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Tor Wager, PhD

Diana L. Taylor Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience, Dartmouth

Tor Wager, PhD is Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. As of July 2019, he is joining the faculty of Dartmouth College as the Diana L. Taylor Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Cognitive Psychology in 2003, and served as an Assistant and Associate Professor at Columbia University from 2004-2009.

At the University of Michigan, Dr. Wager conducted a study which found that people who reported the most relief in pain after receiving a placebo also showed the most reduction in activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, thalamus, and insula, all of which are brain regions that respond to physical pain.] In 2013, Wager published a study which found that it is possible to detect physical pain, as well as measure how intense the pain was, using an fMRI scan. A 2015 study led by Wager exposed patients to pain in the form of increasing heat, and then asked them to “rethink” their pain. Wager et al. found that when the patients did so, they were able to alter the amount of pain they felt and certain brain structures linking the nucleus accumbens and ventromedial prefrontal cortex were activated.

Since 2004, he has directed the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience laboratory, a research lab devoted to work on the neurophysiology of affective processes—pain, emotion, stress, and empathy—and how they are shaped by cognitive and social influences. Dr. Wager and his lab are also dedicated to developing analysis methods for functional neuroimaging and sharing ideas, tools, and scientific data with the scientific community and public.

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