My research centers on understanding the psychoneuroimmunological links between stress and health. Broadly, I am interested in how social, psychological, and behavioral factors promote or impair physiological stress adaptation and immune/inflammatory regulation. My scientific contributions fall into three areas: (1) the role of social relationships in stress and health links, (2) implications of stress for healthy aging, and (3) the influence of sleep on stress physiology. Across these areas, I aim to understand how stress-related autonomic, neuroendocrine, and immune changes ultimately affect well-being, including mood and anxiety, cognitive function, pain, and risk for chronic aging-related diseases.
Dr. Heffners work has been supported by multiple organizational, NIH- and other federally-funded grants. Over the years, she has evolved from a primary focus on human laboratory experiments to a complementary emphasis on clinical behavioral interventions as experimental manipulations to elucidate mechanisms. This approach has expanded her multi-disciplinary and inter-professional endeavors to include close collaboration with expert clinician researchers, including nurses, clinical psychologists, physicians, and geriatricians. Together, this research not only contributes to understanding basic mechanisms of stress and health, but also has potential for immediate translation to clinical intervention.
See Kathi L. Heffner's curriculum vitae.