant, are just as important as pleasant emotions in navigating our lives successfully. Therefore, it is generally not our experience of negative emotions but what we do in response to them that makes us stumble in our goals and brings suffering to our lives.

The ability to reduce sadness and dysphoria is a key component of Emotion Regulation (ER) that enables us to manage stress and to maintain our well-being. Although ER as a whole can involve increasing, maintaining, or decreasing the intensity and duration of any emotion, difficulty in reducing distress and maintaining such gains in the service of goal-directed behavior appears to be particularly linked to internalizing disorder (depression and anxiety), and to some personality disorders (e.g., Borderline Personality Disorder). 

While people try to regulate their emotions in many ways, we generally think of responses that reduce negative emotions in the short- and long-term as adaptive and ineffective responses that maintain or worsen negative emotions as maladaptive. Both adaptive and maladaptive ER responses take many forms and can include where we deploy attention, in what activities we choose to engage, how we think about stressors and our emotions, and how we involve others in our lives during times of distress. The outcomes of such responses are not set in stone; just as a hammer may not be the best tool for every job, so too may a given ER response not work for every situation. Likewise, as our strength to use that hammer, and the skill with which we use it, changes over time, so too may our use and the effectiveness of a given ER response be influenced by our developmental, intra/interpersonal, and environmental contexts. Indeed, how we develop ER skills is set in a context of biological, familial, social, and cultural factors that also serve as a backdrop when we deploy ER responses. 

Therefore, the work that we do in the Mood and Emotion Regulation lab generally revolves around answering three questions:

  1. In what way is ER linked to emotional problems and functional impairment across the span of human development?
  2. What are the key intrapersonal processes that influence the use of ER responses and their immediate and sustained outcomes?
  3. How do interpersonal, environmental, and sociocultural contexts influence how ER is deployed, and whether it is effective?

We work with volunteer participants from the university, the Cleveland community, and nationally, as well as those receiving treatment through outpatient and inpatient services, to address these questions in our laboratory via behavioral and psychophysiological methods and in our participants' daily lives through experience sampling methods. Please see below the "Research" menu option for information about our active studies and research teams. 

Although Dr. Yaroslavsky's primary research interests focus on risk for depressive disorders and their transmission within families, students working in the Mood and Emotion Regulation Lab address the three questions noted above with respect to Social and Generalized Anxiety Disorders, as well as to Borderline Personality and Substance Use Disorders. We invite you to view their work under "Conferences" on the menu to the left.


Behavioral Methods

Speech Content Analysis

Speech Acoustic Features


Psychophysiological Methods


Impedance Cardiography

Electrodermal Activity

Experience Sampling Methods

Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA)

Electronically Activated Recording (EAR)

Ambulatory Psychophysiology Monitoring