Dr. Teresa Leyro is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Rutgers and the director of the Affective and Biological Underpinnings of Substance Use and Anxiety (ABUSA) lab. Dr. Leyro obtained her B.A from Colby College (cum laude) with a major in psychology and minor in human development and education. She completed a two-year post-baccalaureate research position in the Translational Research Program under the mentorship of Dr. Michael Otto, at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University. She subsequently enrolled in the doctoral program in Clinical Psychology at the University of Vermont (UVM) where she was mentored by Dr. Michael Zvolesnky in the Anxiety and Health Research Lab.
During her time at UVM, Dr. Leyro was the recipient of a NIH/NIDA diversity supplement for her work on a clinical trial examining a novel smoking cessation and panic prevention intervention. She subsequently received a NIH/NIDA National Research Service Award to examine the effect of panic disorder and nicotine withdrawal on stress responsivity during a biological challenge.
Dr. Leryo completed her predoctoral internship at the University of California, San Francisco under the mentorship of Dr. Jodi Prochaska. She subsequently transitioned to the Tobacco Research Center’s NIDA-funded T32 Program in Drug Abuse Treatment and Services Research under the mentorship of Dr. Sharon Hall. While at UCSF, Dr. Leyro obtained additional training in the psychophysiology with Dr. Wendy Mendes, director of the Emotional Health and Psychophysiology Lab and clinical training as part of the Dialectical and Behavior Therapy – Adolescent Program, directed by Dr. Esme Shaller.
Dr. Leyro was hired by Rutgers in 2013 and joined their faculty in the spring of 2014. Dr. Leyro’s current research takes a multi-method and translational approach toward identifying underlying risks and treating co-occurring anxiety and substance use, with a focus on cigarette smoking and nicotine dependence. Her research focuses on (1) examining the role of cognitive and affective vulnerabilities, as psychological factors, in anxiety and related disorders and substance use; (2) developing integrated biopsychosocial models of anxiety and related disorders and substance use, and translating findings from this model to intervention by (3) addressing barriers to tobacco treatment and pursuing novel treatment targets. Methodologies employed to measure risk include self-report and behavioral indices (e.g., distress tolerance), psychophysiology with an emphasis on the autonomic nervous system (e.g., heart rate variability).
Dr. Leyro is currently the Principal Investigator for an NIH/NIDA-funded study focused on the development and pilot testing of heart rate variability biofeedback for smoking cessation in individuals who smoke and report high emotional distress. Dr. Leyro is also the Co-PI on an NIH/NIDA-funded study seeking to develop a puff topography biofeedback paradigm to reduce smoking reinforcement (Co-PI: Farris) and the Co-I on an NIH/NHLBI-funded study of a tailored exposure intervention targeting exercise anxiety and avoidance in cardiac rehabilitation (PI: Farris).
Dr. Leyro is the Clinical Area Representative and along with Dr. Samantha Farris, Co-directs the Addiction and Health Behavior Center. She is a Core Faculty at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Institute for Health, Healthcare Policy and Aging Research, and an Affiliate Member of the Center for Alcohol and Substance Use Studies. Dr. Leyro provides clinical supervision and research mentorship to doctoral trainees. In addition to research and teaching, Dr. Leyro is passionate about promoting diversity within the scientific community.