The CALM Program is dedicated to conducting research on how emotion and impulsivity relate to mental health problems.

This work grew from research on bipolar disorder. Over the past 20 years, research by Dr. Johnson and her team members have shown that mania is often triggered by processes related to reward and goals. In a series of papers, we showed that bipolar disorder was related to specific problems with controlling impulses when people were feeling highly emotional—a problem that has been called emotion-related impulsivity. From there, we began to study emotion-related impulsivity more broadly across mental health domains. We have shown that this type of impulsivity is related to many mental health syndromes and to many of the behavioral problems, such as aggression, suicidality, and self-harm, that occur within those syndromes. You can read more about emotion-related impulsivity here.

The team is led by Sheri L. Johnson, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, with support from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Dr. Sheri Johnson speaks on emotion-related impulsivity

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Research Team

Sheri L. Johnson

Dr. Johnson is a professor of psychology at the University of California Berkeley, where she directs the Calm Program. Her work has been funded by the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute. She has published over 200 manuscripts, including publications in leading journals such as the Journal of Abnormal Psychology and the American Journal of Psychiatry. She is co-editor or co-author of five books, including Emotion and Psychopathology and a best-selling textbook on Abnormal Psychology (Wiley Press). She is a fellow for Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), the Association for Behavioral Medicine Research and the American Psychological Society.

Most weekends, you can find Dr. Johnson hiking and cycling.

Amy Sanchez

Amy is a 6th year graduate student in the Clinical Science program. Amy received her BA from New York University in Russian and Slavic Studies, and her MA from San Francisco State University in Psychological Research. Broadly, she is interested in incorporating physiological, behavioral, and experience sampling methods to explore the relationships between emotion dysregulation and maladaptive behavior such as impulsivity and amotivation in severe psychopathology. Her current projects include an examination of the physiological correlates of impulsivity in the context of emotion with Dr. Sheri Johnson and the effects of social emotion regulation on motivation in a laboratory experiment with her primary mentor, Dr. Ann Kring.

Ben Swerdlow

Ben is a 6th year graduate student in the Clinical Science program at UC Berkeley.  He received his BA from Wesleyan University, where he majored in Psychology and English.  Broadly speaking, Ben is interested in affective science, specifically the etiology and treatment of affective psychopathologies. He is especially interested in conducting transdiagnostic research on emotion regulation and dysregulation, both as essential domains of functioning and as mechanisms of change in therapeutic contexts.  His current interests include interpersonal dimensions of emotion regulation and the day-to-day interplay of life stressors and emotion regulation, particularly in mood disordered populations.

Jennifer Pearlstein

Jennifer is a 6th year graduate student in the clinical science program. She developed a passion for scientific research while completing undergraduate majors in Psychology and Cognitive science at Truman State University. Before entering graduate school, Jen worked at Stanford University, contributing to research on early interventions for childhood affective disorders. Jen is captivated by the ways our emotions alter our decision-making, as well as how and why a trait-based tendency to act in congruence with emotional impulses establishes vulnerability for psychopathology, particularly mood disorders. Jen’s current research focuses on understanding the neurocognitive processes that lead to impulsive reactions to emotions through both laboratory-based and experience sampling methods.

Manon Ironside

Manon is a 5th year graduate student in the Clinical Science program. Her interests include understanding how people with and without mood disorders learn from experience and make goal-directed choices. She is particularly interested in temporal discounting (why do people prefer smaller immediate rewards to later larger ones?) and the explore-exploit dilemma during learning (how do people balance seeking new information with taking advantage of known rewarding options?). In her current research, she takes a computational modeling approach to better understanding the learning and decision making process in bipolar disorder.

Devon Sandel

Devon is a 4th year graduate student in the Clinical Science program. She received her BS from UC Santa Barbara in Biopsychology. She then worked in a neurosurgery lab at Stanford and as our team’s project coordinator before joining as a graduate student. Her research aims to understand the ways emotion and impulsivity contribute to self-harm and suicidal behaviors. She is also interested in how the process of emotion-related impulsivity unfolds dynamically over time in people’s daily lives.

Matthew Elliot

Matt is a 3rd year graduate student in the clinical science program. He received his BS in Psychology from UC Davis, and after graduating, he worked for two years on a study of cognitive development at the UC Davis MIND Institute. Matt is interested in researching how interactions between cognition and emotion affect mental health. He hopes to incorporate human neuroimaging methods into his work to better understand cognition-emotion interfaces at the neural systems level.

Kiana Modavi

Kiana is a technology & statistical consultant for a study examining approach motivation and cognitive control. She received her BA in Psychology and worked as a project coordinator in the CALM Program for 4 years before beginning graduate school in fall 2020. Kiana is currently pursuing an MPH in Health Policy and Management at UC Berkeley and is interested in the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practice. In her free time pre-pandemic, she enjoyed rock climbing to a point of obsession, playing tennis, and walking pups at the animal shelter. You can now often find her practicing piano or wistfully browsing REI’s online store.

Janan Mostajabi

Janan is coordinating a project that focuses on motivation and emotion-related impulsivity as potential transdiagnostic factors across internalizing and externalizing conditions. Janan received her BA in Psychology and Film Studies from UC Berkeley in 2020. She is hoping to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology, and she is primarily curious about the dimensional structure of psychopathology as well as the role of emotion regulation deficits in a range of clinical conditions. In her free time, she enjoys making short films, going on long walks, and discovering new neighborhoods. 

Ben Weinberg

Ben is currently coordinating a study examining motivation, self-control and reward related to internalizing and externalizing mental health disorders. Ben received his BS in Psychology from UNC Chapel Hill in 2021 with minors in neuroscience and music and joined the CALM program in June 2021. He is hoping to pursue a PhD in Clinical or Counseling Psychology with an emphasis on multimodal treatments for mood disorders. In his free time, Ben loves to sing, hike, and meditate.

Lab Collaborators

Abby Adler Mandel, PhD, Catholic University of America

Andrew Peckham, PhD, McLean Hospital

Ann Kring, PhD, UC Berkeley

Claudia Haase, PhD, Northwestern University

Daniel Fulford, PhD, Boston University

David Jobes, PhD, Catholic University of America

Deanna Barch, PhD, Washington University in St. Louis

Ephrem Fernandez, PhD, UT San Antonio

Erin Michalak, PhD, University of British Columbia

Evan Kleiman, PhD, Rutgers

Greg Murray, PhD, Swinburne

Iris Mauss, PhD, UC Berkeley

June Gruber, PhD, University of Colorado, Boulder

Kiara Timpano, PhD, University of Miami

Lesley Berk, PhD, Deakin University

Michael Berk, MD, Deakin University

Michael Freeman, MD

Peter Taylor, PhD, University of Manchester

Sarah Victor, PhD, Texas Tech

Thomas Joiner, PhD, Florida State University

Ursula Beerman, PhD, University of Geneva

Mackenzie Zisser, BA (staff alum)

Amelia Dev, BA (staff alum)

Morgan Robison, BS (staff alum)

Current Research Assistants

Sara Anvar (honors thesis student)
Robin Stewart (honors thesis student)
Cheyenne Tsai
Julie Hannawi
Lauren Cohen
Ayaon Yadav
David Lu
Jacqueline Moreno
Daniela Munoz
Julie Levitan
Lana Marks
Tavisha Thapar
Filipa Ioannou
Alina Yu
Julia Wang
Esther Suh
Lauren Price
Sarah Fleming
Jessie Zhao
Maria Barillas-Hernandez
Patricia Porter
Nick Salem
Yumei (Olivia) Chen
Carlos Calderon
Mackenzie Maddox
Leighann Ashlock
Sara Goldblatt
Emily Levine

Selected Publications

Recent Publications