Dr. Sephton’s research has refined and tested scientific theories in three areas: mechanisms of mindfulness’ effects on clinical health outcomes, circadian disruption as a tumor promotor, and human-animal interaction as an ameliorative psychological factor.
She received her BS from the University of California at Davis in 1985. She served in the Cape Town South Africa LDS Mission from 1985-87. She received her MS in Human Physiology & Anatomy from Brigham Young University in 1989, and a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience from BYU in 1995. She went on to Stanford University as an NIH-funded postdoctoral research fellow from 1995 to 1999, a mentee of Dr. David Spiegel in the Department of Psychiatry where she focused on psycho-oncology and psychoneuroimmunology among cancer patients. From 1999 to 2005, she held a joint position funded by the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center and their School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. There she became committed to translational mindfulness research: She led a research group along with a Clinical Psychologist collaborator, Dr. Paul Salmon, that confirmed the efficacy of mindfulness meditation for clinical symptom reduction in randomized controlled trials among 91 fibromyalgia patients and 18 Parkinson’s disease patient/caregiver dyads. In 2005, she transitioned to a position as Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Louisville. She joined the faculty at BYU in the Department of Psychology in July 2021.
Research InterestsContributions to science:
Senior researcher on an RCT that demonstrated mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) reduced depression among fibromyalgia patients, with gains maintained at 4-month follow-up.
Generated & tested theories to explain the prognostic value of circadian disruption in cancer survival.
Refined scientific theory on mechanisms by which circadian disruption accelerates tumor progression.
Defined psychosocial factors (e.g., distress, coping) that interact with circadian regulation among cancer patients.Identified biomarkers and pathways that explain associations of depression with cancer survival.
Advanced methods by which diurnal salivary cortisol profiles are measured and analyzed and deepened understanding of their neurobiological correlates.
Twenty-five of her peer-reviewed papers have been cited >100 times (Google Scholar h-index = 41, i10- index = 57, 8619 total citations as of 8/18/2021). With 15 prior extramural grants as PI, Co-I, or consultant, she is an active NIH reviewer, and her translational research reflects collaboration with the local community.
Teaching InterestsTeaching interests include neuroscience, multicultural psychology, mindfulness, and stress psychobiology. Over the past 20 years she has mentored 20 undergraduate Psychology and Neuroscience majors through the 1½ year research-based honors capstone experience at the University of Louisville. She additionally mentored 85 student-semesters of individualized lab research for undergraduate Psychology course credit. She has served as primary research mentor for 20 graduate clinical psychology doctoral students. Of 70+ peer-reviewed pubs, students co-authored 50. A majority of doctoral grads from her lab have found exceptional internships and post-docs. She brings 30 years of expertise in studies of diurnal salivary cortisol rhythms and actigraphic measures of circadian rhythms.
- NIH-Funded Postdoctoral Fellowship, Psycho-oncology, psychneuroendocrinology, psychoneuroimmunology , Stanford University School of Medicine (1999)
- PhD, Behavioral Neuroscience , Stress, Psychoneuroimmunology, Brigham Young University (1995)
- MS, Human Physiology and Anatomy , Stress, Psychoneuroimmunology, Brigham Young University (1989)
- BS, Animal Science , Pre-Vet, University of California (1985)
- Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, PlosONE (2021 - 2021)