Stephen Porges, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Research interests & goals:
Dr. Porges has extensive experience developing and applying new technologies in psychophysiology that are applicable to developmental, comparative (animal models), and clinical populations. The theoretical orientation of his laboratory focuses on a phylogenetic model of the autonomic nervous system that he proposed as the Polyvagal Theory (Porges, 1995, 2011). The theory provides a reconceptualization of the autonomic nervous system leading to a new understanding of how the autonomic nervous system selectively reacts to specific challenges. The theory incorporates an understanding of the phylogenetic shifts in the neurophysiological mechanisms that mediate autonomic reactivity and the common neural regulation of the striated muscles of the face and head (e.g., including those involved in vocalizations and listening) with a uniquely mammalian myelinated vagus. The Polyvagal Perspective (see Porges, 2007), challenges researchers to conceptualize autonomic regulation as a hierarchical system mediating several psychological and behavioral features associated with typical and atypical development across mammalian species. The theory proposes that autonomic regulation is a core substrate of a neural pathway mediating several behavioral and sensory features associated with clinical disorders such as autism (see Porges,2005), Fragile X Syndrome (Heilman et al., 2011), and PTSD(Williamson et al., 2014).