Symptom Science using Neuroscientific and Psychological Approaches

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Where new connections in symptom science are made

Even though symptoms like pain, fatigue, nausea, and others are extremely common, they are often hard to treat because they are so poorly understood. The psychology and neuroscience of emotion and perception can help create a paradigm shift in the study of medical symptoms. The SYNAPSE Center’s founding principle is to view medical symptoms as mental states (that is, subjective, first-person moments of consciousness). This perspective complements traditional views that symptoms are direct consequences of tissue damage or a particular medical condition. We hope that by applying this new theoretical perspective in basic and clinical research alongside other scientists, patients, caregivers, and others, we can better predict, prevent, and treat symptoms to ultimately allow people to live the lives they want to live.


To apply innovative principles from the psychology and neuroscience of sensation and perception to better predict, prevent, and treat symptoms to allow people to live the lives they want to live by:

  • Developing novel scientific perspectives/theories and questions
  • Using or developing novel study designs or measurement methods
  • Using or developing novel interventions

Areas of interest

Topics of interest include (but are not limited to)

  • Signs and symptoms from chronic illnesses and their treatments (especially cancer) such as fatigue, anxiety, depression, neuropathy, pain, etc.
  • Health behaviors (e.g., physical activity, diet, mindfulness-based practices, sleep)
  • Mind/body or integrative science
  • Interoception and perception
  • Biopsychosocial mechanisms
  • Social determinants of health
  • Health disparities
  • Precision medicine

Methods of interest include (but are not limited to)

  • Brain imaging
  • Wearable sensor technology
  • High-frequency sampling of signs, symptoms, and behaviors
  • Blood-based biomarkers (inflammation, immune function, -omics, etc.)
  • Social network
  • Linguistic analyses
Support the Center

Please consider supporting the SYNAPSE Center. Financial gifts to the center could provide the following:

  • $5,000 - 10,000+: Research Intern Experience
    Interns will learn and help run our studies by analyzing data, submitting grants, and publishing papers.
  • $50,000+: Small Pilot Study or Equipment Grant
    The Center is looking to purchase a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) device to help measure brain function more easily in patients with cancer.
  • $250,000 – Large Pilot Study
    The Center would be able to launch a new study testing effects of exercise on preventing cancer treatment toxicities or an observational study to help predict short term and long term cancer treatment, symptoms and risks.
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