Marcellus M. Merritt

Marcellus M. Merritt

Associate Professor

Office: Garland Hall 216
Phone: (414) 229-6145
Curriculum Vita: pdf 333k


Ph.D., Howard University, 1997

Key Areas of Interests:

Stress Physiology; Stress Management; Hypertension; Chronic Pain; Health Disparities

Teaching and Research Interests:

My research program on stress and cardiovascular health disparities is comprised of two corresponding lines of work: 1) analysis of underlying social psychological and physiological stress mechanisms for excess rates of cardiovascular disease risk among diverse populations, and; 2) analysis of health protective behaviors that are linked with reduced risk for adverse health outcomes. For instance, my innovative research findings show how the John Henryism active coping (JHAC) hypothesis or how sustained effortful coping responses to everyday psychosocial demands is linked with a) poor daily cortisol responses among dementia family caregivers with more challenging care recipients and b) prolonged vascular recovery to anger recall stress among young adults from more socioeconomically disadvantaged family backgrounds. My research focuses on how these psychosocial mechanisms work in settings, such as community health care centers, primary medical care settings, and biomedical laboratory contexts.

Currently, I am examining how tailored relaxation interventions enhance cardiovascular and neuroendocrine recovery to mental stress and nighttime dipping blood pressure and heart rate among young adults with a history of cardiovascular disease. My colleagues and I believe that providing proper coping skills training and improving cardiovascular recovery to psychosocial stress will reduce future risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes among diverse populations. Our ultimate goal is to leverage this ideographically tailored part in an effort to promote better adoption and long-term adherence to relevant interventions. Along these lines, I am a consultant on a lifestyle modification intervention tailored to African American hypertensive patients in Milwaukee, WI.

In addition, I am collaborating with colleagues in the department of neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin a series of innovative projects focused on heart rate variability as an indicator of the efficacy of behavioral and pharmacologic interventions in patients with autonomic disorders and chronic pain. These studies have two goals, to determine if better control of heart rate predicts cognitive and emotional flexibility and better treatment response, and to use various imaging techniques like fMRI to understand the links between pain modulation and autonomic control.

I teach undergraduate research methods and personality, the psychology of race, ethnicity and health and a graduate seminar in social psychology. I plan on accepting new graduate students for Fall 2015 to actively assist in the development and progression of these research projects.

Courses Taught:

Psych 205: Personality
Psych 325: Research Methods in Psychology
Psych 611: Race, Ethnicity, and Health
Psych 930: Seminar in Social Psychology

Recent Publications:

Zawadzki, M. J., Smyth, J. M., Merritt, M. M., & Gerin, W. (in press). Absorption in self-selected activities Is associated with lower ambulatory blood pressure but not for high trait ruminators. American Journal of Hypertension.

Merritt, M. M., Dillon, S. E. (2012). Depression and estimated functional aerobic capacity in young women: The good and the bad of John Henryism active coping. Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research, 17(1), 23–37.

McCubbin, J. A., Merritt, M. M., Sollers III, J. J., Evans, M. K., Zonderman, A. B., Lane, R. D., & Thayer, J. F. (2011). Cardiovascular emotional dampening:Blood pressure and recognition of emotion. Psychosomatic Medicine, 73(9), 743-750. [Suggested for press release by editor.]

Merritt, M. M., McCallum, T. J., Fritsch, T. (2011). How much striving is too much? John Henryism active coping predicts worse daily cortisol responses for African American but not White female dementia family caregivers. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 19(5), 451-460.

Thayer, J. F., Merritt, M. M., Sollers, J .J. III, Zonderman, A. B., Evans, M. K., Yie, S., & Abernethy, D. R. (2003). Effect of angiotensin-converting enzyme insertion/deletion polymorphism DD genotype on high-frequency heart rate variability in African-Americans. American Journal of Cardiology, 92, 1487-1490.