UNC Hospitals – Chapel Hill
Education and Training:
B.A., Psychology, Lake Forest College
MA, Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago
PhD, Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago
Dr. Heilman received her PhD in Psychology (Behavioral Neuroscience) from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2006. Working with her advisor and now colleague, Dr. Stephen W. Porges, Dr. Heilman has focused her research on the neurophysiology underlying the expression of social behavior, specifically within the framework of the Polyvagal Theory. Many of these studies evaluate interventions designed to promote state regulation and adaptive social engagement and communication. Dr. Heilman is currently collaborating on local and international research studies designed to evaluate biobehavioral characteristics of individuals who have difficulties regulating behavioral and physiological state (e.g., Prader-Willi Syndrome, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, alcoholism). She is also involved in research evaluating a Polyvagal-informed intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP), on autonomic activity and behavior. In addition to teaching regular workshops on research methods involved in the collection of cardiac data and analyses of cardiac rhythms, she also serves as a consultant and data analyst for studies incorporating heart rate variability in mother-child dyads and studies of children with fetal alcohol syndrome and adults with depression and/or anxiety. Since 2016, Dr. Heilman has also regularly lectured during Trauma-Informed Yoga Therapy Trainings (Sundara Yoga Therapy), focusing on the neurophysiology of self-regulation, how trauma disrupts regulation, and strategies to optimize interventions and treatments based on principles of Polyvagal Theory.