Caregiver Attentional Awareness Pilot Study (CAAPS)

We are currently recruiting caregivers to be our study in January 2017!

To find out if you're eligible: For more information or to find out if you are eligible, please contact the study coordinator, Angela Wackerly, at 415-476-7773 or by email at

We are seeking 40 Bay Area caregivers who are 50 years or older, and are the primary caregivers of a friend or family member with a health-related issue. Participants will come to UCSF Laurel Heights Campus (3333 California St) for two 2-hour visits to complete surveys and cognitive computer tasks. In addition, participants will borrow an iPad from us for 6 weeks, and spend 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, engaging with iPad apps. 

The purpose of CAAPS is to further understand the experiences of caregivers, and what interventions may help them. Through this research we hope to find accessible ways to help caregivers thrive in their difficult role. 

Participants will be compensated $15/hr for your participation, with a potential to receive a total of $285 for your time.

P.I.: Alexandra Crosswell, PhD

Co-P.I.: Elissa Epel, PhD & Aric Prather, PhD

Research on Expecting Moms and Sleep Therapy (REST)

We are currently recruiting pregnant women from across the country who are having sleep difficulties to participate in our study! 

To find out if you're eligible: please click here

Depression in pregnancy is common and associated with acute and long-lasting adverse consequences for women and offspring. Insomnia is a risk factor for depression in general populations, and poor sleep quality is linked to increased depression among antenatal women.  Many pregnant women use the Internet to seek pregnancy-related information, and report a preference for mental health care within the home or obstetrics clinic. The overarching goal of this study is to examine efficacy of web-based cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia, called Sleepio, and depression outcomes (CBT-I) compared to treatment as usual (TAU) among pregnant women with insomnia.

Researchers are actively searching for women to enroll in this study. All women who enroll will receive access to the Sleepio app, free of charge.

P.I.: Jennifer Felder, PhD
Co-Investigators.: Elissa Epel, PhD and Aric Prather, PhD
Project Director: Alison Hartman, BA

Healthy Beverage Initiative Study (HBI)

The AME Lab is currently conducting the Healthy Beverage Initiative Study in conjunction with the UCSF Wellness Center. In response to the strong evidence base linking consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to chronic diseases (including obesity and diabetes), the UCSF Healthy Beverage Initiative (HBI) eliminated the sale of sugar sweetened beverages on all UCSF campuses and hospitals. The HBI Study is comprised of two parts. The first part, the larger Parent Study, is a wide survey-based study that tracks the sugar sweetened beverage consumption of UCSF employees from before the sales ban to 12 months post-ban. The Metabolic Substudy is comprised of frequent sugary beverage-drinkers from within the Parent Study Sample. We will look at various signs of metabolic health, including body measurements, weight, insulin reactivity, and liver function, before and after the sales ban. We are actively looking for full- and part-time Research Assistants to work with our HBI team. Please click here for more information regarding joining the HBI team..

P.I.: Elissa Epel, PhD
Co-P.I.: Laura Schmidt, PhD
Project Director: Alison Hartman, BA

Stress, Aging, and Emotions Study (SAGE)

SAGE logo plant only.jpg

SAGE, the Stress Aging and Emotions study for parents, is the third in a series of examinations of how the chronic stress of being a family caregiver affects cellular aging. Drawing on a sample of mothers of children on the autism spectrum, the study seeks to understand how psychological stress affects the body and mind. We aim to identify patterns of vulnerability and resilience to stress, to help with development of a hardiness intervention. We measure biological aging primarily by looking at immune cell telomeres, which form the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, as well as telomerase, the reparative enzyme that keeps telomeres in good working order. Telomeres appear to act as a cellular clock that runs faster under physiological and psychological stress. The intensive study of resilient coping will help shape interventions.

P.I.: Elissa Epel, PhD
Co-P.I.: Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD
Co-Project Directors: Amanda Gilbert, BA & Justine Arenander, BA


Stress, Aging, and Emotions Study in Men (Mr. SAGE)

This study examines bidirectional effects between daily psychological processes, stress arousal, and nightly sleep, among of fathers of children with autism spectrum disorder. A complementary study to SAGE (see above), it also examines daily dyadic interactions within couples coping with the stress of parenting and how these dynamics affect nightly sleep. Lastly, it examines how these relationships might change after a mindfulness based parenting stress intervention.

P.I.s: Aric Prather, PhD & Elissa Epel, PhD
Project Director: Amanda Gilbert, BA

Health Enhancement Resilience Training (HEART), a mobile health intervention

Drawing from principles of evidence-based mindfulness stress-reduction, we are developing and testing a smart phone application that aims to reduce stress, increase emotional resilience, and slow the effects of stress related cellular aging. The app will include very brief "in the moment" exercises, social interaction and bio-sensor monitoring (breath-rate and heart rate variability), as well as tracking and feedback. This project includes two main phases, (I) an iterative design approach with rapid prototyping and user feedback to determine effective messaging and feature design and (II) a pilot test of the feasibility, efficacy and effectiveness of the smart phone intervention by assessing app use and engagement, telomere length and other biomarkers of stress and cellular aging, and stress related behaviors.

P.I.: Elissa Epel, PhD
Co-P.I.: Eve Kupferman, PhD

Project Director: Amanda Gilbert, BA

Maternal Adiposity, Metabolism, and Stress Study (MAMAs)

Carrying excess weight can increase the risk of health problems during pregnancy, and predicts excess gain during the short period of gestation. The MAMAS study is built on the premise that simple recommendations for diet and exercise may not be enough to help women maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy. The goal of the study is to learn if providing stress reduction skills and mindful eating training, in addition to encouraging good nutrition and physical activity, will help low- to middle-income overweight women achieve healthy weight gain during pregnancy and reduce stress. The study will also follow the health and temperament of the babies (led by Nicki Bush, Ph.D.)

Multiple P.I.s: Elissa Epel, PhD, Barbara Laraia, PhD, & Nancy Adler, PhD
Project Director: Kimberly Coleman-Phox, MPH

Stress, Eating, and Early Development Study (SEED)

Environmental influences during the first years of life, beginning in the womb, are strong determinants for later life health.

Accumulating evidence from prenatal programming and developmental research shows how early life stress and poor nutrition can affect health across the life course.

Can better nutrition and lower stress during pregnancy improve a baby's nervous system development and metabolism?

In this study, we follow the offspring born to women in the MAMA's prenatal intervention study. We examine how offspring body composition, temperament, emotion regulation, and executive function develop over the first four years of life, and whether those babies born to women in the intervention group develop more optimally than those born to women from a "treatment as usual group."

P.I.: Nicki Bush, PhD
Co-P.I.: Elissa Epel, PhD

Fitness, Aging, and Stress Study (FAST)

The goal of this study will be to examine whether an aerobic activity training intervention will increase cellular health, improve exercise capacity and blood pressure, and decrease psychological distress over three months in 40 caregivers compared to 40 age-matched wait list control caregivers of family members who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia. We are hoping to examine how the stress-disease link can be broken when regular physical activity regimens are implemented.

P.I.: Eli Puterman, PhD
Co-Investigators: Elissa Epel, PhD, Richard Sloan, PhD, Kirsten Johansen, PhD, Aric Prather, PhD, Martin Picard, PhD, Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, and Jue Lin, PhD
Study Coordinator: Samantha Schilf, BA

Stress, Hormones, and Eating Study (SHE)

The SHE study seeks to better understand facets of Food Addiction. It examines how women's levels of stress and natural opioids in the brain are related to weight and cravings for certain comfort foods. Our ultimate goal is to develop a biological test that will help people know how opioid dependent they are, and what type of eating/weight interventions might help them the most.

P.I.s: Elissa Epel, PhD, Barbara Laraia, PhD, & Nancy Adler, PhD

Co-P.I.: Ashley Mason, PhD

Past Studies

The SHINE Study: Supporting Health by Integrating Nutrition and Exercise

SHINE is a clinical trial that examines the effects of two different 6-month weight loss programs for obese, non-diabetic adults on weight, body fat, and psychological well-being. The two programs both include nutrition and exercise components, as well as stress management techniques aimed at long-term weight loss. The key outcomes include weight loss and maintenance, body fat distribution, insulin sensitivity, psychological well-being, stress hormones, immune function, and cell aging.

P.I.: Rick Hecht
Co-P.I.: Elissa Epel
Project Director: Patty Moran

The Relaxation and Retreat Study

Does going to a resort for a week have the same effects as being in a meditation retreat, at the same resort? With a collaborative group of researchers, we examined the psychological stress processes, self-identity, and aging biology of healthy women randomized into a resort or meditation retreat group. The retreat group was taught body and mind awareness, mantra meditation, and self-reflection. We are examing the short term changes in cell function and well-being (over days) and a month later.

P.I.s: Elissa Epel and Eli Puterman
Co-Investigators: Elizabeth Blackburn, Jue Lin, Cassandra Vieten, Rudi Tanzi, Eric Schadt, Robert Rissman, Steve Wagner, Mike Raffi
Study Coordinators: Samantha Schilf and Amanda Gilbert

Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition & Aging Study

In non-human species like rats, yeast, mice, flies, worms, fish, and even rhesus monkeys, caloric restriction causes lifespan to increase, sometimes by ten-fold. The Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition & Aging (CRONA) study tests whether long-term human calorie restrictors might also have signs of slowed aging. This project is in collaboration with former postdoctoral fellow Dr. A. Janet Tomiyama, now at the Departments of Psychology and Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University.

P.I.: Janet Tomiyama
Co-P.I.s: Elissa Epel and Elizabeth Blackburn

Learn more about it from Dr. Janet Tomiyama in this video.

Exercise and Cell Aging Study

The Exercise and Cell Aging study is the first human randomized clinical trial that tests whether an aerobic exercise intervention can boost telomerase levels in sedentary and unfit young to mid-life adults. Exercise is well known to benefit individuals biologically, but to date, only cross-sectional work highlights the associations between a healthy physical activity regimen and telomere biology in humans. This study is underway at Columbia University in collaboration with Dr.'s Richard Sloan and Daichi Shimbo, in the Division of Behavioral Medicine in the Psychiatry Department.

P.I.: Elissa Epel
Co-P.I.s: Eli Puterman & Richard Sloan

Know Your Telomeres

The Know Your Telomeres Study examined change in telomere length as a function of health behaviors and stress levels over the course of one year in 250, 50 to 65 year old healthy and community-dwelling women. In the study, half the women were told their telomere length at the start of the study, and all women were followed for one year to examine the effects of information about one's own personal telomere length on behaviors, and the possible resulting changes in telomere length at followup.

Co-PIs: Eli Puterman, Elissa Epel
Co-Investigators: Elizabeth Blackburn, Jue Lin,
Study Coordinator: Samantha Schilf

Social Status, Cellular Aging, and Mortality

Using data from a national health survey, this study will be the first to examine telomere length in a nationally representative sample, expanding on past findings linking socioeconomic status (SES) to shorter telomere length, and telomere length to mortality. The study examines these relationships in a racially and ethnically diverse sample, and moderating effects of genetic vulnerabilities, as well as mediating effects of health behaviors.

P.I.: Elissa Epel
Co-P.I.: Belinda Needham