At the Sumner Stress Lab, our work examines how the experiences of stress and trauma relate to accelerated aging and risk for chronic disease. Most of our studies focus on elucidating the psychological and biological mechanisms linking stress and trauma with disease risk, with a particular focus on cardiovascular disease—the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. We examine mechanisms across multiple levels of analysis, from genes to physiology to behavior. The goal of this research is to delineate the pathways by which trauma and stress get embedded under the skin to contribute to poor health. We aim to use this knowledge to develop targeted interventions to offset risk for adverse health outcomes.
Some of our recent work aims to identify what aspects of PTSD—the quintessential trauma-related mental disorder—are most related to early manifestations of cardiovascular risk. In addition, we are investigating how trauma and trauma-related psychopathology are associated with markers of accelerated aging that may manifest long before clinical diseases emerge.