Research is one of the department's strongest traditions. Since 1999, our program has been ranked by National Science Foundation (NSF) as one of the top 100 recipients of federally financed R&D expenditures at universities and colleges.

The department is home to several of UAB’s centers, research programs, laboratories, and teaching and training sites. As part of UAB's emphasis on multidisciplinary centers, the department also encourages and supports collaboration with various departments and centers within the university.

Research Areas


There is great interest in understanding risk and resilience factors for declines in cognition and health in older adulthood, including psychological research on social support, stress, mental health, vision, attention, driving, physical mobility, racial/ethnic disparities, caregiving, healthcare access, and dementia. Aging research is of particular importance in the coming years due to the members of the baby boomer generation entering their advanced years.

Child & Adolescent Development, Parenting

Child and Adolescent Development is mediated by both biological and environmental factors. Among the many factors/influences that are studied by faculty and their students (using an ecological systems approach) are genetics, environmental toxins, parenting, peer and family relationships, child abuse and neglect, Autism Spectrum Disorders, attention, memory, and language development. The goal of these studies is to produce translational research that benefits society.

Health Disparities

Research in the area of health disparities aims to study the causes of, and reduce the prevalence of, the unequal effects of certain social, mental and physical health challenges upon vulnerable populations. Among the many factors that are studied are race, age, HIV, mental illness, education, and socioeconomic status.


In the current era of effective HIV prevention and treatment tools, treatment adherence has become of utmost importance. Psycho-social factors such as stigma, social support, and mental health not only affect the emotional well-being of people living with HIV, they are also among the most important determinants of adherence to treatment. The interplay between chronic pain and HIV infection is also a rich area of inquiry for our research.


The study of mental and neural mechanisms of comprehension and production of language. A major focus of Language research is on individual differences in language ability, particularly neurodevelopmental and acquired language deficits such as aphasia and autism spectrum disorders. Research areas include the organization of semantic knowledge, the neural basis of language processing, narrative comprehension and pragmatic communication, reading comprehension, and the diagnosis and treatment of language deficits.

Neural Structure & Function, Neuromodulation

The study of neural structure and function includes the organization, connectivity, plasticity, and neurochemistry of the billions of neurons that compose the central nervous system. Research in this area focuses on the functional organization of neural systems for high-level functions such as perception, action, emotion, and cognition. We also study how pharmacological and electrical modulation of these systems affects their function.

Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Autism Spectrum

Neurodevelopmental Disabilities are developmental difficulties or challenges that children and their families may encounter during the child’s developmental period from birth through adolescence. These disabilities may affect their problem solving, memory, social-emotional, language and/or motor abilities. Examples of such disabilities include, but are not limited to, Intellectual Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Cerebral Palsy, as well as many genetic disorders that affect development.

Obesity and Eating Behavior

Diet has a major effect on health. Drs. Boggiano and Sorge use human patients and preclinical animal models to investigate the impact of diet and eating patterns on obesity, eating disorders, neural responses, inflammation, and immune system activation. Their work is directed at using diet to promote better health and to treat/understand eating disorders. They are both members of UAB’s Nutrition Obesity Research Center.


Four of our faculty form the PAIN Collective which aims to study and discover methods of relieving and managing chronic pain through both basic and clinical research. This area of study has been of particular concern in recent years due to the opioid abuse crisis and the aging population.

Psychophysiology, Stress

The term psychophysiology refers to research that links psychological and physiological processes. For example, we study the effects of psychosocial stress on the physiological stress response, as measured by skin conductance, release of cortisol, and changes in blood pressure and heart rate.


Rehabilitation aims to restore function to people with physical or cognitive disabilities due to an injury to the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, or chronic illness. Psychologists study cognitive, behavioral, and affective factors, as well as characteristics of the nervous system, that contribute to the development and amelioration of disabilities. Areas of study in our Department include neuroplasticity, behavioral factors that contribute to physical disabilities and their rehabilitation, the application of virtual reality to rehabilitation, back pain, mobility limitations, visual attention, and speed of processing. Conditions of interest include stroke, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, aphasia, and mild cognitive impairment.

Transportation and Safety

Psychological science can have major impact on transportation safety and injury prevention. Our faculty are involved both in understanding psychological risk factors for injury and in developing prevention strategies. Some of the many areas of safety research that our faculty study are pedestrian safety, driving safety, car seat installation, gun safety, dog bites, vision, aging, and parental and teacher supervision of children. We also have been at the forefront in understanding psychological factors associated with pedestrians and drivers who are distracted by devices like cellular phones. Our faculty are among the world’s leading experts in both teen driving and driving among elderly populations, and our faculty have the privilege of working with cutting-edge technology such as our full-sized SUV-based driving simulator and the UAB Youth Safety Lab’s virtual pedestrian environment.


Some of our faculty are engaged in basic and applied vision research, including the topics of retinal anatomy and function, glaucoma, age-related diseases such as macular degeneration, the effects of CNS diseases such as Parkinson’s, neural prosthesis and sensory substitution aids, driving safety, brain training, and many other topics.