Dept of Psychology Research Laboratories

Cardiac Psychology Lab

East Carolina Heart Institute

ECU Cardiac Psychology | Research

Tell a friend about this page.
All fields required.
Can be sent to only one email address at a time.
Share Facebook Icon Twitter Icon


The productive status of our ICD research is the outcome of over 15 years of work in this area. Our research over time has established the base rates of psychological distress, the predictors of this distress, the special populations that warrant additional attention, and have produced over 90 papers in the medicine journals addressing these issues. For example, we have established that approximately 13-38% of ICD patients experience anxiety difficulties and approximately 24-48% of patients experience significant depressive symptoms. Risk groups are young ICD patients (<50 years old), women, and shocked patients.

The primary aim of the Cardiac Psychology Research Lab at ECU is to evaluate patient outcomes (e.g. psychosocial and quality of life), interventions, and endpoints of novel technologies in cardiac disease management. We work to establish the utility and effectiveness of a biopsychosocial model in the routine care of medical patients spanning the continuum from primary care to major medical intervention.

The lab currently collaborates on a variety of projects nationally and internationally including projects at Stanford (CI: Wang, Dubin), Harvard (CI: Shea), Duke (CI: Kanter), Emory (CI: Fishbach), Baylor (CI: Cannon), Florida (CI: Conti, Bryant, Klodell), University of Rochester (CI: Moss), Mid American Heart Institute (CI: Ramza), Canada (CI: Exner), Australia (CI: Whalley), and the Netherlands (CI: Pedersen).

Dr. Carl Johan Hoijer Dr. Suzanne Pedersen
Dr. Sears with ICD researchers Dr. Carl Johan Hoijer (at left) and Dr. Suzanne Pedersen (at right).

Dr. Sears is regularly invited to lecture at conferences around the world. He was recently invited to provide a keynote lecture to the First Nordic Symposium on Psychological Aspects of ICD Treatment in Lund, Sweden. Dr. Sears addressed the state of the art approaches and research on the psychological and behavioral aspects of living with cardiac arrhythmias and implantable cardioverter defibrillators. The conference was chaired by Fredrik Gadler, Ph D., Karolinska University Hospital and Carl Johan Höijer, MD, Ph D., Lund University Hospital, Sweden (pictured). Dr. Suzanne Pedersen, Ph D, a collaborating researcher from Tilburg University, the Netherlands, was also in attendance.


Research Goals of the East Carolina Cardiac Psychology Lab

  • To evaluate the psychosocial and quality of life endpoints of cutting edge technologies in cardiac disease management
  • To establish the utility and effectiveness of a biopsychosocial model in the routine care of medical patients spanning the continuum from primary care to major medical intervention
  • To examine the long-term impact of psychological and behavioral factors on health and cost outcomes.


Current Ongoing Research Projects

  • The Cardiac Psychology Research Lab at ECU is currently engaged in a variety of patient-centered research projects, including
  • Sleep in Patients with Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs)
  • Assessment of Patient Predictors of Resilience Outcomes and Cardiac Health Prospective Surgery Study
  • Psychosocial Impact of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia
  • Psychosocial Needs, Post-traumatic Stress, and Post-traumatic Growth After Sudden Cardiac Arrest
  • Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator Trauma Intervention Protocol Study
  • Assessing Activity Levels in Pediatric Patients with Implantable Devices
  • Predictors of psychosocial outcomes in trans-aortic valve replacement (TAVR) surgery

Dissertation Research Studies

For more information about ongoing dissertation studies being conducted by members in the Cardiac Psychology lab, visit our dissertation research studies page.


Additional Domains of Previous and Current Research

  • Quality of Life
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Device-specific shock anxiety
  • Patient acceptance
  • Psychosocial interventions
  • Patient education (and role of computers)
  • Quality of Death
  • Female body image
  • Marital adjustment/spousal adjustment
  • Device recalls
  • Young ICD recipients