Nature soothes the brain

January 22, 2016

David Strayer, a U psychology professor known for his research into how cellphones and vehicle infotainment systems distract drivers, also studies how our stressed-out brains may benefit when we spend time in nature unplugged from electrical devices. In 2012, he published a small study showing how backpackers scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after they spent four days on electronics-free Outward Bound treks.  Strayer, more recently, has recorded the brain waves of his students during hiking trips. A reporter accompanied Strayer and students on one such trip and reports in the January 2016 issue of National Geographic (“This is Your Brain on Nature”) on evidence from Strayer and other researchers suggesting nature – from wilderness to city parks to backyards – helps our overstressed brains.  Strayer is available to discuss the subject (except when he teaches Monday, Tuesday, Thursday mornings).
David Strayer office 801-581-5037 | cell 801-949-1271 |Email:

Grief and the holidays

December 17, 2015

The holidays are upon us, bringing family and friends together to join in festivities, fun and traditions. As a popular holiday song declares, “Tis the season to be jolly.” For some the holidays don’t feel jolly and heighten feelings of anxiety, sadness and depression, especially for those dealing with the death of a loved one. People experience and deal with death in various ways. How you pick up the pieces, heal and move forward, especially while in school and focusing on your studies, can be extremely difficult. That’s why Becky Ablad and Annalise John, graduate students in the College of Social Work specializing in mental health, established the University of Utah chapter of Actively Moving Forward. Both took an elective grief and loss class this past summer after people close to them and embarked on a mission to find a way to help other college students going through similar situations. AMF is a free student-led support group dedicated to helping other students grieving the illness or death of a loved one. University Counseling Center also offers a grief support group to students called Sharing is Caring and consists of semester-long sessions held once a week on Wednesdays from 12-12:50 p.m. in room 344 of the Student Services Building. For $20 a semester, UCC Licensed Psychologist and Group Coordinator Karen Cone-Uemura, offers a place for those who have experienced loss to come together, talk and connect. Representatives from either group are available to talk about resources for coping with grief during the holidays.
University of Utah AMF Chapter |
University Counseling Center | 801-581-6826

Understanding suicide risk factors and prevention

September 11, 2015

This week a Massachusetts teen was prosecuted for pressuring her boyfriend to commit suicide, raising questions about whether the incident was her fault or whether he would have done it anyway. Child psychiatrist Doug Gray, M.D., is available to explain the risk factors that can lead to suicide, including damaging relations and other pressures, environmental factors such as high altitude and a genetic predisposition. He is working to reduce the stigma around mental illness so more people will get the help they need. He can describe successful prevention methods and local assistance programs for teens and adults. For more information, contact Libby Mitchell in the Health Sciences Office of Public Affairs.
Phone: 801-587-0945 | Email:

Research spotlight: Assessing soldiers’ suicide risk

July 27, 2015

There’s no shortage of interesting research going on at the University of Utah every day. Brian Baucom and Craig Bryan, assistant professors in the Department of Psychology, and Eric Garland, associate dean for research in the College of Social Work, were recently awarded a $2.4 million Department of Defense grant for a three-year study on “Technologies for Assessing Behavioral and Cognitive Markers of Suicide Risk.” The primary objectives of the research are to determine behavioral and cognitive markers of suicide risk among National Guard service members and their spouses, to improve the neurocognitive measurement of undetected suicidal tendencies, and to improve the feasibility and practicality of assessing suicide risk by using advanced technology solutions. Baucom and Garland are available to talk about what the team’s research aims to achieve.
Brian Baucom | Phone: 801-581-6425 | Email:
Eric Garland | Phone: 801-581-3826 | Email: