Jeffrey Birk, PhD, MS

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Overview

Jeffrey L. Birk, PhD, is an Instructor in Medical Sciences at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health (CBCH) at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Prior to joining CBCH, Dr. Birk received his PhD from Tufts University in Experimental Psychology and completed postdoctoral training at Teachers College, Columbia University. His areas of expertise include emotion regulation, psychophysiology, and affective reactions to acute medical events. His research focuses on the influence of emotions on cardiovascular health. One goal of this research is to understand the behavioral and physiological pathways by which positive psychological factors (e.g., optimism, positive affect, purpose in life) and negative psychological factors (e.g., depression, post-traumatic stress disorder) influence long-term health outcomes. Together with Dr. Sachin Agarwal, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Dr. Birk conducts a prospective observational cohort study of cardiac arrest survivors. This project examines the extent to which these psychological factors predict recovery and objectively measured physical activity in the year after the acute event. A second research goal concerns the health effects of different strategies for regulating emotion. For example, perseverative thinking involves ruminating about the past or worrying about the future and is generally regarded as a maladaptive regulatory strategy. Dr. Birk and colleagues investigate how the occurrence and duration of perseverative thoughts may contribute to heightened blood pressure by cognitively prolonging the stress response. Dr. Birk also develops, adapts, and tests interventions to reduce distress in cardiac patients. For example, Dr. Birk and colleagues have examined whether fear of recurrence is a modifiable mechanism of adherence to heart medication in patients with suspected acute coronary syndrome using a cognitive-affective intervention to reduce this fear. Additionally, Dr. Birk and colleagues test whether heart rate variability biofeedback training is a feasible and efficacious intervention to reduce psychological distress in patients who have experienced acute cardiac events.

Academic Appointments

  • Instructor in Medical Sciences (in Medicine) at CUMC

Gender

  • Male

Credentials & Experience

Honors & Awards

  • Rising Star Award, Association for Psychological Science

Research

Research Interests

  • Behavioral and physiological pathways that link emotions with health outcomes
  • Interventions to reduce psychological distress after acute medical events
  • Associations among stress, emotion regulation, and cardiovascular health
  • Relationship between interoceptive processes and psychological distress

Selected Publications

  1. Birk, J. L., Cumella, R., Lopez-Veneros, D., Jurado, A., Romero, E. K., Lazarov, A., & Kronish, I. M. (2020). Intervening on fear after acute cardiac events: Rationale and design of the INFORM randomized clinical trial. Health Psychology, 39(9), 736–744. doi: 10.1037/hea0000853
  2. Birk, J. L., Cornelius, T., Edmondson, D., & Schwartz, J. E. (2019). Duration of perseverative thinking as related to perceived stress and blood pressure: An ambulatory monitoring study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 81(7), 603-611. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000727
  3. Birk, J. L., Sumner, J.A., Haerizadeh, M., Heyman-Kantor, R., Falzon, L., Gonzalez, C., Gershengoren, L., Shapiro, P., Edmondson, D., & Kronish, I.M. (2019). Early interventions to prevent posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in survivors of life-threatening medical events: A systematic review. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 64, 24-39. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2019.03.003
  4. Birk, J. L., Kronish, I. M., Moise, N., Falzon, L., Yoon, S., & Davidson, K. W. (2019). Depression and multimorbidity: Considering temporal characteristics of the associations between depression and multiple chronic diseases. Health Psychology, 38(9), 802– 811. doi: 10.1037/hea0000737
  5. Birk, J. L., Rogers, A. H., Shahane, A. D., & Urry, H. L. (2018). The heart of control: Proactive cognitive control training limits heart rate elevation under stress. Motivation and Emotion, 42(1), 64-78. doi: 10.1007/s11031-017-9659-x