Kathi Heffner joined the School of Nursing faculty in 2016 after eight years as a faculty member in the UR Department of Psychiatry, where she maintains a secondary appointment. Dr. Heffner is also the associate chief of research for the Division of Geriatrics & Aging in the Department of Medicine, supporting multidisciplinary aging research within the division and across the University of Rochester.

Her research centers on how social, psychological, and behavioral factors promote or impair physiological stress adaptation and immune/inflammatory regulation. In particular, she is interested in the implications of stress for healthy aging; the influence of sleep on stress physiology and clinical symptoms, including chronic pain and trauma-related symptomatology; and the role of social relationships in stress and health links. Her work has been supported by multiple organizational, NIH and other federally funded grants.

Over the course of her career, her research has evolved from a primary focus on human laboratory experiments to a complementary emphasis on clinical behavioral interventions. That approach has led to multiple multidisciplinary collaborations with expert clinician researchers, including nurses, psychologists, physicians, and geriatricians, contributing to a better understanding of the basic mechanisms of stress and health, with the potential for immediate translation to clinical intervention.

Professional Experience

Associate Professor,
University of Rochester, School of Nursing (Primary Appointment), Rochester, NY, US. 2016 - Current

Associate Professor,
University of Rochester, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine and Dentistry (Secondary Appointment), Rochester, NY, US. 2014 - Current

University of Rochester, Dept. of Psychiatry (Stress and Health Laboratory), . 2014 - 2016

Assistant Professor,
University of Rochester, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY, US. 2008 - 2014

Adjunct Professor,
Ohio University, Department of Psychology, Athens, OH, US. 2008 - 2010

Assistant Professor,
Ohio University, Department of Psychology, Athens, OH, US. 2003 - 2008

The Ohio State University (NIH/NIMH, T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship in Psychoneuroimmunology), Columbus, OH, US. 2001 - 2003


Selected Scholar, Research Group
Tideswell UCSF Emerging Leaders in Aging Program, 2017

W.G. Stuber Research Fellowship Award
University of Rochester, 2015

Selected cohort member, Women's Leadership Program
University of Rochester, 2014

Excellence in Research Incentive Program Award
University of Rochester, 2013

Citation Poster, Annual Meeting
American Psychosomatic Society, 2009

Collier Research Award, First Place
University of Rochester, 2009

Invitation and Honorarium, Psychological Scientists Workshop
National Institute on Aging, 2008

Citation Poster, Annual Meeting
American Psychosomatic Society, 2008

International Travel Award
Ohio University, 2006

Faculty Development Award
Ohio University, 2005


Sleep improvement in older adults with osteoarthritis is associated with lower inflammatory response to laboratory pain and improved clinical pain
Psychoneuroimmunological Research Society, 2016

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia for survivors of interpersonal violence who subsequently receive cognitive processing therapy
29th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, 2015

Sleep quality moderates the stress buffering effects of social support on salivary alpha amylase levels
Annual Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society, 2014

The Influence of Sleep Quality on the Stress Buffering Effects of Social Connectedness
The Next Frontier in Social Support and Health Research: Clarifying the Micro-Level Mechanisms, Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Meeting, 2014

Mind-Body Relationships: Implications for Wound Healing
The Wounded Psyche: The Brain-Wound Continuum, The Wounded Psyche: The Brain-Wound Continuum, 2012

Pain in older men is associated with interleukin (IL)-6 change across time following a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention
Annual Meeting of the Associated Psychoneuroimmunological Research Society, 2011

Depression and objectively measured physical activity in US older adults
The American Geriatrics Society Annual Meeting, 2010

Autonomic Cardiac Control and Relationships to Negative Affect, Neuroendocrine, and Inflammatory Responses to Acute Stress
Sweating the Small Stuff? Emotion, Stress and Health in Everyday Life, American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting, 2010

Aging Stereotype Effects on Physiological Reactivity to Cognitive Tasks
Emerging Perspectives in the Social and Affective Neuroscience of Aging, National Institute on Aging (NIA)-Sponsored Symposium, 2006


  • Lin F.V., Tao Y., Chen Q.J., Anthony M., Zhang Z.W., Tadin D., & Heffner K.L. (2020). Processing speed and attention training modifies autonomic flexibility: A mechanistic intervention study. Neuroimage, 213. PMID: 32165263 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116730

  • Peoples, A.R., Garland, S.N., Pigeon, W.R., Perlis, M.L., Wolf, J.R., Heffner, K.L., Mustian, K.M., Heckler, C.E., Peppone, L.J., Kamen, C.S., Morrow, G.R., Roscoe, J.A. (2019). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia Reduces Depression in Cancer Survivors. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 15 (1), 129-137. PMID: 30621831 PMCID: PMC6329536 DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.7586

  • Wang X., Heffner K.L., Anthony M., & Lin F. (2019). Stress adaptation in older adults with and without cognitive impairment: an fMRI pattern-based similarity analysis. AGING-US, 11 (17), 6792-6804. PMID: 31480017 DOI: 10.18632/aging.102204

  • Li, Y. I., Cerulli, C., Heffner, K. L., Crean, H. F., Bishop, T. M., & Pigeon, W. R. (2019). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for insomnia in PTSD: Differential relationships with symptom C=clusters. Sleep, 42 (1), A354. DOI: 10.1093/sleep/zsz067.879

  • Heffner K.L., France C.R., Ashrafioun L., QuiƱones M., Walsh P., Maloney M.D., Giordano B.D., Pigeon W.R. (2018). Clinical pain-related outcomes and inflammatory cytokine response to pain following insomnia improvement in adults With knee osteoarthritis. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 34 (12), 1133-1140. PMID: 30134281 PMCID: PMC6219931 DOI: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000644

  • Elliot, A. J., Heffner, K. L., Mooney, C. J., Moynihan, J. A., & Chapman, B. P. (2018). Social Relationships and Inflammatory Markers in the MIDUS Cohort: The Role of Age and Gender Differences. 2018, 30 (6), 904-923. PMID: 28553813 DOI: 10.1177/0898264317698551

  • Lin F, Heffner KL, Ren P, Tadin D. (2017). A role of the parasympathetic nervous system in cognitive training. Curr Alzheimer Res, 14 (7), 784-789. PMID: 28164771 PMCID: PMC5530077 DOI: 10.2174/1567205014666170203095128

  • Gallegos, A. M., Crean, H. F., Pigeon, W. R., & Heffner, K. L. (2017). Meditation and yoga for posttraumatic stress disorder: A meta-analytic review of randomized controlled trials. Clinical Psychology Review, 58, 115-124. PMID: 29100863 PMCID: PMC5939561 DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2017.10.004

  • Lin, F., Rn, P., Wang, X., Anthony, M., Tadin, D., Heffner,K.L. (2017). Cortical thickness is associated with altered autonomic function in cognitively impaired and non-impaired older adults. The Journal of Physiology, 595 (22), 6969-6978. PMID: 28952161 PMCID: PMC5685832 DOI: 10.1113/JP274714

  • Ren, P; Heffner, KL; Jacobs, A; Lin, F (2017). Acute Affective Reactivity and Quality of Life in Older Adults with Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Functional MRI Study [epub ahead of print]. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry, 25 (11), 1225-1233. PMID: 28755988 PMCID: PMC5654660 DOI: 10.1016/j.jagp.2017.06.019

  • Ren, P. Anthony, M. Chapman, B. P. Heffner, K. Lin, F. (2017). Amygdala functional connectivity is associated with locus of control in the context of cognitive aging. , 99, 199-206.

  • Lin, F., Heffner, K., Ren, P., Tivarus, M., Brasch, J., Chen, D., Mapstone, M., Porsteinsson, A., & Tadin D. (2016). Cognitive and neural effects of vision-based speed of processing training in older adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment: A pilot study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 64 (6), 1293-8.

  • Heffner, K. L., Crean, H. F., & Kemp, J. E. (2016). Meditation programs for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: Aggregate findings from a multi-site evaluation. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy (8), 365-374.

  • Lin, F., Ren, P., Cotton, K., Porsteinsson, A., Mapstone, M. & Heffner, K. L. (2016). Mental fatigability and heart rate variability in mild cognitive impairment. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (24), 374-378.

  • Lin, F., Heffner, K.L., Ren, P., Tivarus, M.E., Brasch, J., Chen, D.G., Mapstone, M., Porsteinsson, A.P., Tadin, D. (2016). Cognitive and Neural Effects of Vision-Based Speed-of-Processing Training in Older Adults with Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Study.. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 64 (6), 1293-1298. PMID: 27321608 PMCID: PMC4916855 DOI: 10.1111/jgs.14132

  • Pigeon, W. R., Heffner, K. L., Crean, H. F., Gallegos, A. M., Walsh, P., Seehuus, M., Cerulli, C. (2015). Responding to the need for sleep among survivors of interpersonal violence: A randomized controlled trial of a cognitive-behavioral insomnia intervention followed by PTSD treatment. Contemporary Clinical Trials, 45, 252-260.

  • Devereux, P. G., Heffner, K. L., Doane, M. J., Gosser, B., Nolan, M (2015). Identifying attentional deployment tactics in older adults narratives about emotionally upsetting events. Journal of Health Psychology.

  • Lin, F., Heffner, K. L., Mapstone, M., Chen, D.G., Porsteinsson, A. (2014). Frequency of mentally stimulating activities modifies the relationship between cardiovascular reactivity and executive function in old age. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 22, 1210-1221.

  • Lin. F, Roiland, R., Heffner, K., Johnson, M., Chen, DG., & Mapstone, M. (2014). Evaluation of objective and perceived mental fatigability in older adults with vascular risk. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 76, 458-464.

  • Heffner, K. L., Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Glaser, R., Malarkey, W. B., & Marshall, G. D. (2014). Stress and anxiety effects on positive skin test responses in young adults with allergic rhinitis. Annals of Allergy and Immunology, 113, 13-18.

  • Lin, F., Suhr, J., Diebold, S., & Heffner, K. L. (2014). Associations between depressive symptoms and memory deficits vary as a function of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) levels in healthy older adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 42, 118-123.

  • Heffner, K. L., Devereux, P. G., Ng, M. H.*, Borchardt, A. R.* & Quigley, K. S. (2013). Older adults hemodynamic responses to an acute emotional stressor: short report. Experimental Aging Research, 39, 162-178.

  • Poleshuck, E. L., Talbot, N. L., Moynihan, J. A., Chapman, B. P., Heffner, K. L. (2013). Depressive symptoms, pain, chronic medical morbidity, and interleukin-6 among primary care patients. Pain Medicine, 14 (5), 686-691. PMID: 23691936 PMCID: PMC5665657 DOI: 10.1111/pme.12089

  • Heffner, K. L., Ng, H. M.*, Suhr, J. A., France, C. R, Marshall, G. D., Pigeon, W. R., & Moynihan, J. A. (2012). Sleep disturbance and older adults inflammatory responses to acute stress. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 20, 744-752.

  • Heffner, K. L., France, C. R., Trost, Z., Ng, H. M.*, & Pigeon, W. R. (2011). Chronic low back pain, sleep disturbance, and interleukin-6. Clinical Journal of Pain, 27, 35-41.

  • Pigeon, W. R., Heffner, K., Duberstein, P., Fiscella, K., Moynihan, J., & Chapman, B.P. (2011). Elevated sleep disturbance among blacks in an urban family medicine practice. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 24, 161-168.

  • Heffner, K. L., Waring, M. E., Roberts, M. B., Eaton, C. B., & Gramling, R. (2011). Social isolation, C-reactive protein, and coronary heart disease mortality among community dwelling adults. Social Science and Medicine, 72 (9), 1482-1488.

  • Rethhorst, C., Moynihan, J., Lyness, J., Heffner, K. L., & Chapman, B. (2011). Moderating effects of moderate-intensity physical activity in the relationship between depressive symptoms and interleukin-6 in primary care patients. Psychosomatic Medicine, 73, 265-269.

  • Heffner, K. L. (2011). Neuroendocrine effects of stress on immunity in the elderly: Implications for inflammatory disease. Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America, 31, 95-108.

  • Suhr, J.A., Patterson, S. M., Austin, A. W., & Heffner, K. L. (2010). The relation of hydration status to declarative memory and working memory in older adults. The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, 14, 840-843.

  • Gramling, R., Heffner, K. L., Klein, W.M.P., Zajac, L. E., Roberts, M., & Eaton, C. B. (2010). Is the association between optimistic cardiovascular risk perceptions and lower rates of cardiovascular disease mortality explained by biomarkers of systemic inflammation or endothelial function? A case-cohort study. BioPsychoSocial Medicine, 4, 11.

  • Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Heffner, K. L., Glaser, R., Malarkey, W. B., Porter, K., Atkinson, C., Laskowski, B. S., Lemeshow, S., & Marshall, G. M. (2009). How stress and anxiety can alter immediate and late phase skin test responses in allergic rhinitis. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34, 670-680.

  • Suhr, J., Demireva, P., & Heffner, K. (2008). The relation of salivary cortisol to patterns of performance on a word list learning task in healthy older adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 33, 1293-1296.

  • Heffner, K. L., Loving, T. J., Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Himawan, L. K., Glaser, R., & Malarkey, W. M. (2006). Older spouses cortisol responses to marital conflict: Associations with demand/withdraw communication patterns. Journal of Behavioral Medicin, 29, 317-325.

  • McGuire, L., Heffner, K., Glaser, R., Needleman, B., Malarkey, W., Dickinson, S., Lemeshow, S., Cook, C., Muscarella, P., Melvin, W., Ellison, E., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. (2006). Pain and wound healing in surgical patients. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 31, 317-325.

  • Heffner, K. L., Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Loving, T.J., Glaser, R., & Malarkey, W. B. (2004). Spousal support satisfaction as a modifier of physiological responses to marital conflict in younger and older couples. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 27, 233-254.

  • Loving, T. J., Heffner, K. L., Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Glaser, R., & Malarkey, W. B. (2004). Stress hormone changes and marital conflict: Spouses relative power makes a difference. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 595-612.

  • Heffner, K. L., Loving, T. J., Robles, T., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (2003). Examining psychosocial factors related to cancer incidence and progression: In search of the silver lining. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 17 (4), 109-111.

  • Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Robles, T. R., Heffner, K. L., Loving, T. J. & Glaser, R. (2002). Psycho-oncology and cancer: Psychoneuroimmunology and cancer. Annals of Oncology, 13, 165-169.

  • Heffner, K. L., Ginsburg, G. P., & Hartley, T. R. (2002). Appraisals and impression management opportunities: Person and situation influences on cardiovascular reactivity. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 4 (2), 165-175.

  • Hartley, T. R., Ginsburg, G. P., & Heffner, K. (1999). Self-presentation and cardiovascular reactivity. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 32 (1), 77-85.