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Drs. Sylvia Fitting, Kurt Gray, and Kristen Lindquist are all recipients of the UNC Junior Faculty Development awards.

The Junior Faculty Development Award is paid from the IBM and R.J. Reynolds Industries Funds and awarded to assistant and associate professors.

Dr. Sylvia Fitting, an Assistant Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience, won for her project examining how synthetic cannabinoids and endocannabinoids differentially affect neuronal and synaptic activity within the context of HIV-1 infection. HIV-1 is a chronic disease and individuals with HIV-1 exhibit problems in exectuive function, memory consolidation, and attention. Cannabnoids have been used medicinally with HIV-1 positive patients to provide an increase in appetite, analgesia, and decrease movement disorders. However, cannabinoids can suppress immune function and may have an additional negative effect with an already immune-compromised system. Dr. Fitting aims, with this award, to identify the effect of synthetic cannabinoids and endocannabinoids, allowing for more effective treatment of the disorder.

Dr. Kurt Gray, an Assistant Professor of Social Psychology, won for his project investigating the dying positivity effect and how dying can be positive. Fear of dying reflects our human inability to predict emotional experiences of death. Dr. Gray’s pilot data indicates that those who are close to death are more positive and those patients in the process of dying do not live in constant fear. With this award, Dr. Gray will expand his data sample by including terminal illness blogs written within the last fifteen years, analyzing the language to determine positive and negative emotion word use.

Dr. Kristen Lindquist, an Assistant Professor of Social Psychology, won for her project aiming to understand the cognitive and neural mechanisms that create healthy emotions. Emotions contribute directly to physical health by altering the rate of aging, influencing immune system functioning, and contributing to cardiovascular health. Age-related differences in emotion may alter basic physiological processes that create emotional experiences. In her proposed study, Dr. Lindquist will investigate the physiological reactivity and the ability to detect physiological changes in older adults by comparing their reactions to younger adults during stressful tasks.

Congratulations to Drs. Fitting, Gray, and Lindquist!

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