Turhan Canli, Ph.D.
Stony Brook University (2005)
Associate Professor, Integrative Neuroscience
Office: Psychology B-214
Office Hours: Flexible, by appointment
Phone Number: (631) 632-7803


Areas of Interest:
The work in Dr. Canli’s laboratory focuses on the hormonal and neuro-genetic basis of individual differences in emotion and cognition. The research we conduct addresses these questions: What are the biological mechanisms that can explain human personality? What is the mechanism by which life experience, in interaction with genetic variation, influences brain function to generate behavioral patterns that we associated with certain personality traits? Do men and women differ in how their brains respond to these genetic and experiential influences? Can this information be used to identify healthy individuals at risk for psychopathology? To address these questions, Dr. Canli’s team uses a number of different technologies:

1. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a non-invasive technique that measures brain activation through changes in blood oxygenation

2. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive technique to stimulate the human cortex and temporarily disrupt neural processing

3. Molecular genetics, which includes a range of techniques including polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in order to identify the genetic make-up of research participants

4. Hormone Assays, to determine individual differences in levels of steroid hormones that may account for sex differences in neural activation

Current Research:

Dr. Canli is interested in the hormonal regulation of brain responses to emotional stimuli.This NSF-funded project uses fMRI to evaluate the effect of ovarian steroid fluctuation between the early follicular (low estrogen and progesterone) and luteal (high estrogen and progesterone) phases of the menstrual cycle, in the same individuals, on brain activation patterns during processing of affective stimuli.

A second aim of Dr. Canli's research is the neurogenetic basis of extraversion and neuroticism. Individual differences in the molecular structure of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTT) and the dopamine 4 receptor gene (DRD4) are associated with individual differences in neuroticism (N) and extraversion (E), respectively. Dr. Canli's work has shown that N and E are associated with increased brain activation to negative and positive stimuli, respectively. Thus, individual differences in 5-HTT and DRD4 genotype may be associated with differences in brain activation, giving rise to behaviors associated with N and E. This project is designed to evaluate a cognitive-affective procesing model of neuro-genetic mechanisms that can give rise to traits such as E and N.

A third focus of Dr. Canli's research is the neurogenetic basis of impulsivity. Impulsivity is associated with a wide range of psychiatric diagnoses, including antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, disorders related to abuse and addiction, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is therefore usually studied in patient populations, rather than as a trait in healthy, normal individuals. This is problematic, because impulsivity in patients is confounded by many other variables associated with their diagnosis. Dr. Canli’s laboratory therefore embarked on a project to study the neurogenetic basis of impulsivity in healthy participants.

A fourth area of interest in Dr. Canli's research is neurogenetic basis of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EI) is a form of intelligence that reflects a person’s ability to recognize the meanings of emotions and their relationships in oneself and in others in the course of social interactions, and to reason and problem-solve on the basis of them. The biological basis of these processes is unknown. Dr. Canli’s laboratory has begun a research program to investigate the neurogenetic basis of EI.

Representative Publications:

Canli, T., Omura, K, Haas, B., Fallgatter, A., Constable, R.T., Lesch, K.P. (2005). Beyond affect: A role for genetic variation of the serotonin transporter in neural activation during a cognitive attention task. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 102 (34), 12224-9.

Canli, T. and Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2004). News and Views: Imaging gender differences in sexual arousal. Nature Neuroscience, 7, 325-326.

Canli, T., Sivers, H., Gotlib, I.H., and Gabrieli, J.D.E.(2002). Amygdala activation to happy faces as a function of extraversion. Science, 296, 2191.

Canli, T., Desmond, J.E., Zhao, Z., and Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2002). Sex differences in the neural encoding of emotional experiences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A , 99 (16), 10789-10794.

Current Research Support:

National Science Foundation, BCS-0224221, “FMRI of Hormonal Variation in Cognitive-Affective Processing”
Turhan Canli (Primary Investigator)

SBU-BNL Seed Grant, “The neurogenetics of impulsivity: individual differences within the dopamine transporter (DAT) gene assessed with PET and fMRI”
Turhan Canli (Primary Investigator)