Dean F. Salisbury, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry

Dr. Salisbury, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, is the Director of the Clinical Neurophysiology Research Laboratory. He earned his doctorate degree in Biological Psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and completed a clinical research training fellowship focusing in Neuropsychiatry at the Harvard Medical School. Dr Salisbury spent the last 20 years at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School studying the neurophysiology of psychosis.

Dr. Salisbury’s research interests focus on schizophrenia pathophysiology and human electrophysiology. He utilizes electrophysiology and multimodal brain imaging to examine thought disturbance (cognitive-level) and basic auditory processing abnormalities (sensory-level) in psychosis, and specializes in event-related potential recordings in humans. Dr. Salisbury has also collaborated extensively with colleagues using magnetic resonance imaging and functional magnetic resonance imaging methods on a number of research projects.

The goal of Dr. Salisbury’s work is to further understand the neurophysiology of psychosis. Brain activity measures span simple sensory and perceptual processes to complex higher-order cognition. Dysfunction in local circuit activity, reflected in sensory processing deficits, and in long-range distributed cortical processing, reflected in deficits in the interplay between semantic memory neural storage networks and working memory systems that allow adaptive and flexible human behavior in the face of unique current situations, are the main areas of inquiry by which Dr. Salisbury and his team try to detect the underlying brain abnormalities giving rise to psychosis. Understanding of the basic dysfunctions, in turn, will lead to earlier identification, better interventions, and improved outcome in schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

Post-Doctoral Researchers

 Brian Coffman, PhD

 Post-Doctoral Researcher

Dr. Brian Coffman is a post-doctoral associate in the Clinical Neurophysiology Research Lab (CNRL). He earned his BS, MS, and Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of New Mexico, where his primary mentor was Dr. Vincent P. Clark. Dr. Coffman has been involved with neuroimaging and cognitive neuroscience research since 2007, when joined the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Dr. Coffman’s current research interests include cognitive neuroscience, clinical neuroimaging, brain stimulation, and neuroinformatics. In particular, he has pursued interests in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and mathematical/computational problems associated with neuroimaging data analysis. Dr. Coffman has published basic science research as well as research in various clinical populations, and he has applied multimodal neuroimaging data to complex problems in clinical diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Coffman’s current research examines sensory and perceptual electrophysiological processes in Schizophrenia patients in an effort to further understand the neurophysiology of psychosis, and aid in earlier diagnosis and better treatment interventions for this unfortunate population.


Graduate Students

Mark T. Curtis

Graduate Student


I am a graduate student in the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh (CNUP). I completed my BA in Psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University, where I worked in Dr. Abigail Kerr’s lab researching the mechanisms of stroke recovery in a mouse model. As my research interests shifted in my first year of graduate school from studying animal models to studying human populations, I joined the Clinical Neurophysiology Research Lab in the summer of 2017.

My current research interest is investigating the cognitive processing dysfunction in patients with schizophrenia and related disorders. I am interested in using convergent approaches of EEG, MEG, and MRI to study both functional cognitive deficits and structural abnormalities in patients. A better understanding of these dysfunctions will lead to improved identification, treatment, and outcome for patients with schizophrenia.

Research Assistants

Tim K. Murphy, BS

Research Project Manager

I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. After graduating in April 2012, I began working in the Clinical Neurophysiology Research Lab. One day I hope to go onto graduate school to study Cognitive Neuroscience and, more specifically, how the brain learns to categorize phonemes through statistical regularities in speech sounds. I am also very interested in predictive processes occurring in the brain and how they unfold over time. Of particular interest to me is the contribution of the basal ganglia and cerebellum to these processes. I hope to answer these questions using a combination of computational, behavioral, and physiological methods.

Justin Leiter-McBeth, BS

Research Specialist

In 2012 I moved to Kent, OH to attend Kent State University where I received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. I volunteered in different labs during my undergrad focusing on child attachment, mindfulness, and mood disorders. I also worked as a neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback) technician during my senior year. I joined the Clinical Neurophysiology Research Lab in the summer of 2016. I plan on attending graduate school in the future to pursue a doctorate degree in Clinical Neuropsychology. I am interested in psychosis, autism, mood disorders, as well as mindfulness based therapies and techniques.

Vanessa Yumiko Fishel, BS

Research Specialist

I received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Japanese from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016.  After taking a few neuropsychology courses and working with the brain in an internship, I realized I wanted to work with the brain in some capacity.  Shortly after I graduated, I joined a nicotine addiction lab, which led to my interest in alcoholism research.  In the fall of 2017, I joined the Clinical Neurophysiology Research Lab.  I hope to attend a graduate program in the future to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology, researching alcoholism.

Natasha Torrence, BS

Research Specialist

I attended Allegheny College in Meadville, PA where I received a Bachelor of Science in both Psychology and Neuroscience from 2013-2017. I was introduced to research during my second year of undergraduate, and I’ve been enthralled since. Thus far, my research has spanned from health and social psychology, and with the Clinical Neurophysiology Research Lab, I have a chance to delve into clinical psychology. In the future, I hope to pursue my PhD in social psychology, with an emphasis on health and well-being.

Undergraduates (Summer 2017)

Sarah Fribance

Senior – University of Pittsburgh


My role in the CNRL lab is to help analyze the data collected for a study that compares the sensory responses of first episode psychosis patients to healthy controls. Participants go through a variety of auditory tests that are able to gauge attention deficits through an EEG. The goal of the study is to determine a potential diagnostic tool that recognizes schizophrenia early enough to allow for preventative treatments.

Celine Lee

Sophomore – Carnegie Mellon University

CTMHR Fellow

At CNRL I will be programming a protocol to study implicit categorical learning for schizophrenia with the Systematic Multimodal Associations Reaction Time (SMART) task and EEG.  I will look at the relationship between visuomotor dimensions and auditory categories.

Yi Ming

Senior-University of Pittsburgh



The project that I’m working on examines white-matter connectivity between areas in the auditory and language related circuits. I will process and analyze MRI data, clinical data, and neuropsychological performance scores in a group of first episode psychosis individuals and well comparison subjects. I will be looking specifically at the frontal and temporal lobe connection between Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas and cross-callosal auditory cortex connections.

Stormy Green

Junior- University of Pittsburgh


I’m a neuroscience major at the University of Pittsburgh who joined the Clinical Neurophysiology Research Lab in Fall 2017 due to my interest in the progression of mental illness. During my time at CNRL, I will be responsible for analyzing EEG data of control participants and first episode psychosis/schizophrenia patients in an attempt to find a biological marker that is indicative of these mental illnesses. Up until this point, the MMN (Mismatch negativity) deficiency in mentally ill patients has shown to be only evident when the patient has a chronic form of the disease, and so our aim is to create more complex auditory sequences to assess the functionality of auditory cortex through EEG. With these more complex patterns, we are hopeful that we will be able to find a true biological marker and have the ability to diagnose and treat patients at earlier stages in mental illness progression.

Anna Shafer

Junior- University of Pittsburgh


I’m a neuroscience major at the University of Pittsburgh. Currently I am working on a project looking at Heschl’s Gyrus volume and Mismatch Negativity in First Episode Schizophrenia.

Lab Alumni

Sarah M. Haigh, PhD

Post-Doctoral Researcher

I am a post-doctoral associate in the Clinical Neurophysiology Research Lab (CNRL). I grew up in the UK and moved to Pittsburgh January 2013. I completed my BSc at the University of Bristol in Experimental Psychology, and my PhD in Sensory Neuroscience at the University of Essex under the supervision of Prof. Arnold Wilkins. My first post-doctoral position was at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, with Dr. Marlene Behrmann and Dr. David Heeger (New York University) to work on the neurological correlates of autism using individuals with schizophrenia as a comparison group. I also completed two study visits during my PhD to York University with Dr. Frances Wilkinson, and to the Institute für Arbeitsforschung, Dortmund, Germany, with Dr. Wolfgang Jaschinski.

My main research interests focus on physiological responses to basic sensory stimuli, and specifically what drives the system to over-respond (hyper-excitable) or under-respond (hypo-excitable). I am interested in what this can reveal 1) about certain clinical conditions, for example, schizophrenia, autism, migraine or photosensitive epilepsy, and 2) about early sensory processing in non-clinical individuals. By measuring the correlation between behavioral and cortical responses, potential early diagnosis biomarkers can be identified and monitored for impairments or improvements in sensory processing in clinical conditions.
I have used a mixture of techniques to measure sensory sensitivities, including psychophysics, the electroencephalogram (EEG), near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), EEG and NIRS simultaneously, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and the auto-refractor (to measure ocular accommodation). My PhD focused on visual processing, but my first post-doctoral position at Carnegie Mellon included auditory and somatosensory processing.


Christiana Butera, MEd

Research Assistant


Christiana Butera was the CNRL’s first research assistant and played a major role in building our lab from the ground up. After working in our lab, Christiana went on to receive a Masters of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is currently a PhD student at the University of Southern California working under Dr. Aziz-Zadeh.

Kayla Ward

Research Assistant


Kayla Ward was recruited as a research assistant in 2015. She served an instrumental role collecting and processing EEG data for several projects and grant submissions. She is currently a Masters student at Jefferson University studying Physical Therapy.

Christian Andreaggi

Undergraduate Researcher


Christian Andreaggi was an undergraduate researcher who helped analyze and present findings on our Auditory Repetition Suppression project. After graduating, Christian went entered Pitt’s School of Pharmacy.