Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • The Road to Recovery: A Neural Characterization of Cocaine Abstinence

    Author:
    Ryan Bell
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    John Foxe
    Abstract:

    Cocaine addiction is a significant public health issue with an outsized effect on the individual and society at large. A principal reason for the immense social and personal costs associated with cocaine addiction is the difficulty in remaining abstinent. Utilizing diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), current cocaine dependence has been associated with deficits in white matter integrity and atypical neural activation in multiple cognitive control regions. However, while the neurobiological and behavioral deficits associated with current cocaine dependence have been well-characterized, it is relatively unknown if these deficits persist after the cessation of cocaine use. To elucidate neurobiological functioning during cocaine abstinence, we conducted three experiments utilizing either DTI or fMRI methodology in cocaine dependent (CD) individuals at varying periods of abstinence. The results of these investigations show that as a group, abstinent CD individuals do not display the same neurobiological deficits as current users. We speculate that the absence of these deficits may be partly due to the intensive drug-treatment programs the participants were enrolled in. However, when we conducted subject-level examinations, we found that abstinent CD individuals displayed neurobiological functioning related to the duration of abstinence. We postulate then that continued abstinence may be responsible for an amelioration of neurobiological deficits or reflect preexisting differences that allow for extended abstinence. Additionally, we observed participant-level differences that were not a function of duration of abstinence leading us to speculate that recovery occurs at temporally different rates in some individuals. Overall, it appears that while a majority of recovering individuals do not display the neurobiological deficits associated with current cocaine users, there exists a subset of individuals that continue to display these deficits. We hypothesize that those individuals who continue to display neurobiological deficits will have the greatest risk of cocaine relapse.

  • Consonantal voicing effects on vowel duration in Italian-English bilinguals

    Author:
    Ylana Beller-Marino
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Linguistics
    Advisor:
    Dianne Bradley
    Abstract:

    This project reported in this dissertation analyzes phonetic details of the speech patterns in one of New York's bilingual communities, asking whether a bilingual speaker can attain native-like proficiency in both languages and the extent to which authenticity — maintenance of language-specific settings — is sustainable. Researchers have established that Italian and English differ strikingly in their characteristic time settings for vowel durations: durations are greater for vowels preceding voiced consonants, e.g., cab, rather than voiceless, e.g., cap. This duration difference, termed the consonantal voicing effect (CVE), is notably greater for English than for Italian. The greater magnitude of the CVE found with English is considered to be a phonological enhancement of a basic phonetic process. Utilizing a speech production task, the study reported compares the performance of Italian-born bilinguals for whom English was acquired in adulthood, as a second language, with that of U.S.-born speakers who experienced simultaneous acquisition of their languages (albeit in an English-dominant setting). In separate sessions for each language, speakers produced utterances in which the target word, situated inside a carrier phrase, contrasted in [voice] value for the post-vocalic consonant, e.g., Say the word « ___ » to me. Stimuli were familiar words selected to sample the vowel inventories for each language and for which the voicing contrast was realized through the inventory of stops common to both languages. Analyses revealed no evidence of influence of the second language on the CVE for the first language for either group, despite an extended immersion period in an English-language environment for the foreign-born speakers and simultaneous exposure to both languages from birth for the U.S.-born speakers. But crucially, there was evidence of an influence of the first language in the timing settings found for the CVE in the second language, for both speaker groups: the foreign-born speakers managed to increase the magnitude of the CVE-English but failed to fully implement the phonological mechanism consistent with larger CVE values for that language; and the U.S.-born speakers managed to reduce the magnitude of the CVE-Italian but failed to fully suppress that same mechanism. Results are discussed in relation to language-specific timing patterns and the extent to which a dominant language may influence production in the non-dominant language.

  • Where political extremists and greedy criminals meet: A comparative study of financial crimes and criminal networks in the United States

    Author:
    Roberta Belli
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Joshua Freilich
    Abstract:

    Financial crime poses a serious threat to the integrity and security of legitimate businesses and institutions, and to the safety and prosperity of private citizens and communities. Experts argue that the profile of financial offenders is extremely diversified and includes individuals who may be motivated by greed or ideology. Islamic extremists increasingly resort to typical white-collar crimes, like credit card and financial fraud, to raise funds for their missions. In the United States, the far-right movement professes its anti-government ideology by promoting and using a variety of anti-tax strategies. There is evidence that ideologically motivated individuals who engage in financial crimes benefit from interactions with profit-driven offenders and legitimate actors that provide resources for crime in the form of knowledge, skills, and suitable co-offenders. This dissertation sheds light on the nexus between political extremism and profit-driven crime by conducting a systematic study of financial crime cases involving Islamic extremists, domestic far-rightists, and their non-extremist accomplices prosecuted by federal courts in 2004. Attribute and relational data were extracted from the U.S. Extremist Crime Database (ECDB), which is the first open-source relational database that provides information on all extremist crimes, violent and non-violent, ideological and routine crimes, since 1990. A descriptive analysis was conducted comparing schemes, crimes, and techniques used by far-rightists, Islamic extremists, and non-extremists, before moving into an in-depth social network analysis of their relational ties in co-offending, business, and family networks. The descriptive findings revealed considerable differences in the modus operandi followed by far-rightists and Islamic extremists as well as the prosecutorial strategies used against them. The subsequent exploratory and statistical network analyses, however, revealed interesting similarities, suggesting that financial schemes by political extremists occurred within similarly decentralized, self-organizing structures that facilitated exchanges between individuals acting within close-knit subsets regardless of their ideological affiliation. Meaningful interactions emerged between far-rightists and non-extremists involved in business ventures and within a tax avoidance scheme, indicating that the crime-extremism nexus was more prevalent within far-right settings compared to Islamic extremist ones. The findings were discussed in light of their implications for criminological theories, criminal justice and crime prevention policies, and methodological advances.

  • Pedagogies of Happiness: What and How Self-Help, Positive Psychology, and Positive Education Teach about Well-Being

    Author:
    Jill Belli
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    Carrie Hintz
    Abstract:

    Pedagogies of Happiness: What and How Self-Help, Positive Psychology, and Positive Education Teach about Well-Being introduces humanities scholars to the rapidly expanding discipline of positive psychology, and argues that literary scholars, cultural theorists, rhetoricians, and educators must learn about and play a role in shaping the important political and social consequences of positive psychology's research on subjective well-being. The project first explores key rhetorical sites of the self-help genre and positive psychology discipline, and parses their pedagogy, potentiality, promises, and problems. While these movements claim to benefit not only individuals but also society, they are based on a number of unacknowledged--and often overlapping--values that suggest otherwise: they are individualistic, instrumentalized, decontextualized, non-dialogic, non-reflexive, politically conservative, and remedial. Therefore, self-help and positive psychology's versions of happiness, well-being, and flourishing preserve and serve the status quo. After highlighting these problems, Pedagogies of Happiness explores how research into subjective well-being is used to effect crucial policy decisions that affect teaching as well as student learning conditions. The second half of the project presents current efforts to create educational curricula that teach and institutionalize well-being and complicates the assumptions, values, and goals behind so-called "positive education." The final chapter synthesizes the project's various critiques by tracing how self-help and positive psychology rhetoric and pedagogy merge powerfully in a specific positive education initiative: Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF), a mandatory United States Army program for building resiliency, psychological fitness, and well-being in soldiers. Drawing on composition and rhetoric, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and utopian theory, Pedagogies of Happiness concludes by sketching pedagogical alternatives to positive education's contradictory and conservative curricula, and inserts a utopian critique, arguing that future discussions need to consider not only individual resiliency but also social justice.

  • Sex and the Nation: Sexuality and Criminal Justice in Revolutionary Mexico, 1920-1940

    Author:
    Ira Beltran-Garibay
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Susan Besse
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the way in which notions of sexuality were interpreted and reworked by the criminal justice system and the citizens that fell under its purview during the decades immediately following the revolutionary struggle in Mexico. The dissertation examines legal and criminological literature as well as a sample of four hundred and fourteen cases drawn from Mexico City criminal and juvenile courts. The cases include criminal offenses such as rape and seduction, and homosexuality, prostitution, incest, indecent behavior and indiscipline in the home among minors. It traces the foreign and national influences that shaped the Mexican criminological establishment's views on sexuality and argues that despite major reforms to the criminal justice system after the Revolution, many continuities existed between Revolutionary legal approaches to sexuality and those of its Profirian predecessor. At the same time, the dissertation examines closely the way in which court officials during the 1920s and 1930s constructed arguments and reached court decisions. In this way, the dissertation shows the way in which old notions of honor and sexual purity were put to the test under the new Revolutionary regime. It reveals how traditional understandings of sexuality could coexist with "modern" notions. An examination of the cases reveals what conflicts could occur between reform-minded government officials and the general public that sought the intervention of the courts to solve disputes of a sexual nature. Finally, the dissertation shows how the Revolutionary criminal justice system could only be successful when the goals of the public officials coincided or, at the very least overlapped with those of the citizens that were involved in the court trials.

  • Experimental Detrmination of the Lacunar-Canalicular Permeability Using Cyclic Loading

    Author:
    Mohammed Benalla
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Engineering
    Advisor:
    Stephen Cowin
    Abstract:

    Current theoretical and experimental evidence suggests that the sensory bone cells are activated by the induced drag from fluid flowing through the lacunar-canalicular porosity, PLC. One of the most important parameters of the interstitial fluid flow is the PLC permeability. However, the reported experimental measurements of this permeability are several orders of magnitude below the values predicted by analytical studies. The discrepancy between theoretical and experimental values of PLC permeability could be due to the assumptions considered in the formulation of analytical models, the estimation of unknown parameters, the difficulty to perform experiments on the PLC without the influence of the vascular porosity, PV, as well as the lack of freshness, type and origin of samples. In this thesis, innovative analytical and experimental approaches were proposed to accurately estimate the PLC permeability that was determined in a single osteon, a domain in which the PLC can be separated from the PV. The osteon was idealized as a poroelastic annular disk, and the loss tangent was investigated at different loading frequencies. A sensitivity study of the analytical model has showed that the porosity is the most influential parameter, and that the loss tangent was frequency dependent. The PLC permeability was determined based on experimental measurements of loss tangent on human osteons that were curve fitted to the analytical model at different frequencies. The novelty in determining the PLC permeability in this research stems from several aspects that have been neglected in previous studies. First, the use of fresh human samples that include the PLC and exclude the PV. Second, measurement of the model parameters independently for each osteon. Third, the frequency dependence of the PLC permeability was measured. The study showed that the loss-tangent of the osteon changes a few hours after isolation of the sample and that the lack of freshness could be an important factor on the large variability in PLC permeability in literature. It was also discovered that there exist a strong correlation between porosity and PLC permeability. The average PLC permeability in 60 human osteons was found to be (6.15±0.83)10-22 m2, in agreement with previously reported values.

  • From the South Bronx to Israel:Rap Music and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    Author:
    Nirit Ben-Ari
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Political Science
    Advisor:
    Irving Markovitz
    Abstract:

    Despite its origins with underprivileged youth in America's urban ghettos, popular rap music in Israel is not necessarily connected with underprivileged minorities in Israel. On the contrary, generally speaking, commercially recorded rap music in Israel is either distanced from politics and adheres to a color-blind ideology, or includes expressions of right-wing Jewish nationalism. As a whole, rap music in Israel reproduces and perpetuates the social order as is, and rarely challenge it, notwithstanding moments of subversion. This anomaly - of pro-government, hegemonic rap - is possible in Israel because both rap music and Zionism, the hegemonic ideology, are perceived as an act of resistance, as "revolutionary", and as a claim for justice. This study also discuss rappers who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, examining how they see rap music as a place to assert claims for a common global experience of marginalization, voicelessness, and oppression that echoes their own struggle. The presence of Palestinian rappers who are citizens of Israel within the hip hop scene highlights that popular rap music in Israel is a tool of Zionist nation-building. This study shows that popular rap music, like other forms of popular music in Israel, serves as a tool of nation-building. Hence, official institutions find rap useful and co-opt rappers of different political persuasions for purposes of propaganda outside of Israel. Finally, it sheds light on the role of the rapper in society, and of the scholar's value judgments rendered on rap music.

  • Microspherule Protein Msp58 and Ubiquitin Ligase EDD Form a Stable Complex that Regulates Cell Proliferation

    Author:
    Mario Benavides
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Biology
    Advisor:
    Hualin Zhong
    Abstract:

    A complex molecular network is put into place at specific phases of the cell cycle to prevent unscheduled cell division that could result in malignant cell growth. Emerging evidence shows that still uncharacterized proteins play crucial functions at those cell cycle transition points. Nuclear protein Msp58 and EDD E3 ubiquitin ligase have been implicated in different aspects of cell proliferation and reported to be abnormally expressed in numerous types of cancers. The molecular mechanisms underlying Msp58 and EDD functions, however, are not well understood. The work presented here shows that Msp58 and EDD form a stable protein complex that regulates cell viability and proliferation. Interestingly, knockdown of EDD by RNA interference leads to a significant accumulation of Msp58 protein, which suggests that EDD serves as a negative regulator of Msp58. In addition, our in vivo ubiquitination assays and analyses of various cell lines treated with translational and proteasomal inhibitors demonstrate that Msp58 is regulated post-translationally by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. These results imply that EDD ligase activity is involved in this regulatory process. Using flow cytometry analyses and biochemical characterization of Msp58 and/or EDD depleted cells, we show that the Msp58-EDD complex plays important roles in cell cycle progression via the control of cyclin gene expression. In particular, silencing Msp58 and/or EDD alters the protein levels of cyclins B, D and E. Taken together, our data suggest that a set of the biological roles attributed to Msp58 and EDD may be executed in the context of the complex that they form, thereby revealing a novel molecular mechanism for these two proteins to accomplish their functions.

  • Three Essays on Bentham

    Author:
    Arnon Ben-David
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Douglas Lackey
    Abstract:

    The dissertation was written in the three essay format. In Essay One I discuss the elements of Bentham's philosophical method, both as described by Bentham and as implied or exemplified by a variety of Bentham's texts. It will show that Bentham's principles of morals and legislation, though intended to have practical (political) effect, have also methodological significance, as they are grounded in grammatical and semantic constructs (constructs that affect `method' - the form of one's enquiry). In Essay Two I describe the elements of Bentham's conception of justice, based on Halevi, Sidgwick and other historical sources, and as they appear in Bentham's work. Bentham's approach to `justice' hinges on his theory of fictions, primarily because `justice' is, according to Bentham, a `fictitious entity' - not having a superior genus. It is for this reason that Bentham introduces a new kind of definition - paraphrasis, and I hope to show that this is where a distinction made in Bentham between `adjective' and `substantive' terms helps explain the necessity of this new kind of definition and also helps us define `justice' in itself. One of the conclusions of the second essay will be that there is a great similarity between the terms defining Justice in Bentham and the terms defining Method. In other words, `doing the right thing' and `having chosen the right method' seem to amount to the same thing. This also demonstrates the way Bentham employs the term `right' - primarily in its `adjectival' form. In Essay Three I discuss the conception of `right' in Bentham in the context of the French and American declarations of rights, and we see how Bentham presents the notion of `political rights' in stead of `natural rights'. Benthams' idea of `political rights' derives its validity from the `principle of the artificial identity of the interests of governors and the governed', or in other words, from the authority given to government by the governed. In the second part of Essay Three I show how, contrary to some critics, Bentham's theory of justice and rights does provide adequate individuation of persons. The dissertation as a whole, I hope, shows the continuity between what traditionally belongs to the `content' of political theories and what belongs to their `form' or method. This is being achieved primarily by offering to replace the traditional `content/form' (or `substance/method') distinction with the distinction between `substantive' and `adjective' terms, which also allows us to see the similarity between the definitions of `method' and `justice' and the proper employment of the term `right'. Both `method' and 'justice' are highly abstracted entities, and as such cannot be defined in themselves by the traditional terms and formulas of definition (definition by genus and difference). It is the emphasis on `adjectival' terms, which are compatible with the new kind of definition - paraphrasis - that allows us to arrive at a partial definition of `method' and `justice'. And since with `paraphrasis' the `adjectival' terms are being employed in a new way, their meaning changes. This change of the meaning of the terms used to define `method' and `justice' helps us see that `justice' is a transformative entity by nature. I also arrive at the conclusion that the mere initiation of the enquiry into `justice' causes a transformation of the terms of the enquiry, its mode (method), and the person of the one conducting it.

  • Guided Tours: The Layered Dynamics of Self, Place and Image in Two American Neighborhoods

    Author:
    Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Setha Low
    Abstract:

    This work complicates our understanding of the creation, knowledge and experience of everyday experience in two heterogeneous neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York and Oakland, California. This project incorporates conceptual, epistemological and methodological questions. The concern with the everyday is explored by addressing how everyday places are known and experienced, weaving local with global, personal with political, embodied with ideological, in two neighborhoods marked by American post-World War II urbanism. Challenging conceptions of the role of the expressive, the individual and the visual in research, the work shows that a combination of embodied walking and expressive representational photographic strategies--my "guided tours" method--can show us new ways of knowing about the physical and phenomenal everyday world. The evocative and embodied power of being physically in place--through walks or drives--is juxtaposed with a process of photographic production and reflection, utilizing photography's evocative relationship to the real as a prompt for storytelling. From this unique method, this work develops a typology of "layered dynamics" to understand how everydayness is continually created through processes of knowing, negotiating and experiencing, as places and lives are woven together. These layered dynamics are the intersecting and changing forces and motions that come from and change lives in a neighborhood; they characterize the system of a place, and constitute the everyday experience of places we inhabit.