Wen Li

Wen Li, PhD

PhD, Northwestern
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Contact Information:

Waisman Center
1500 Highland Avenue
Room 515
Madison, WI 53705
Lab Website: Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory
Lab Website: Waisman Center for Brain Imaging and Behavior
Department of Psychology

Research Statement

My research pertains to psychological and neural underpinnings of emotion processing and emotion-cognition interactions, and how these mechanisms are implicated in anxiety disorders. I study emotion processing at different stages, categorized as “quick-and-dirty” analysis versus slower-yet-elaborate evaluation of stimulus information. My findings suggest that emotion processes interact with diverse cognitive operations, in an automatic or even unconscious fashion, resulting in various cognitive biases that are especially salient in anxious individuals. On the other hand, my research demonstrates that emotional experiences can lead to remarkable cognitive improvement, highlighting the extraordinary capacity humans possess to maximize ecological advantage. Nevertheless, impairment in this kind of learning may underlie anxiety symptoms characterized by excessive sensory sensitivity and hypervigilance. Given the unique psychological and neural intimacy between olfaction and emotion, olfactory (in addition to visual) stimuli are often applied in my experiments to facilitate emotional responses. Multiple approaches and methodologies, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), event-related potentials (ERPs), autonomic physiology and sensory psychophysics, are incorporated in my investigations.

Representative Publications

Krusemark EA, Novak L, Gitelman D, Li W. (2013) When the sense of smell meets emotion: Anxiety-state-dependent olfactory processing and neural circuitry adaptation. Journal of Neuroscience. 33(39):15324 –15332.

Forscher EC, Li W. (2012) Hemispheric asymmetry and visuo-olfactory integration in perceiving subthreshold (micro) fearful expressions. Journal of Neuroscience. Feb 8;32(6):2159-65.

Krusemark EA, Li W. (2011) Do all threats work the same way? Divergent effects of fear and disgust on sensory perception and attention. The Journal of Neuroscience. Mar 2;31(9):3429-34.

Li W, Lopez L, Osher J, Howard JD, Parrish TB, Gottfried JA. (2010) Right orbitofrontal cortex mediates conscious olfactory perception. Psychological Science. Oct;21(10):1454-63.

Li W, Howard JD, Parrish TB, Gottfried JA. (2008) Aversive learning enhances perceptual and cortical discrimination of indiscriminable odor cues. Science. Mar 28;319(5871):1842-5.