Kinsey Institute Traumatic Stress Research Consortium

The Kinsey Institute Traumatic Stress Research Consortium (KI-TSRC) is a research initiative of the institute and Indiana University. The consortium's mission is to further our understanding of human sexuality by studying the impact of traumatic stress on social behavior, sexual function, and intimacy.

Read the latest KI-TSRC Newsletter »

Previous KI-TSRC Newsletters:

Fall 2022
Winter 2022
Summer 2021
Winter 2021
Fall 2020
Spring 2020
Fall 2018

Why do we need traumatic stress research?

Sexual violence, along with other traumatic stressors, disrupts mental and physical health and compromises a survivor’s capacity to establish and maintain intimate relationships. The effects of traumatic stressors place a tremendous strain on the survivor, the survivor’s social network, the health-care system, the workforce, and society.

Following trauma, an individual may shift from being optimistic, socially engaged, and emotionally resilient to being withdrawn, lacking purpose, and having difficulties feeling safe in the presence of others. These changes in behavior and psychological well-being reflect a disruption in how the brain regulates bodily functions through the autonomic nervous system. When the autonomic nervous system shifts into a state of defense, individuals experience hypervigilence for danger, intrusive sensations, body numbness, digestion problems (including irritable bowel), changes in appetite, disrupted sleep, sexual difficulties, fibromyalgia, and problems establishing and maintaining relationships.

However, the reasons for these changes are not well understood. Thus, there is a great need — and opportunity — to investigate the mechanisms that cause disruption in the regulation of the brain and body. Improved knowledge of these mechanisms can empower survivors, their loved ones, therapists, and researchers with insights into the survivor experience and the development of new treatment methods.

A New Research Model

The research orientation of the consortium emerges from the Polyvagal Theory, developed by IU Distinguished University Scientist Dr. Stephen Porges. The Polyvagal Theory explains how threat can retune the autonomic nervous system into states of defense that disrupt social interactions, sexual function, and health.

The KI-TSRC research model features three integrated research streams. We conduct technology development and fine-grained psychophysiological assessments in our laboratory at the Kinsey Institute. Field-based work is conducted on site with local community partners. Finally, large-scale international studies are conducted using online portals to collect questionnaire responses and physiological measures using methods developed in our laboratory.

The KI-TSRC is inviting more than 1,000 trauma therapists worldwide to participate in this research initiative. Members of the consortium will respond to surveys via a clinician web portal to gather data on the experiences of working with trauma survivors and refer clients to a client web portal to share their survival stories through completing surveys on the ways trauma has impacted their lives. The insights gathered from these studies are aimed toward the documentation of the personal toll that trauma has on the survivor and the development of new intervention models to reverse post-traumatic disruptions and optimize individual outcomes.


Research Core

  • Dr. Jacek Kolacz, Managing Director and Chief Scientist, The Ohio State University
  • Dr. Gregory Lewis, Assistant Research Scientist, Kinsey Institute
  • Founding Director Dr. Stephen Porges, Distinguished University Scientist, Kinsey Institute

Research Associates

  • Evan Nix, Assistant Data Scientist, Kinsey Institute
  • Olivia Roath, Research Associate, Kinsey Institute
  • Logan Holmes, Programmer and Data Manager, Kinsey Institute
  • Clarissa Tokash, Human Subjects Administrator, Kinsey Institute

Collaborators and Consultants

  • Erika Bjorum, LCSW, Consortium Coordinator
  • Deb Dana, LCSW, Clinical Advisor

Advisory Committee

  • Katherine A. Wolovsky, MA
  • Chris Walling, PsyD, MBA, C-IAYT

Publications on Polyvagal Theory


Porges, S.W. & Dana, D. (2018). Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies. New York: WW Norton.

Porges, S.W. (2017). The Pocket Guide to The Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe. New York: WW Norton.

Porges, S.W. (2011).  The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation. New York: WW Norton.

Articles and chapters

Sullivan, M. B., Erb, M., Schmalzl, L., Moonaz, S., Noggle Taylor, J., & Porges, S. W. (2018). Yoga therapy and polyvagal theory: the convergence of traditional wisdom and contemporary neuroscience for self-regulation and resilience. Frontiers in human neuroscience 12, 67.

Lucas, A.R., Klepin, H.D., Porges, S.W., Rejeski, W.J. (2018). Mindfulness-Based Movement: A Polyvagal Perspective. Integrative Cancer Therapies 17(1), 5-15. 

Porges, S.W. & Carter, C.S. (2017). Polyvagal Theory and the Social Engagement System: Neurophysiological Bridge between Connectedness and Health. In P. Gerbarg & P. Muskin (Eds.), Complementary and Integrative Treatments in Psychiatric Practice. (pp. 291-310). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association Publishing.

Gray, A. & Porges, S.W. (2017).  Polyvagal informed dance/movement therapy with children who shut down: Restoring core rhythmicity.  In C.A. Malchiodi, D.A. Crenshaw (Eds) What to do when children clam up in psychotherapy: Interventions to facilitate communication. (pp. 102-136). New York, NY: Guilford Press. 

Porges, S.W. (2017). Vagal pathways: Portals to Compassion. In E.M. Seppala, E. Simon-Thomas, S.L. Brown, M.C. Worline, C.D. Cameron, & J.R. Doty (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science. (pp. 189-202). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 

Porges, S.W. & Daniel, S. (2017). Play and the dynamics of treating medical trauma: Insights from Polyvagal Theory. In S. Daniel & C. Trevarthen (Eds.), Rhythms of Relating in Children's Therapies. (pp.113-124). Jessica Kingsley. London.

Flores, P.J. & Porges, SW (2017). Group Psychotherapy as a Neural Exercise: Bridging Polyvagal Theory and Attachment Theory. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy 26, 1-21.

Porges, S.W. (2010).  Music therapy and trauma: Insights from the polyvagal theory. In K Stewart, ed. Symposium on Music Therapy & Trauma: Bridging Theory and Clinical Practice. (pp. 3-15). New York: Satchnote Press.

Porges, S.W. (2009). Reciprocal influences between body and brain in the perception and expression of affect: A polyvagal perspective. In D. Fosha, D. Siegel, & M. Solomon (Eds.), The Healing Power of Emotion: Affective Neuroscience, Development, and Clinical Practice. (pp. 27-54). New York: Norton.

Porges, S.W. (2009). The polyvagal theory: New insights into adaptive reactions of the autonomic nervous system. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine 76, 86-90.  

Porges, S.W. (2007). The polyvagal perspective. Biological Psychology 74, 116-143.

Porges, S.W. (2003). The Polyvagal Theory: Phylogenetic contributions to social behavior.  Physiology and Behavior 79, 503-513.

Porges, S.W. (2001). The Polyvagal Theory: Phylogenetic substrates of a social nervous system. International Journal of Psychophysiology 42, 123-146.

Porges, S.W.  (1995). Orienting in a defensive world: Mammalian modifications of our evolutionary heritage. A Polyvagal Theory. Psychophysiology 32, 301-318.

Additional Research in the Science of Trauma

Articles and chapters

Kolacz, J., Hu, Y., Gesselman, A. N., Garcia, J. R., Lewis, G. F., & Porges, S. W. (2020). Sexual function in adults with a history of childhood maltreatment: Mediating effects of self-reported autonomic reactivity. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(3), 281-290. doi: 10.1037/tra0000498

Kolacz, J., Kovacic, K., & Porges, S. W. (2019). Traumatic stress and the autonomic brain-gut connection in development: Polyvagal Theory as an integrative framework for psychosocial and gastrointestinal pathology. Developmental Psychobiology, 61(5), 796-809. doi: 10.1002/dev.21852

Kolacz, J. & Porges, S. W. (2018). Chronic diffuse pain and functional gastrointestinal disorders after traumatic stress: Pathophysiology through a polyvagal perspective. Frontiers in Medicine 5, 145.

Porges, S.W. & Rosetti, A. (2018). Music, Music Therapy and Trauma. Music & Medicine 10(3), 117-120.

Dale, L.P., Shakh, S.K., Fasciano, L.C., Watorek, V.D., Heilman, K.J., Porges, S.W. (2017). College Females with Maltreatment Histories have Atypical Autonomic Regulation and Poor Psychological Wellbeing. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy 10(4), 427-434.

Lewis, G. F., Hourani, L., Tueller, S., Kizakevich, P., Bryant, S., Weimer, B., & Strange, L. (2015). Relaxation training assisted by heart rate variability biofeedback: Implication for a military predeployment stress inoculation protocol. Psychophysiology 52(9), 1167-1174.

Porges, S.W. & Peper, E. (2015). When saying no does not mean yes: Psychophysiological factors involved in date rape. Biofeedback 43: 45-48.

Porges, S.W. (2015). Making the World Safe for our Children: Down-regulating defence and up-regulating social engagement to ‘optimise’ the human experience. Children Australia 40: 114-123.

Williamson, J.B., Porges, E.C., Lamb, D.G., Porges, S.W. (2014).  Maladaptive autonomic regulation in PTSD accelerates physiological aging. Frontiers in Psychology 5, 1571. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01571

Porges, S.W. (2004). Neuroception: A subconscious system for detecting threat and safety. Zero to Three: Bulletin of the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs 24(5),19-24.

Porges, S.W. (2003). Social engagement and attachment: A phylogenetic perspective. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1008(1), 31-47.

Dale, L.P., Carroll, L.E., Galen, G., Hayes, J.A., Webb, K.W., & Porges, S.W. (2009). Abuse history is related to autonomic regulation to mild exercise and psychological wellbeing. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback 34, 299-308.

Umhau, J.C., George, D.T., Reed, S., Petrulis, S.G., Rawlings, R., & Porges, S.W. (2002). Atypical autonomic regulation in perpetrators of violent domestic abuse. Psychophysiology 39, 117-123.

Geller, S.M. & Porges, S.W. (2014).  Therapeutic presence: Neurophysiological mechanisms mediating feeling safe in clinical interactions. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration 24, 178-192.

Williamson, J.B., Heilman, K.M., Porges, E.C., Lamb, D.G., Porges, S.W. (2013).  Possible mechanism for PTSD symptoms in patients with traumatic brain injury: central autonomic network disruption. Frontiers in Neuroengineering 6(13).


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