Faculty Spotlight: Welcoming Angela Fang
This year we welcomed Dr. Angela Fang, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the CoNNeCT Lab to our department. Dr. Fang’s research examines the neurobiological correlates of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive related disorders to develop more effective treatments for these conditions. We’re so excited to have her in our department!
Dr. Fang is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the CoNNeCT Lab (Center of Neuroscience, Neuroendocrinology, and Clinical Translation). She received her A.B. in Psychological and Brain Studies from Dartmouth College, and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Boston University. Prior to joining UW, Dr. Fang was a faculty member and clinical psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the Department of Psychiatry and OCD and Related Disorders Program. Dr. Fang is focused on understanding the brain and psychological mechanisms underlying social and emotional processing in anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Dr. Fang named her lab the “CoNNeCT” Lab partly because of all of the literatures and disciplines that need to come together and that is necessary (and fun, Dr. Fang notes!) to do this work.
Dr. Fang’s journey into psychology started back in the late 80s as an immigrant from Taiwan. She observed that her family did not have any language for mental health stemming from the stigma against mental illness in Chinese culture. As a college student, she took on a volunteer position at a local hospital coordinating activities for patients with severe psychiatric disorders and became fascinated by a world of psychopathology that was previously unknown to her. This sparked an interested in studying social cognition in anxiety and obsessive-compulsive related disorders . Dr. Fang’s current research examines self-focused attention, which involves a preferential bias to turn inward and reflect excessively about how badly one is feeling. This comes at the expense of paying attention to the external world, which could potentially improve one’s mood and negative thoughts. Her initial findings have found that this bias may be correlated with abnormal brain connectivity with the default mode network, a network that plays a role in internal thinking processes. Further research is exploring whether these patterns will result in a new categorization of “self-focused disorders” that can result in more precise treatment recommendations.
Dr. Fang also hopes to extend this research to examine self-focused attention across multiple disorder categories including depression, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, OCD, and body dysmorphic disorder in order to develop targeted interventions for this process. Ultimately this work will map these connectivity patterns to treatment outcome in order to better guide individual patients to successful treatments.
“Relative to medical conditions like cancer and heart disease, research and funding for mental illness is lagging behind and our treatments reflect that,” noted Dr. Fang in acknowledging the current gaps between patient need and current psychological treatments. Despite significant progress in treatments over the past few decades, at least half of patients are not achieving sustained remission. Improving understanding of fundamental brain and cognitive mechanisms will better inform evidence-based patient treatment, improve quality of life, and reduce the hefty costs of treating mental illnesses. Dr. Fang believes that her multidisciplinary approach to studying mental illness will ultimately give it a louder voice in professional research and clinical circles, in many different cultures, and in personal relationships, so that the extent and impact of mental illness are no longer silenced. As a clinical psychologist by training Dr. Fang notes, “My clinical observations inform my scientific hypotheses and help keep me honest that what I’m studying will actually be useable and helpful to the patients we serve.” In doing so, Dr. Fang aims to better understand the neuroscience and psychology behind anxiety and obsessive-compulsive related disorders to better inform clinical treatment of highly prevalent mental illnesses.
You can help the Psychology Department expand our programs and service to our students and the greater community. To support the work of Dr. Fang and others who are conducting leading research to better understand some of society’s biggest challenges including mental illnesses, we invite you make a pledge today!