Group of people standing outside and posing for camera in fall weather
Communication Neuroscience Lab


The Communication Neuroscience Lab, led by Emily Falk, Ph.D., is a supportive and highly-collaborative group of researchers focused on the neuroscience of persuasive messaging.

We believe that our science is better with a diverse team. We embrace and encourage our lab members’ differences in age, color, disability, ethnicity, family or marital status, gender identity or expression, language, national origin, ability, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, veteran status, and other characteristics that make our lab members who they are.



Emily Falk headshot

Emily Falk
Office: 328 ASC

Emily Falk (she/her) is a Professor of Communication, Psychology, and Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania, Director of Penn's Communication Neuroscience Lab and a Distinguished Fellow of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Falk is an expert in the science of attitude and behavior change. Her research uses tools from psychology, neuroscience, and communication to examine what makes messages persuasive, why and how ideas spread, and what helps people get on the same page when communicating. Her work has been widely covered in the popular press in the U.S. and abroad (e.g., New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, Forbes, Scientific American, and others), and she has consulted for and collaborated with major corporations, NGOs, and the government. Her research has been recognized by numerous awards, including early career awards from the International Communication Association, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Attitudes Division, a Fulbright grant, Social and Affective Neuroscience Society, a DARPA Young Faculty Award, and the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. She was named a Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science. She received her bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Brown University, and her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. 


Research Scientists


Nicole Cooper

Nicole Cooper

Nicole (she/her) is a research director at the Annenberg School for Communication. She is interested in understanding the links between brain activity and health-related behaviors and outcomes. Nicole is currently the research director for an NCI-funded R01 project examining how exposure to point-of-sale tobacco marketing causally affects cigarette cravings and smoking, and neural reactivity to smoking cues. She received her B.S. from Brandeis University and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania.


Dani Cosme

Dani Cosme

Dani (she/her) is a Research Director at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her research focuses on cognitive and motivational factors that support self-control and healthy decision making. The overarching goal of Dani’s research is to use neuroscience to design and evaluate translational interventions that facilitate behavior change and improve health and well-being across the lifespan. She received her B.S. from Chapman University, her M.S. from Stockholm University (Sweden), and her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Oregon.


Yoona Kang

Yoona Kang

Yoona (she/her) is a research director at the Annenberg School for Communication for the Social Health Impacts of Network Effects (SHINE/ MURI) study. Her research focuses on neural bases of compassion and health, and in particular on how people develop compassion across the lifespan and how compassionate goals help alter health behavior. Ongoing projects include studies examining effects of compassion training on shared neural response, neural mechanisms linking purpose in life to health, and social network analysis of how compassion spreads through social networks. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from University of California, Los Angeles, and her Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Yale University.


Matthew Brook O'Donnell

Matt O'Donnell

Matt is a Research Scientist at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. His research background includes corpus linguistics, natural language processing, and data mining with a focus on extracting linguistic patterns and networks from large textual databases (or corpora). He is interested in combining linguistic analyses of media language and persuasive discourse with behavioral and neuroscience approaches.


Postdoctoral Fellows


Samantha Moore-Berg

Samantha Moore-Berg

Samantha is the director of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab and the Emile Bruneau Postdoctoral Fellow at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her research bridges the areas of social & cognitive psychology, communications, and political science to study the links between behavior and social-cognitive processes that evolve in intergroup contexts. Her main research interests include 1) isolating socio-cognitive functions that contribute to or predict intergroup conflict, and 2) designing and implementing interventions that directly combat intergroup conflict. She conducts her research in many contexts around the globe, and she often works with outreach organizations in order to tailor her research to the needs of communities that can most benefit from it. Samantha received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology at Temple University in 2018 and her B.A. in Psychology and Sociology at Florida State University in 2013.


Prateekshit Pandey

Prateekshit "Kanu" Pandey

Prateekshit "Kanu" Pandey (he/him; pronounced Pruh-TEEK-shit "KUH-noo" PAHN-day) is a joint postdoctoral fellow at the Communication Neuroscience Lab and the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) at the Annenberg School for Communication. Kanu studies individual imagination of one's role and position in a democratic polity, and the ways in which political entertainment aids this imagination. He received his PhD in Communication here at Annenberg in 2022, where his doctoral research examined relations between individual political efficacy and news sharing behavior, with a comparison between traditional journalistic news and news comedy. His work on political humor and neuroscience of political communication has been published in Health Psychology, Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Communication, and International Journal of Communication. He also holds a MA in Communications from the Annenberg School for Communication, and a B.Tech. in Computer Science and Engineering from IIIT-Delhi, India. Outside the academy, Kanu is a professional improvisational actor and comedian in Philadelphia, as well as a teaching artist for applied improv.


Headshot of Laetitia Mwilambwe-Tshilobo

Laetitia Mwilambwe-Tshilobo

Laetitia Mwilambwe-Tshilobo (she/her) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Annenberg School for Communication. The overarching goal of her research program is to provide a mechanistic understanding of how loneliness affects brain function, and how the brain supports human sociality. Prior to joining Annenberg her research focused on understanding how the experience of loneliness influences the functional organization of large-scale brain networks and how this organization differs across the adult lifespan. Currently, her research explores how the qualities of people’s social networks (e.g., closeness) influences the relationship between loneliness and brain function. She received her B.A. in neuroscience from the College of Wooster, a M.Sc. in neuroscience from the University of Hartford, a M.A. in developmental psychology from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from McGill University. 


Graduate Students


Mia Jovanova

Mia Jovanova

Mia Jovanova is a doctoral student interested in how social influence unfolds in the brain and further relates to risky health behaviors outside the lab. Her current work investigates how neural responses to peers and social cognitive strategies, like perspective-taking, influence susceptibility to social influence on drinking. Mia integrates neuroimaging, ecological momentary assessment (EMA), and network methods. Prior to joining the lab, Mia worked at the health communication lab at Cornell University, where she graduated in 2017.


Portrait of Mary Andrews

Mary Andrews

Mary E. Andrews (she/her) is a doctoral student studying health communication at the Annenberg School for Communication. She uses neuroscience, behavioral, and self-report methods to study how the intersection of identities, social experiences, and structural inequalities influence the way individuals process different types of messages, and how exposure to messages leads to changes in health behavior. Andrews conducts studies examining the effects of exposure to tobacco advertisements on people from marginalized groups who have been disproportionately harmed by the tobacco industry. She also studies the effectiveness of different types of health communication strategies to reduce health disparities, with a particular interest in narratives. Prior to joining the lab she received her B.A. from Hampshire College and was a postbaccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health.


Darin Johnson

Darin Johnson

Darin Johnson (he/him) is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. His interests are at the intersection of brain, identity, and health. Darin is specifically interested in understanding how people with marginalized identities code switch, and how they attempt to understand the minds of people around them. Prior to joining the lab, Darin completed his B.S. in Neuroscience with additional majors in Spanish and Medicine Science & The Humanities at Johns Hopkins University, as well as his M.A. in International Education at the Universidad de Alcalá.


Jeesung Ahn

Jeesung Ahn

Jeesung (she/her) is a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania studying Psychology. She is interested in how we can effectively persuade people to engage in healthier lifestyles and socially beneficial behaviors. Her research is particularly focused on using brain network approaches to explain individual differences in susceptibility to persuasive health messages and pro-environmental ads and figure out which content of these messages is most strongly associated with real-world behavior change in the future. She is also interested in the crossover between social networks and brain networks and how these networks can inform us about individual differences in mental health (e.g., loneliness). Prior to joining the lab, she completed her B.A. in Psychology and B.S. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at Korea University, as well as her M.S. in Cognitive Science at Yonsei University.


Taurean Butler

Taurean Butler

Taurean (he/him) is a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania studying Psychology. He explores the intersection of psychology, network science, and platform technologies to answer questions about how diverse communities form, collaborate, and innovate to solve shared challenges. His current research examines if emotion regulation ability supports the development of diverse peer groups. He is also interested in how people use identity to signal authority in social media debate. Prior to joining the lab, he completed his BA in Human Biology at Stanford, his MA in Psychology at Stanford University, and has worked various roles in the digital technologies sector as a product manager, strategist, and most recently as Director of Innovation at Technology Futures Lab in New Zealand.


Photo of Christian Benitez

Christian Benitez

Christian is a PhD student in Psychology. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Neuroscience and Psychology from Duke University. He is interested in individual differences in decision making, specifically the role that socioeconomic factors influence this process.



Thandi Lyew

Thandi Lyew

Thandi is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication. She is interested in the ways in which messaging can target the cognitive barriers (i.e. uncertainty intolerance, discounting, affective predictions) that influence decisions regarding health and sustainability. She uses a mixed-methods approach, including fMRI, actigraphy, behavioral tasks, and standardized assessments. Prior to joining the lab, she completed her B.A. in Psychology at Florida International University, and worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator in several research labs within the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.


Ben Muzekari Headshot

Ben Muzekari

Ben (he/him) is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication. He is interested in how we can induce motivational factors to facilitate positive behavior change and improve decision-making related to health and the environment. Prior to joining the lab, Ben received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Temple University, and then worked as a lab manager at Duke University, where he studied the development of real-time fMRI neurofeedback interventions aimed to enhance motivation and reward sensitivity, the maladaptive qualities of perfectionism, and college-campus eating behavior. 


Lab Managers and Research Coordinators


Ally Paul

Alexandra (Ally) Paul

Ally (she/her) is the senior research coordinator for the GeoScan Smoking Study and co-lab manager for the CN Lab. After graduating from Swarthmore College with a B.A. in Psychology, she spent two years at Penn serving as lab manager for both the CN Lab and the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab. Her research has examined behavioral interventions aiming to promote healthy behaviors, combat Islamophobia, increase civic engagement, and facilitate preoperative patients’ comprehension and retention of medical information. 


Portrait of José Carreras-Tartak

José Carreras-Tartak

José is a senior research coordinator and co-lab manager for the CN Lab. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Communication. His previous research looked at the framing and victim portrayals of hurricane news coverage using computational textual analysis, and how message sensation value and sensation-seeking relate to adolescents’ verbal responses towards anti-smoking messages. He is interested in learning more about how multidisciplinary approaches can be used to predict behavior change.


Omaya Torres

Omaya Torres

Omaya (she/her) is a research coordinator for the GeoScan study. She graduated with her B.A. in Health and Societies at the University of Pennsylvania and is a candidate for a Master of Public Health at the Perelman School of Medicine. Her current research focuses on how health behaviors, decisions, and outcomes related to nicotine usage can be explained by neural responses to nicotine product advertisements. She hopes to combine her passion for supporting underserved communities with her interest in public health to understand and promote health equity and health literacy in Philadelphia.


Headshot of Anthony Resnick

Anthony Resnick

Anthony is a research coordinator for the CN Lab. Anthony graduated from Temple University with a B.S. in Neuroscience, and has spent the past few years working in various research labs around the country investigating topics such as working-memory in different populations of children, generalization and categorization, and employing different biometric techniques to investigate decision making.


Portrait of Steven Mesquiti

Steven Mesquiti

Steven is a research coordinator and co-lab manager for the CN Lab. His research has looked at cross-cultural differences in prosocial lying, how self-regulation (e.g. grit and implicit theories) predicts subjective well-being, and the use of computerized text analysis to measure behavior change. He is interested in learning more about multidisciplinary approaches to study self-regulation and behavior change, as well as the application of Bayesian inference to social science. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from Southwestern University and a M.A. in Psychological Research from Texas State University.


Undergraduate Research Assistants

  • Gabby Culbreath, Destiny Dennis, Simon Rodriguez Cabrera


Lab Alumni

Former Research Directors

  • Rebecca Martin is a Senior Research Fellow at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Former Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Emile Bruneau was the Director of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Shannon Burns is an Assistant Professor at Pomona College.
  • Hang-Yee Chan is a Lecturer at King’s College London.
  • Jason Coronel is an Associate Professor at Ohio State University.
  • Bruce Doré is an Assistant Professor at McGill University.
  • Boaz Hameiri is a Senior Lecturer and the Head of the Program in Conflict Management and Mediation at Tel Aviv University.
  • Agnes Jasinska is a Data Services Specialist at Bucknell University.
  • Nina Lauharatanahirun is an Assistant Professor at the Pennsylvania State University.
  • Brad Mattan is a User Experience Researcher at Bold Insight.
  • Teresa Pegors is an Assistant Professor at Azusa Pacific University.
  • Ralf Schmälzle is an Associate Professor at Michigan State University.
  • Steven Tompson is a Senior Manager in Decision and Data Science at Guild Education.

Former Graduate Students

  • Joe Bayer is an Assistant Professor at Ohio State University.
  • Elisa Baek is an Assistant Professor at USC Dornslife.
  • Josh Carp is a software engineer for the Democratic National Committee.
  • Chris Cascio is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • Minji Kim is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina.
  • Elissa Kranzler is a Senior Researcher in Health Communication at Fors Marsh Group.
  • Jiaying Liu is an Associate Professor at the University of Georgia.
  • Kristin Shumaker is a Classifier at SSRN.
  • Jacob Pearl is a Data Scientist Aramark Sports + Entertainment
  • Rui Pei is a Postdoctoral Scholar at Stanford University.
  • Keana Richards is a Quantitative User Experience Researcher at Google.
  • Christin Scholz is an Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam.

Former Lab Managers/Research Coordinators

  • Liz Beard is pursuing a Ph.D. in Decision Neuroscience at Fox School of Business at Temple University.
  • Melis Çakar is pursuing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at UCLA.
  • Susan Hao is pursuing a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Lynda Lin recieved her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is now a Data Scientist at Getty Images.
  • Silicia (Lolo) Lomax received her MPH from the University of Pennsylvania and is now a Senior Associate at Waxman Strategies.
  • Frank Tinney received his M.D. from Wayne State University and is in the Abdominal Transplant Surgey Fellowship Program at John Hopkins Health.

Former Research Staff

  • JP Obley (former programmer for the CN Lab) is a Founding Engineer at Parrot AI. 
  • Nick Wasylyshyn (former research associate for the CN Lab) is a Data Scientist at Vetted.

Former Research Assistants

Sam Costello, Joyce Davis, Ana Acevedo, Esther Fleischer, Anna Waldzinska, Gabrielle Rosenzweig, Grace Ringlein, Hadeel Saab, Kim Siew, Lizette Grajales, Meredith Mitchell, Susan Zhang, Cristine Oh, Kinari Shah, Becky Lau, Alison Sagon, Gabrielle Cheng, Larisa Svintsitski, Caroline Meuser, Jackie Cho, Lauren Wilson, Megan Black, Alexander Riccio, Julia Shteyngardt

Woman seated on red couch with a laptop in front of a window. A bike rack is visible through the window.

Interested in joining our lab?

Learn more about joining our lab as a postdoctoral fellow, graduate student, or undergraduate researcher.