Our current research program seeks to answer questions pertaining to the acquisition of phobias and how to best eliminate these fears. Recently, we have learned that the long-term extinction of fear is maximized when the feared object is presented repeatedly while the rat subject is in a heightened state of fear. These findings lead us to believe that current treatments that involve relaxation training or other coping skills should actually protect the underlying fear from proper extinction. Rather, treatments that require the phobic client to confront their fear directly hold the greatest hope for an unlearning of the association producing the fear.
Additionally, much of the research on anxiety described above has led us to believe that some of the principles involved are common to both anxiety disorders and eating disorders (e.g., anorexia). We are in the process of developing a research program to explore the relationship of eating and anxiety and to test some of the treatments for anxiety in an animal model of anorexia.
Finally, Dr. Thomas is interested in animal behavior generally and in the patterns and processes of evolution. He is willing to consider sponsoring independent study projects on animal behavior, comparative psychology or behavioral ecology. He is also interested in evolutionary psychology and is happy to discuss possible lines of investigation to be conducted as independent study projects. If you are interested in any of these topics please feel free to contact him at (440)826-2165, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.