Research Labs

The Media Neuroscience Lab

Headed by Dr. René Weber, researchers from the Department of Communication have founded the Media Neuroscience Lab ( in the Department of Communication at University of California, Santa Barbara. The idea for the lab began in 2009 at the International Communication Association conference when a group of scholars realized their mutual interest in brain science and social-psychological approaches to communication research. In addition to Department members, the Media Neuroscience Lab includes affiliated researchers from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, as well as from other universities around the world.

The Media Neuroscience Lab promotes research and teaching at the intersection of communication, technology, and neuroscience, and is open to all scientific research traditions. The Lab encourages collaboration among communication scholars, media professionals, and cognitive neuroscientists to build a rich understanding of shared research questions and methods. Current topics of research include the function of morality in narratives, the effects of media violence, the neuroscience of counterarguing 

in persuasion, and the development of theory including statistical/methodological theory.

The lab houses two powerful brain imaging analysis workplaces. One features a parallel processing setup that enables fast analyses of complex imaging analysis procedures. For researchers interested in fMRI methods, the lab is affiliated with the Brain Imaging Center at UCSB. To learn more about the services the lab offers, visit:

Active members of the Media Neuroscience Lab meet regularly in the Social Science and Media Studies Building, Room 4323. These meetings are open to everyone, including undergraduate students (please check the lab's website at or follow the lab on Twitter at

In addition to its role as a research center, the Media Neuroscience Lab offers services to scholarly and public communities. “We want the Lab to be an open, welcoming environment for scholars and students. We provide consulting, archival datasets, and research tools for researchers to use,” Weber stated.

For more information about the Media Neuroscience Lab, click here, contact René Weber at, or visit the Lab, Rooms 4405 & 4323 in SS&MS.

Media Physiology Lab

The Media Physiology Lab, headed by Dr. Dana Mastro, investigates the media’s role in interracial/interethnic dynamics in society – principally, although not exclusively, with regard to Latinos in U.S. society. The program of research within the lab is organized around three primary themes: (a) documenting representations of race/ethnicity across the media landscape; (b) investigating the cognitive, emotional, and physiological implications of exposure to these characterizations; and (c) determining the impact of exposure to such media content on intergroup dynamics in society. This work incorporates and expands on theory and research in the domains of media effects as well as intergroup behavior. Such lines of research are unified by an interest in the (destructive as well as constructive) effects of media messages on real-world racial/ethnic relations.

The lab is equipped with: 

  • a content analytic system capable of simultaneously recording eight channels of programming for analysis and use in subsequent experimental investigations
  • wireless physiology recording and analysis systems for gauging physiological markers of cognitive and affective responses to media; including ECG (for collecting respiration activity and heart rate variability), GSR (for measuring arousal via sweat gland activity), and Facial EMG (for assessing affect through measures of subtle electrical impulses in the face).

For additional information about the Media Physiology Lab or lab group meetings, contact Dana Mastro at or visit Room 4427 SS&MS.