Welcome to the WAVES Laboratory

Welcome to the WAVES Emotion Lab at Florida Atlantic University! The purpose of the WAVES Emotion Lab is to understand the factors that contribute to the development of socio-emotional Wellness during infancy and childhood. Our focus is on investigating the physiological and behavioral underpinnings of Affective development. Recognizing the Value of parental socialization practices, we strive to investigate Emotions that contribute to the development of optimal Socio-emotional functioning.



Current theories and research into brain development note that the frontal lobes continue to develop throughout early childhood. Our goal is to examine the factors that contribute to risk and resilience in the development of emotional response. Individual differences in temperament and social interactive attachments to parents impact the trajectory to emotionally competent functioning during childhood. Our research, funded in part by the National Institutes of Mental Health, is designed to explore and understand the contributors to optimal infant and child development.

About Us

The Staff


Nancy Jones

Nancy Aaron Jones is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Biomedical Science. She directs the WAVES Emotion Lab, which investigates biological and socio-emotional factors that influence development, specifically focusing on the processes by which individual differences in emotional resilience and maternal psychopathology influences infant and childhood development. Dr. Jones' research is built on the developmental psychophysiological theory that both biological and social factors interact during development and influence our emotional lives. E-mail: njones@fau.edu


Krystal Mize

Krystal D. Mize, Ph.D. graduated from FAU’s Evolutionary Psychology program in 2008. Her graduate research centered on the evolved nature of jealousy. Specifically her thesis work focused on homicide between intimate partners (an extreme outcome of jealousy) and her dissertation project was on affective and behavioral responses to the loss of maternal attention to a social rival (infant jealousy). Dr. Mize’s research interests are eclectic. Beyond her extensive involvement in the WAVES Emotion Lab research, Dr. Mize is interested in a variety of other interpersonal relationship issues, including differential parental investment, romantic and sexual relationships, and intra-sexual competition. She is interested in religious beliefs, greed and denial as they are related to environmental values as well. Although her research interests are diverse, the overarching theme to Dr. Mize's work is examining the evolved psychology underlying behaviors. Dr. Mize works with the WAVES Emotion Lab as a Senior Research Manager, overseeing much of the research that goes on in the laboratory. E-mail: kmize1@fau.edu

Nate Shanok

Nate Shanok is currently a Neurodevelopmental Ph.D. student in the lab and he completed his master's degree at FAU in 2017. His master's thesis focused on finding neurological correlates to social symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. He is interested in researching some of the underlying neurological causes of various psychological disorders including anxiety/depression, and finding treatments to improve behavioral symptoms. He is particularly interested in researching prevention strategies for early onset anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. E-mail: nshanok@fau.edu

Seanna Bellinger

Seanna is a Behavioral Neuroscience student at Florida Atlantic University, working under the guidance of Dr. Nancy Jones. Her research focuses on the impact of early life experiences on longer-term developmental outcomes. Specifically, she’s interested in exploring how physiological changes during gestation alter offspring phenotype and neurobiological development. Her research involves a collaboration between two universities and the use of two different research models: human infants and Northern bobwhite quail. In Dr. Jones’ WAVES Emotion Lab, the physiological underpinnings, such as hormonal contributions, that influence socio-emotional development in infants is being investigated. Seanna is also collaborating with Dr. Robert Lickliter’s Developmental Psychobiology Lab at Florida International University, where she is researching the influence of maternally derived hormones on social recognition and perceptual learning and memory in Bobwhite quail. E-Mail: sbellinger2014@fau.edu


Jillian Hardin

Jillian Hardin is an associative professor at FAU in Human Development. She worked as an undergraduate RA in the WAVES Emotion Lab and as a Ph.D. student in the lab. She oversees the Kangaroo Care Project, which examines how touch and breastfeeding facilitate mother-infant bonding and the development of optimal physiological patterns in infancy. Her research interests include the effects of maternal depression on infants and the role of breastfeeding in buffering impaired mother-infant communication in these dyads. E-mail: jsader@fau.edu


Maria Corbett

Maria Corbett graduated from the FAU Ph.D. program in neuroscience in 2017. Her major interests are to study interventions that reduce psychological stress and anxiety in school aged children. The human responses to stress and anxiety are twofold, often involving a physiological and an emotional component. Maria's current research goals are to investigate if a correlation exists between self reported measures of anxiety and the amount of cortisol released into the system. Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones released by the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (known commonly as the 'stress access'. Sustained hyper-activation of this system can lead to long term deleterious effects that manifest behaviorally as health problems. Additionally, sustained exposure to cortisol and other corticosteroids have deleterious effects on the health of neurons at the cellular level. Maria's research is examining if a 'mindfulness meditation' intervention can impact the two components of stress response; the emotional reporting of it and its physiological manifestations as measures by salivary cortisol samples. We are hoping that mindfulness meditation, an empirically supported stress and anxiety reducer in adults, can help to modulate both of these in school aged children. Specifically, we will be taking 3 cortisol samples at distinct time points, as well as pre and post intervention measures of attention / executive function, emotional regulation, state/trait anxiety, test anxiety, and mindfulness. E-mail: mcorbett@fau.edu


Melannie Pineda

Melannie Pineda

Melannie Pineda graduated from the FAU Developmental Neuroscience Ph.D. Program in 2017. She also earned her master's degree at FAU and completed her undergraduate Honor's Thesis project in the WAVES lab. Melannie's thesis project involved looking at the stability of EEG and jealousy responses in infants between the ages of 9-months and 12-months of age. For her Master's thesis, Melannie would like to branch out to study the role of oxytocin and cortisol in early development. E-mail: mpineda4@fau.edu.



Sarah Worch

Sarah Worch joined the lab as a volunteer and is currently a new Master's level student at FAU. Her thesis research with the lab is focused on changes in creativity levels as a function of 10-weeks of meditation practice in school age children. E-mail: TBA

Would you like to participate in one of our studies?

Mother-infant bonding research: Click HERE to view a brochure about our pregnancy and mother-infant study. Infant emotion research: Click HERE to view a brochure inviting you and your infant to participate in one of our emotion development studies.

Get in Touch

You can contact the lab on our Facebook page here:

You can also contact one of the lead members of the W.A.V.E.S Laboratory:

  • Dr. Nancy Jones
  • Phone: (561) 799-8632
  • E-mail: njones@fau.edu
  • Office: WB 215 on MacArthur Campus

Get Directions

To get directions, click on the green 'B' below, then click 'Get Directions'.

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Emotions are ubiquitous and impart meaning to everyday experiences and social interactions. Our lab focuses on studying the development of emotions from infancy through early childhood, employing neuro- and psychophysiological perspectives. We study the factors that precipitate both risk and resilience during development. We are particularly interested in individual differences in temperament that are associated with positive emotions, approach styles and pro-social behaviors which are likely to improve social relationships and developmental outcomes. We also study how maternal depression and mood influences infant and child development as well as how family support can attenuate those risk factors.


We currently are recruiting participants for the following important studies:

  • Early and Extended Touch Intervention on Mother-Infant Bonding
    The objective of this study is to examine the effects of early touch (Kangaroo Care, KC) and extended touch through stable breastfeeding patterns on infant physiological and behavioral regulation in a group of depressed and non-depressed mothers and their infants. We are examining oxytocin levels in mothers during the prenatal and postnatal times as well as taking measures of mother-infant bonding and emotional interactive experiences. Infants are evaluated behaviorally and physiologically several times during the first months of life. Our ultimate goal is to uncover the factors that precipitate optimal dyadic interactions (bonding) and infant physiological functioning during early development in order to attenuate interactive problems that may occur in depressed mother-infant dyads. Click here for further information about this bonding study.
  • Infant Jealousy
    The infant jealousy project examines infant's emotional responses to the loss of their mothers’ exclusive attention in two conditions, when she attends to a social item and when she attends to a non-social item. Several studies are underway in the lab on this topic with the aim of examining behavioral and physiological (EEG) responses to the loss of maternal attention.
    • 12-month study: The first study is designed to explore temperamental factors, including tonic EEG activity as it relates to the infant’s emotional responses in 12-month infants.
    • 9-month study: The second study is an extension of the former one, designed to further evaluate the physiological responses of younger infants during the loss of their mother's exclusive attention to a social rival relative to a non-social rival.
    • The third element of this research is to evaluate the longitudingal physiological patterns and behavioral stability of responses to the loss of maternal attention as infants approach their first birthday. We also hope to examine the effects of maternal mood on the development of the brain and infant emotions during these early developmental periods.
  • Meditation and Physiology
    The primary objective of this research is to evaluate the effects of meditation on children’s emotional well-being and physiological development using a pre- and post-manipulation research design. Several projects are in progress based on this study. Currently, the EEG and cortisol data for our ongoing meditation research is under analysis. Additionally, we have a new meditation study involving pre-adolescent children begining in fall 2012. The goal of this new study is to extend on our previous protocol by exploring heart rate recovery as a function of engaging in 10-weeks of meditation practice.

The following studies are being prepared for future theses or publications:

  • Victimization Research
    The victimization research is designed to investigating factors that contribute to aggression in children. Specifically, we are interested in physiological correlates of aggression and victimization via autonomic reactivity during baseline and mild stress related events. Three main questions are being examined in this study. The first goal of this study is to determine if there are physiological differences in highly aggressive versus highly victimized children. Next, we are evaluating if any differences in these temperaments affect feelings about empathy. The final focus of the victimization research is on whether or not there are specific types of aggression associated with lower levels of arousal. The overarching aim of this line of research is to create a psychophysiological profile of aggressive and victimized children as a means of better assessing the etiology of these behaviors, with the ultimate goal of developing optimal intervention strategies to prevent violence in schools.
  • Newborn Empathy Research
    Humans may be predisposed, both physiologically and behaviorally, to respond to others who are in distress (Eisenberg et al., 2001; Hoffman, 2000). Mirror neurons fire both when an individual experiences an event and when they witnesses the event occurring to another individual (Preston & deWaal, 2002). Therefore, mirror neurons may serve as a mechanism for a biological preparedness for empathic responding. In fact, Jones (2012) has shown that even newborns respond to another’s distress and that this is related to individual differences in temperamental reactivity.Heart rate (HR), Heart period (HP), and heart rate variability (HRV) are related to the behavioral dimensions of reactivity and self-regulation (Bar-Haim, Marshall & Fox, 2000; Porges 1974) and have been shown to be dependable and stable measures of autonomic nervous system response. Maternal depression has been associated with dysregulated emotional reactivity and regulation during infancy and potentially affects the physiological and behavioral responses of a neonate (i.e., Field et al., 2007). The present research examines the relationship between neonates’physiological and behavioral responses to real and digitally modulated distress sounds of other neonates as a function of maternal depression.
  • Breastfeeding Research
    There are several research projects in the WAVES Emotion Lab that involve breastfeeding. Feeding method, breast versus bottle, has been shown to support neurodevelopmental trajectories in infancy (Jing, Gilchrist, Badger, & Pivik, 2010). Optimal neurodevelopment underlies healthy emotional patterns in early development.
    • The present study examines the effect of different feeding patterns in relation to infant’s brain development through an examination of EEG coherence. EEG coherence is a measure of the connectivity between different regions of the brain; specifically, it is a measure of the relationship of two different electrode sites at a specific frequency band (Fox et al., 2004). Findings from the study indicate that infants who are breast fed show more mature brain development compared to infants who are fed milk formulas, with infants who are breast fed for longer durations receiving greater benefits over those who are breast fed for shorter durations.
    • Previous research (Smith & Ellwood, 2011) that examined socio-emotional interaction for infants who are breastfed has demonstrated optimal developmental outcomes yet this has not been studied in infants of depressed mothers. Infants of depressed mothers show deficits in emotional processing as well as dysregulated interactive patterns with their mothers. The early postnatal period (Fox & Rutter, 2011) has been implicated as a sensitive period for infant brain and behavioral development. Therefore, deficits in processing and dyadic interactive patterns may be attenuated if interventions are implemented early in the postpartum months. Breastfeeding can facilitate the establishment of positive mother-infant interaction patterns, which is important for optimal infant development (Field, 1992). Furthermore, Smith and Ellwood (2011) suggest that breastfeeding increases maternal-infant contact resulting in enhanced psychological and physiological development as well as attachment. The purpose of this study is to determine if stable breastfeeding patterns can protect infants of depressed mothers from the negative socio-interactive patterns normally observed in depressed mother-infant dyads and ultimately lead to a healthier trajectory of socio-emotional development.
  • Preschool Moral/Empathy Development Research
    The preschool moral/empathy development research is a two-part, short-term longitudinal study investigating the effects of maternal and paternal mood and depression status on the development of empathy in children. We are investigating whether child temperament and parental mood and emotionally-valenced interactive style influence the development of prosocial/helping responses, like empathy.
    • Part 1- ECG and emotional interaction
      This portion of the study takes place in the home of the participant. Parents are asked to complete several questionnaires, including an assessment of family emotional interaction, a depression inventory, and a demographic form. They then participate in a happy and sad story-reading task with their child while we monitor the child’s heart rate (using portable ECG equipment). Both mothers and fathers participate!
      • Emotion Socialization
        The emotion socialization study grew out of the preschool study. This study extends these research efforts to examine familial influences on the child’s understanding of emotions which are based on parental practices and interactive style. Emotion socialization has been a hot topic in the study of emotions in early childhood. Parental expressivity, responsiveness, emotion coaching, the quality of parent-child interaction, and their relationship with young children’s emotion regulation and affect-based cognitive understanding are the factors examined in this research
      • Part 2- EEG and prosocial behaviors
        This portion of the study takes place in our laboratory located on the FAU campus in Jupiter, FL. The mother is asked to complete several self- and child-report surveys, including an assessment of maternal mood and child expressive vocabulary. The child’s brain activity is monitored using non-invasive EEG equipment while participating in an emotion-inducing movie-watching task. We also evaluate the child’s responses to two helping/prosocial tasks.
      • Facial Emotion Recognition Autism Study

        The facial Emotion Recognition Autism Study is designed to assess the emotion recognition ability of 4- to -8 year-old children with an autism spectrum disorder compared to typically developing individuals. The secondary goal is to compare the resting-state brain activity (EEG) of the two groups and determine how this measure relates to recognition ability. This is a two part-study and requires the participation of a child and their mother. In part 1, we record the resting-state brain activity of the participant and capture images of the participant's mother generating facial expressions to serve as the familiar stimuli in the FER task. In part two, the child completes a short tutorial on the emotion words featured in this study (happy, mad, sad, scared). Once the child shows a proficienct understanding, we move onto the FER task which includes expressions of both unfamiliar individuals and the participant's mother (familiar). This way, we can observe how FER processing differs in ASD and, whether or not children with ASD show a preference for the social processing of familiar individuals.


What is Directed Independent Study (DIS)?

In a 1 to 3 credit DIS with our lab, you will have the opportunity to be a member of a dynamical research team. As a Research Assistant in the WAVES Lab, you will learn about conducting research in the behavioral sciences, and will be involved in aspects of our studies that match your interests and educational goals.



What are the benefits of doing a DIS?

  • Learn more about topics that interest you such as child development, neuropsychology, psychophysiology, cardiovascular response, emotions, depression, mother-infant interactions and attachment.
  • Get hands-on experience conducting scientific research.
  • Improve your chances of getting into graduate school.
  • Get work experience and training that will benefit your future job searches.
  • Learn more about the different professions in psychology and decide if this field is right for your career.
  • Have the satisfaction of knowing that you contributed directly to increase the scientific knowledge base in psychology.
  • Work flexible hours that fit your schedule.

Who is eligible for DIS?

Any FAU undergraduate (upper division) or graduate student who has taken some psychology courses and has a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Contact us to determine if a DIS with our lab is right for you.

How much work is involved?

Doing a DIS is like having a job. You are expected to be responsible and professional in your attitude toward your work in our lab. DIS students are required to work 3 hours per week per credit.

What is an Honor's Thesis?

Select students may complete an honor's seminar and an honor's thesis with the WAVES Emotion Lab. As a thesis student, you will be intensely involved in managing your own research project and writing a scientific paper. Completing an honor's thesis project will allow you to experience research in more depth than a DIS and it may give your graduate school applications an edge over your competition.

Who is eligible to participate in the Honor's Program?

As indicated by the Department, students may apply for and be admitted to the Honors Program after completion of 60 credit hours and prior to the completion of 105 hours. Students must have a grade point average of 3.2 overall and in psychology for all college-level coursework to be admitted to and to be retained in the honors track. Both BA Psychology and BS Neuroscience and Behavior students are eligible to participate in the Honors Program. Student must enroll in PSY 4932 Honor's Seminar prior to enrolling in PSY 4970 Honor's Thesis.

How much work is involved?

There is not a set amount of work associated with a thesis project because all projects are different. Students who are in the Honor's Track are expected to complete as many hours as needed to complete their thesis project.

How do I sign up?

If you are interested in a DIS or Honor's Thesis opportunity with our lab, simply email Dr. Jones at "njones@fau.edu"




Former Doctoral Students

Chantal Gagnon, Ph. D.
Bullying in Schools: The Role of Empathy, Temperament, and Emotion Regulation
May 2012

Krystal D. Mize, Ph. D.
Infant Jealousy Responses: Temperament and EEG
August 2008
Instructor and Undergraduate Coordinator of Psychology at FAU

Miguel Diego, Ph.D.
Maternal Neuroendocrine Function and Fetal Development
August 2004
Assistant Resident Professor at University of Miami

Former Master's Thesis Students

Joseph Cotler, M.A.
Cardiac Patterns During Another Infant's Cry Sound in Neonates of Depressed Mothers
May 2013

Christopher Aults, M.A.
Psychophysiological Measures of Agression and Victimization in Early Adolescence
December 2012

Maria L. Corbett, M.A.
The Effect of a Mindfulness Meditation Intervention on Attention, Affect, Anxiety, Mindfulness, and Salivary Cortisol in School Aged Children
December 2011

Jillian Sader, M.A.
The Development of Mother-Infant Communciation through Touch and Gaze Patterns in Depressed and Non-Depressed Breast- and Bottle-Feeding Dyads
July 2011

Alexis Blau, M.A.
The Development of Jealousy
December 2010

Aviva R. Kadin-Pessoa, M.A.
Developing Mechanisms of Self-Regulation: An Intergrative Perspective
August 2010

Sara Klco, M.A.
A Neuropsychological Examination of the Effects of
Mindfulness Meditation in Elementary School Children
June 2010

Amanda Almeida, M.A.
EEG in Preschool Aged Children and the Development of Empathy
August 2009

Miguel Diego, Ph.D.
EEG in 1-week, 1-month and 3-month-old Infants
of Depressed and Non-depressed Mothers

Current Honor's Theses Students


Former Honor's Theses Students

Traci Ingersoll
Literature Review on Emotional Well-Being and Alternative Therapuetic Interventions in Children and Adolescents
August 2013

Melannie Pineda
The Longitudinal Stability of Jealousy in Infancy
May 2012

Chloe Barrera
Feeding Patterns Effect Brain Activity Patterns in Infancy
May 2012

Darcel Craft
The Effects of Empathy Development in Preschoolers of Depressed Parents
May 2011

Jamie Eggenberger
An EEG Coherence Analysis of the Effects of
Mindfulness Meditation in School-aged Children
December 2010

Joseph Salvatore
Behavioral and Physiological Indices of Emotion in Preschoolers
August 2010

Dayana Sanchez
The Effects of Mindfulness Mediation on
Children's Brain Electrical Activity and Creativity
August 2008

Jessica Wassung
Effects of Parental Depression on Empathy Development in Preschoolers
August 2006

Angeliqua Dubecky
Touch Behaviors
December 2005

Samantha Kane
Familial Patterns of Empathy in Preschoolers
May 2004

Moran Amrani
Breast-feeding: Its Effects on Mother and Child
May 2001