University of Mississippi

Brittany Nielsen Receives UM Teaching Award

Brittany-e1410461689157-150x150Brittany Nielsen (M.A., California State University, Long Beach), a graduate student in Experimental Psychology  and member of the research team in the Cognition Underlying Behavior (CUB) Lab, received the 2015–2016 Graduate Instructor Excellence in Teaching Award at the University of Mississippi Graduate School Doctoral Hooding Ceremony on May 13, 2016. In addition to a monetary award, Brittany received a Golden Apple trophy and will have her name engraved on a plaque in the library.

“This is a big honor for Brittany and something that all of us in Psychology can be proud of,” said Michael T. Allen, professor and chair of psychology.

Nielsen is interested in examining the utility of different cognitive based interventions used in schools to help children with their executive function skills.

Recent Psychology Graduate Awarded Prestigious Health Fellowship

Gigi Bastien’s research on impact of Ebola virus disease to take place in Liberia


Gigi Bastien, has been awarded a Fogarty Global Health Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health for her research in the African nation of Liberia.

Gigi Bastien, has been awarded a Fogarty Global Health Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health for her research in the African nation of Liberia.

A recent graduate of the University of Mississippi Department of Psychology, Gigi Bastien, has been awarded a Fogarty Global Health Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health for 11 months of research in the African nation of Liberia.

The research will focus on both the mental health and psychosocial impacts of Ebola virus disease. Bastien, a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who moved to the United States at age 8, will also study the existing strengths, resiliency and resources among Ebola survivors in Liberia.

“I am thrilled to have been offered the opportunity to contribute in some small way to the growing body of literature around evidence-based global mental health disaster/emergency response,” Bastien said. “I look forward to working with and learning from the people of Liberia, whose resilience in facing one of the greatest epidemics of our lifetime is truly inspiring.”

From a psychological standpoint, Bastien’s research will address the lack of knowledge surrounding resiliency in the aftermath of large-scale emergencies. It will help professionals understand strategies to support knowledge exchange, mental health literacy and interventions in ways that are respectful of communities.

Ebola is a virus that causes hemorrhagic fever in humans, leading to death in about 50 percent of cases. The disease was first identified in 1976 in Africa.

The deadliest epidemic of the disease since its discovery began in March 2014, when outbreaks of Ebola were reported in West Africa. From that time until January 2016, Liberia accounted for more than 4,800 Ebola-related deaths. Of all countries affected by the virus, Liberia had the most fatalities.

“The award of the NIH Fogarty Global Health Fellowship to Gigi for intervention research in Liberia is exciting and satisfying news,” said Laura Johnson, a UM associate professor of psychology. “It is an excellent accomplishment in international psychology and reflects well on our department, given the competitive nature and prestige of the Fogarty awards.”

Bastien, who earned her master’s degree in 2011 and her doctorate in 2013, both from UM in clinical psychology, has previously conducted research in similar areas. Her dissertation involved the research of disaster response and resilience following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

International research cases of this nature are rare in the clinical research field, but are increasingly valued and called upon.

“I am particularly proud that Gigi’s project in Liberia is an outgrowth of work she began as a student at the University of Mississippi, where her dissertation focused on resilience and culturally responsive interventions among displaced persons in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti,” Johnson said.

“I could not be more excited about Gigi’s upcoming project and I am also happy to have ongoing, international collaborations with a great colleague.”

Third Annual UM Conference on Psychological Science

Join us on April 8, 2016 for our annual research conference. Click this link for conference details and the presentation schedule.

UM Study Affirms Treating Insomnia May Ease Migraines

Researchers use behavioral intervention to achieve long-term results


UM researchers recently released the results of a two-year study examining whether even brief sessions with a sleep therapist can help ease the frequency of migraines for chronic sufferers.

UM researchers recently released the results of a two-year study examining whether even brief sessions with a sleep therapist can help ease the frequency of migraines for chronic sufferers.

Even relatively brief sessions with a sleep therapist may prove useful in relieving the frequency of migraines for chronic sufferers, concludes a study conducted by researchers at the University of Mississippi.

The study is reported in the February issue of Headache, the flagship journal of the American Headache Society. Todd Smitherman, UM associate professor of psychology and a licensed psychologist, is the lead author who conducted the trial in collaboration with Dr. Malcolm Roland of the Oxford Neurology Clinic and colleagues at Wake Forest University and Elliot Hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Carrie Ambrose, Brooke Walters and Rachel Davis, all doctoral students in the UM clinical psychology program, served as project coordinators to help run the study, which used a three-session cognitive-behavioral intervention, known as CBTi, to treat insomnia, which often accompanies frequent migraine attacks.

“It was unique and different in that we used actigraphy (the use of motion sensors to monitor sleep patterns) in order to get objective data on sleep instead of simply using the patient’s subjective report of their sleep, which is often done,” Walters said.

Migraines affect 12 percent to 14 percent of Americans each year, and the majority of migraine sufferers who have 15 or more days of headache per month also experience significant insomnia, Smitherman said.

Thirty-one volunteers who suffer from chronic migraines and insomnia were assigned to two treatment groups and monitored throughout the two-year study, conducted at UM’s Psychological Services Center in Kinard Hall. These people averaged 21.6 days per month with headache symptoms when the study began.

The CBTi treatment included training patients in skills designed to associate their bed with sleeping and eliminating other activities, such as reading and watching television while in bed. Participants were instructed to keep a consistent time of going to sleep and waking up, as well as getting out of bed when they were unable to sleep.

Both groups improved and did not differ significantly from each other when the treatment ended. But six weeks after the conclusion of the study, the odds of experiencing headache were 60 percent lower for those receiving cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia than for those receiving a control treatment providing the same amount of contact with a therapist, Smitherman said.

At follow-up, those receiving CBTi had a 48.9 percent reduction in the number of days with headache, compared to a 25 percent reduction for the control group.

This study was funded by a $49,858 grant from the Migraine Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds migraine research.

“The Migraine Research Foundation is proud to have sponsored Dr. Smitherman’s groundbreaking research on behavioral insomnia and chronic migraine,” said Cathy Glaser, the foundation’s president. “Thirty-eight million people in the United States suffer from migraine and more than 4 million of them have chronic migraine, which is extremely disabling and very difficult to treat.
“Advancements in the treatment of chronic migraine like this will provide hope and help to millions of people.”

This is the second study to show that treating insomnia improves migraines, Smitherman said.

“It’s exciting because the insomnia treatment is all founded in changing basic sleep behavior patterns and involves no medication,” he said. “This pattern of results is what we commonly see with behavioral interventions for insomnia, psychiatric disorders and other conditions. Patients often continue to improve after the intervention is over.”

The data will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, in April and at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society in San Diego in June, Smitherman said.

“We hope that sharing the results of this study with providers and instructing them in how to administer the CBTi treatment will allow clinic patients to start receiving this treatment in the near future,” he said.

“Our lab, the Migraine and Behavioral Health Lab, is continuing to pursue this and other lines of research on behavioral treatments for migraine and other conditions that commonly occur with migraines, including obesity, depression and anxiety. We are aiming to submit another larger grant (application) later this year.”

To read the paper in Headache, click here. For more information about the UM Department of Psychology, visit

Call for Abstracts…3rd Annual UM Conference on Psychological Science

Students and Faculty,

I’m happy to announce that abstracts are now being accepted for our 3rd annual UM Conference on Psychological Science. Abstracts must be submitted by Friday March 11th at 5pm (the last Friday before Spring Break).

As in years past we will have poster presentations and oral talks by Honors college students, FREE LUNCH, then oral presentations by graduate students, followed by awards and our keynote speaker. This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. James Murphy, Professor and Director of Clinical Training at the University of Memphis. Dr. Murphy has published extensively on brief interventions for alcohol use disorders and received numerous federal grants.

Each year we get a little more ambitious; this year’s conference will run from 10am – 5pm in Peabody building on Friday, April 8th. This year we will also provide series of career development presentations geared for undergraduates: 1) A graduate student panel about what graduate school is REALLY like (no faculty allowed!); 2) A talk about developing a strong resume/CV; 3) a talk about pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology; and 4) a talk about what freshman/sophomore psychology majors should be doing early in their major.

If you mentor Honors college students who are defending this Honors project this semester, please strongly encourage them to submit an abstract for the Honors presentation. This is great practice for their defense! Please encourage your undergraduate and graduate labbies to submit abstracts as well, and please share this with other faculty and disciplines who work in fields related to psychology (neuroscience, psychopharmacology, etc.). This conference is open to all in the UM community with interests in psychologically relevant research, and is a great way for our students to enhance their CVs and presentation experience!

Below is the link for submitting abstracts.

And thanks to you all for your support and participation. We are hoping this year will be our biggest and best conference yet!

Dr. Smitherman

Todd A. Smitherman, Ph.D., FAHS
Associate Professor and Licensed Psychologist
Department of Psychology
The University of Mississippi
O: (662) 915-1825 | F: (662) 915-5398 |

UM Clinical Psychology PhD Program Ranked One of Nation’s Best

The Clinical Psychology doctoral program at University of Mississippi has been ranked as one of the nation’s Best PhD Programs in Clinical Psychology by the Best Counseling Degrees website.

Rankings were based on the percentage of students passing the national psychology licensure exam (Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology [EPPP]), obtaining internship placements accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), and achieving professional licensure in the last 10 years.

The UM Clinical Psychology program has an EPPP pass rate of 100%, places 96.7% of its students in APA-accredited internships, and 92% of its graduates have been licensed. All students hold assistantship positions and most receive complete tuition waivers. Based on these metrics, the program was ranked number 9 in the nation among over 175 schools.

Students in the program conduct psychological research and develop proficiency in both assessment and treatment of a wide range of psychological problems. They devote their first two years mostly to completing coursework, their next 2-3 years to research and clinical training, and their final year to completing an internship before the PhD is awarded.

Do Something Amazingly Different! It’s time for Africa. Summer 2016 in Tanzania and Zanzibar

Join two time Fulbright Scholar and national Geographic Conservation trust explorer, Laura Johnson, associate professor of psychology, for a study abroad like no other. This year, students have the chance to participate in Dr. Johnson’s National Geographic grant to promote and study new methods of conservation action around Mt. Kilimanjaro. Information and Sign up sessions Monday February 1 and 15th at 5 in Peabody Lounge. There are opportunities to work as an undergraduate research or teaching assistant under Dr. Johnson afterwards to continue your experience. If you’re a graduating senior, this trip makes a wonderful graduation gift and will still count as hours even if you have already walked in graduation.

PSY 475 draws from environmental, cultural, developmental, and educational psychology to reflect interdisciplinary interests in positive youth development and sustainable community development in an international context. Schedule: Northern Tanzania Safari (Days 1-6) – See all the best of African safaris –we will bike, hike, and drive though Taranagire, Lake Manyara and the Ngoro Ngoro crater to see elephants, lions, and zebras and explore Maasai culture. Mt. Kilimanjaro/Moshi (Days 6-16) – partner with Tanzanian youth and the Mweka community (associated with Jane Goodall) to get hands-on learning about the ice-covered “roof top of Africa” , we will plant trees, build fuel efficient stoves, take part in Chaaga dances, and swim in a waterfall! Island of Zanzibar (Days 16-24) – Swim the azure Indian Ocean, visit a spice farm, tour Stonetown’s ancient sites, learn about Swahili culture, and relax on the Beach while getting henna and discussing how are experiences and academic articles are related. We will be there during ZIFF (Zanzibar International Film Festival), an incredibly exciting opportunity! There are also chances to extend your trip afterwards to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or go on a Rwanda excursion, if you’re interested in either of these options let me know right away.

Cost: is $4750, plus air (includes international health insurance, all safaris, activities and tours, most meals). For financial aid information see Hunter Richardson. There are scholarships available through the Study Abroad Office as well as Environmental Studies Scholarship available for minors. This year’s trip offers the unique opportunity to participate in Dr. Johnson’s project funded by National Geographic. f you have any further questions there will be an informational meeting and sign up session on Monday, February 1st and 15th at 5pm in Peaobody 201 . or contact Dr. Johnson –

Dr. Laura Johnson Gives a TEDxUM Talk

Engagement Is the Answer! Cross-Cultural Lessons in Life and Psychology, a TedxUM talk Laura R. Johnson, associate professor of psychology, recently gave.


Migraines’ Causes, Treatments Topic for Oxford Science Cafe

UM psychologist Todd Smitherman to share research on neurological illness at March 24, 2015 public science forum

Cover art for Todd Smitherman’s ‘Advances in Psychotheraphy’ textbook

Cover art for Todd Smitherman’s ‘Advances in Psychotherapy’ textbook

The causes and treatments for migraine headaches is the next topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The spring semester’s second meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. March 24 at Lusa Pastry Cafe, 2305 West Jackson Ave. Todd Smitherman, associate professor of psychology, will discuss “Migraine: Knowns and Unknowns.” Admission is free.

“Migraine is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent attacks of severe head pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound,” Smitherman said. “This talk will review recent scientific progress in migraine across these and other areas, differentiating between what is well-established from empirical research – the ‘knowns’ – and what remains to be understood – the ‘unknowns.’”

Smitherman’s 30-minute presentation is geared toward everyone, including both people who suffer from migraines and those who don’t.

“Data from the World Health Organization indicate that migraine is the third most common medical condition and eighth leading cause of disability on the planet,” he said. “Despite its high prevalence and impact, migraine remains underdiagnosed and inadequately treated, though recent scientific advances offer new hope for combatting this chronic condition.”

In the last two decades, substantial progress has been made in understanding migraine pathophysiology, headache triggers and the role of common co-occurring conditions, as well as in establishing effective treatments.

Smitherman earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Auburn University and his bachelor’s degree from Samford University. His research areas include migraine and psychiatric comorbidity, behavioral interventions for headache, health psychology/behavioral medicine, and anxiety and depression in pain patients.

At UM, he teaches undergraduate courses in General Psychology, Learning, Abnormal Psychology and Health Psychology. His graduate classes include Seminar: Assessment and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders, Clinical Practicum and Issues and Ethics in Human Research and Professional Psychology.


Abstract Submissions for the 2nd Annual UM Conference on Psychological Science

Students, the DEADLINE is Friday, March 20, 2015 at 5PM, CST to submit abstracts for the 2015 UM Conference on Psychological Science, which will be held on Friday April 10, 2015, from noon to 5pm.

We will NOT consider abstracts without any data (ie, Your data must already be collected or expected to be collected by the date of the conference, but if the latter you must include preliminary data in your abstract.). If you are submitting multiple abstracts, you must complete the form separately for each abstract you are submitting.