Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • COGNITIVE CONTROL AND CONFLICT PROCESSES IN GERIATRIC DEPRESSION

    Author:
    Theodora Kanellopoulos
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Lisa Ravdin
    Abstract:

    Major depressive disorder is often accompanied by disturbances in aspects of cognitive control that impair goal-directed behavior. In particular, depressed individuals have been found to have deficits in conflict processing, which manifest as inadequate inhibition of maladaptive environmental stimuli and thought patterns. Insufficient cognitive inhibition of irrelevant negative information may contribute to, and perpetuate the depressive syndrome. Prior studies have hypothesized that the neural network that underlies conflict processing consists of the dorsal anterior cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This network has been shown to be compromised by depression in young adults, as well as by the aging process. However, the temporal properties of conflict processing, within this conflict-control network, have not been fully examined in geriatric depression. In this study, the N2 event-related potential was recorded during a Stroop paradigm administered to 44 depressed and 24 healthy older adults. Depressed subjects exhibited smaller N2 amplitudes to incongruent relative to congruent stimuli. Among healthy non-depressed subjects, there was no difference in N2 amplitudes between conditions. Notably, there were no overall differences in task accuracy or reaction time between the depressed and non-depressed groups. Larger N2 amplitudes were associated with executive dysfunction (i.e., poorer performance on a set-shifting measure) in healthy older adults; however, this relationship was not observed in the depressed group. These results suggest that neural processing abnormalities within the conflict-control network may exist in geriatric depression, above and beyond those attributable to normal age related changes. Furthermore, alternate neural networks may be recruited for successful conflict processing in depressed older adults. Additional characterization of abnormalities within specific conflict processing networks, as well as examination of how these abnormalities relate to the course and treatment of depression can help inform pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions.

  • THE RELATIONSHIP AMONG ATTENTION, DAILY BEHAVIOR AND DISEASE SEVERITY IN PATIENTS WITH ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

    Author:
    Lillian Kaplan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Nancy Foldi
    Abstract:

    Introduction: Complex instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) and basic activities of daily living (BADL) are typically impaired in Alzheimer disease (AD). It is unclear, however, how attention versus global cognitive impairments selectively impact functional decline. We hypothesized that performance on attention tasks would predict functional impairment, and specifically be predictive of IADL. Method: Twenty-seven newly-diagnosed participants with AD were assessed on (1) global cognition: Mattis Dementia Rating Scale-2 (DRS-2); (2) attention: a) RT on simple detection, b) covert orienting, c) speed and errors on executive attention, D-KEFS Trail Making Test (TMT) Condition-4; (3) a) caregiver ratings of IADL/BADL: Modified Lawton-Brody, Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI). Results: Forty eight percent of the participants had only IADL impairment, while the remaining participants had both IADL and BADL deficits. There were no differences in demographics or cognitive status between those with and without BADL deficits. Hierarchical regression revealed that errors on the TMT Condition- 4 accounted for the majority of IADL variability. After accounting for the TMT Condition-4 errors, the changes in variability of IADL associated with DRS-2 and NPI were minimal. Neither global cognitive scores nor attentional measures predicted BADL performance. Conclusions: IADL impairments are primary deficits at the time of diagnosis of AD, and as hypothesized, a measure of executive attention best predicted the variable daily demands of IADL. As global cognitive scores did not predict the more variable IADL impairment, these findings suggest that measures of higher executive attention are more sensitive to IADL, and may better inform clinicians and caregivers of potential difficulty with daily tasks faced by patients with early AD.

  • Whistles of Sympatric Species of Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Spotted Dolphins (Stenella frontalis) in the Bahamas: Acoustic Characteristics and Contextual Use

    Author:
    Jennifer Kaplan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Diana Reiss
    Abstract:

    Bottlenose and spotted dolphins in the Bahamas frequently interact in social, socio-sexual, and aggressive encounters, and whistles are thought to play a key role in their communication. Concurrent vocal and behavioral recordings of wild sympatric species of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) were collected from three Bahamas populations, and the acoustic parameters, structure, and contextual use of their whistles were analyzed. The mean acoustic parameters of spotted dolphins in the Bimini and White Sand Ridge Bahamas populations were higher in frequency than those of bottlenose dolphins, but bottlenose dolphins produced whistles that had higher delta and maximum frequencies than those of spotted dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins produced proportionately more rise-type calls and convex calls than spotted dolphins did, and spotted dolphins displayed greater use of amplitude-modulated whistles. Differences in acoustic parameters between these two sympatric species may enable them to differentiate between conspecifics and non-conspecifics. As with all odontocete species examined so far, the two whistle parameters with the highest intraspecific variability in these populations were duration and number of inflection points, which may aid in individual differentiation or identification. Whistle acoustic parameters were also found to vary with behavioral context and group composition in spotted dolphins. Specifically, significantly more whistles produced by dolphin groups comprised mainly or entirely of calves and younger juveniles were amplitude modulated, and had significantly higher frequency parameters, especially during people-oriented behavioral states. Whistles with amplitude modulation and higher frequencies may provide cues about the age and emotive state of the animals producing them. Biphonation, the simultaneous production of two sounds, is a commonly occurring phenomena in the Bahamas Atlantic spotted dolphins. Bitonal whistles have very rarely been reported in any species of dolphin, but both burst-pulse whistles and bitonal whistles have been recorded in this population. Bitonal whistles are produced far more frequently by adults than by sexually immature dolphins, while burst-pulse whistles are produced more often in younger rather than older animals. Biphonal components of whistles may provide cues as to identity, age, and social role in spotted dolphin whistles.

  • The Impact of Trial Consultants on Perceptions of Procedural Justice and Juror Verdicts: An Empirical Investigation

    Author:
    Jennifer Katz
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Harold Goldstein
    Abstract:

    Despite the proliferation of the trial consulting industry in recent years, we know virtually nothing about the impact that the use of a trial consultant may have on a jury. This laboratory study seeks to fill some of the gaps in the trial consulting literature by using the principles of procedural justice to explore what, if any, impact the use of a trial consultant can have on the outcome of a criminal jury trial, as well as the possibility that perceptions of fairness mediate the relationship between the balance of trial consultants and juror verdicts in cases where the evidence is ambiguous. Two hundred fifty-five jury-eligible individuals recruited from the participant pool of the psychology and management departments at Baruch College were asked to complete three questionnaires following the random assignment to a case summary that had been manipulated with respect to evidence strength (SOE) and use of a trial consultant. Hypotheses predicted that (a) a trial would be perceived as being higher in neutrality and global fairness if both the prosecution and defense used a trial consultant than if only one party used a trial consultant, (b) the likelihood of conviction would be highest when the evidence favored the prosecution, moderate when the evidence was ambiguous, and lowest when the evidence favored the defense, (c) the likelihood of conviction would be impacted by an interaction between SOE and balance of trial consultants such that when the evidence is ambiguous and both sides use a trial consultant, the likelihood of conviction would be higher than when the prosecution alone used a trial consultant but lower than when the defendant alone used a trial consultant, and (d) the relationship between the balance of trial consultants and likelihood of conviction would be mediated by perceptions of neutrality and global fairness when the evidence was ambiguous. Results supported the hypothesized relationship between SOE and likelihood of conviction, but there was only weak to moderate support for the relationship between the balance of trial consultants and perceptions of fairness. No significant interaction or mediation was found among the variables. Implications for the fields of procedural justice and trial consulting are discussed.

  • The Ventral Tegmental Area and Nucleus Accumbens Shell as a Distributed Brain Network for Feeding Elicited by GABA-B Receptor Agonists: Modulatory Roles of GABA and Opioid Receptor Subtypes in Rats

    Author:
    Patricia Kavanagh-Miner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Richard Bodnar
    Abstract:

    Food intake is significantly increased following administration of GABA and opioid agonists into the nucleus accumbens (NAC) shell and ventral tegmental area (VTA) with receptor-selective antagonist pretreatment capable of blocking these responses within sites. To evaluate whether regional VTA and NAC shell interactions occur for GABA-mediated feeding, specifically meal size of chow intake, the first aim examined whether feeding elicited by the GABA-B agonist, baclofen, microinjected into the NAC shell or VTA dose dependently blocked pretreatment with either the GABA-B antagonist, saclofen, or the GABA-A antagonist, bicuculline, into the alternate site, VTA or NAC shell in rats. VTA and NAC shell saclofen dose-dependently and significantly blocked feeding elicited by baclofen injected into the NAC shell and VTA baclofen, respectively. Whereas VTA bicuculline significantly blocked the increased feeding elicited by NAC shell baclofen, NAC shell bicuculline reduced but did not block feeding elicited by VTA baclofen. To evaluate whether regional VTA and NACs feeding interactions occur for opioid receptor modulation of GABA agonist-mediated feeding, the second and third aims examined whether feeding elicited by the GABA-B agonist, baclofen microinjected into the NACs or VTA was dose-dependently blocked by pretreatment with general (naltrexone: NTX), mu (beta-funaltrexamine: BFNA), kappa (nor-binaltorphamine: NBNI) or delta (naltrindole: NTI) opioid antagonists into the alternate site, VTA or NAC shell in rats. VTA NTX significantly reduced NACs baclofen-induced feeding. Correspondingly, NACs NTX significantly reduced VTA baclofen-induced feeding. Whereas, the high VTA BFNA dose reduced NACs baclofen-induced feeding, NACs BFNA failed to affect VTA baclofen-induced feeding. Whereas VTA NBNI at both doses reduced NACs baclofen-induced feeding, only the high NACs NBNI dose significantly reduced VTA baclofen-induced feeding. Whereas VTA NTI transiently reduced NACs baclofen induced feeding, NACs NTI failed to affect VTA baclofen-induced feeding. Therefore, the present series of studies suggest that GABA employs a distributed brain network in mediating its ingestive effects that is dependent upon intact GABA and opioid receptor signaling with kappa opioid receptors more involved than mu and delta opioid receptors underlying these regional effects.

  • Male Rape in Substance Abusing Men who have Sex with Men: Prevalence, Reporting, and Contextual Factors

    Author:
    Ann Marie Kavanagh-Reilly
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Chitra Raghavan
    Abstract:

    ABSTRACT MALE RAPE IN SUBSTANCE ABUSING MEN WHO HAVE SEX WITH MEN: PREVALENCE, REPORTING, AND CONTEXTUAL FACTORS by Ann Marie Kavanagh Advisor: Professor Chitra Raghavan Studies have shown that male rape and sexual assault, although less prevalent than female rape and sexual assault does occur, and depending on the context can occur at alarmingly high rates. This study examined rates and correlates of sexual assault in a sample of drug abusing males who have sex with men (MSM) in a New York City harm-reduction clinic. Thirty-six of the 148 participants reported being forced to have unwanted sex. When compared and contrasted to their non-assaulted peers, the study found that twice as many men in the sexually assaulted sample reported that they prefer to have sex with men, and are less likely to have sex with women, suggesting that MSM may be at increased risk for sexual assault. In addition, sexually assaulted males were more likely to have had sex with an acquaintance or stranger. Sixty-six percent of the assaulted males and 50% of the non-assaulted males reported daily or weekly drug use. Nearly half (48.6%) of the sexually assaulted males, compared to 21% of the non-assaulted males reported that they had either threatened or tried to commit suicide. Participants who were hit, slapped or punched were 1.64 times more likely to report the assault, and participants who were threatened with a weapon were 19.6 times more likely to report the assault. These findings and others, as well as strengths and limitations of this study are discussed in detail. Suggestions for future studies are also given.

  • Psychological Mechanisms Underlying Race-Based Peremptory Challenges

    Author:
    Julia Kennard
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Margaret Kovera
    Abstract:

    Despite the Supreme Court decision prohibiting race-based peremptory challenges (Batson v. Kentucky; 1986), prosecuting attorneys strike Black venirepersons at higher rates than they strike White venirepersons (Clark, Boccaccini, Caillouet, & Chaplin, 2007; Rose, 1999; Sommers & Norton, 2007). I conducted two studies to explore the psychological mechanisms underlying race-based peremptory challenges. Study One tested the unconscious and conscious psychological influences on attorneys' strike decisions and the circumstances under which racial bias can be reduced. Study Two tested whether attorneys are driven by beliefs in the legal attitudes of Black and White jurors, beliefs in in-group favoritism between jurors and defendants, or both. Venireperson race influenced attorneys' strike decisions; however, contrary to past research, the racial bias in attorneys' decisions was directed at the White venireperson. Venireperson race was less likely to affect attorneys' strike decisions when they were warned explicitly about the Batson restrictions. There was some evidence that endorsement of stereotypes about the legal attitudes of Black and White jurors was related to attorneys' decisions but there was no evidence that beliefs about in-group/out-group bias influenced their decisions. Possible explanations for the unexpected discrimination against White venirepersons are discussed.

  • The Role of the VTA NMDA Receptors, VTA DA Cells and VTA Terminal Regions in Reward-Related Learning

    Author:
    Karen Kest
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Robert Ranaldi
    Abstract:

    Reward-related learning occurs when an initially neutral stimulus acquires the capacity to elicit responses similar to an unconditioned stimulus (US) with which it is associated, in which case the stimulus now functions as a conditioned stimulus (CS). The mechanisms whereby stimuli come to function as CSs are not fully understood and comprise the theme of this dissertation. We have previously proposed that coincident signals from an unconditioned and the eventual conditioned stimulus (US and CS) signals on dopamine (DA) cells of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) leads to strengthening of CS synapses, allowing the CS to acquire the ability to activate VTA DA cells on its own and elicit conditioned approach, thereby functioning as a CS. Furthermore, we proposed that this type of learning is VTA NMDA receptor dependent. This dissertation was designed to test this model by specifically testing the following hypotheses: (1) A food US will activate VTA DA cells; (2) A food-associated CS will activate VTA DA cells and cause conditioned approach; (3) Blockade of NMDA receptors in the VTA will prevent a food-associated stimulus from acquiring the capacity to function as a CS (i.e., cause conditioned approach) and to cause conditioned activation of the mesocorticolimbic DA system. To test the hypothesis that a US, in this case food, activates VTA DA cells, male rats were maintained at 85% of their free feeding weights for the duration of this study. Rats were exposed to an eating protocol in which the rats were able to eat or not eat food. Rat brains were then removed and immunostained for c-Fos followed by tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) to examine VTA DA cell activation. As expected, rats that ate the food demonstrated a significantly greater number of VTA DA (TH-labeled) cells expressing c-Fos than rats that did not receive food. To test the hypothesis that a CS, in this case a food-associated light, activates VTA DA cells, male rats were maintained at 85% of their free feeding weights for the duration of this study. Rats were trained to retrieve a food pellet after a light presentation (the CS) and then tested for the expression of the food checking response with only CS presentations. As expected, a light functioning as a CS caused a significantly greater number of VTA DA cells to express c-Fos than a light not functioning as a CS. We also hypothesized that VTA NMDA receptor stimulation is necessary for a food-associated stimulus (CS; also a food-associated light) to elicit conditioned approach via conditioned activation of VTA DA cell terminal regions (mesocorticolimbic DA terminal regions). Rats were prepared with indwelling cannulae positioned so as to allow bilateral microinjections of AP-5 (a NMDA receptor antagonist) in the VTA and were maintained at 85% of their free feeding weights. Male rats were exposed to an acquisition or expression of learning protocol. Subsequently, all rat brains were processed for c-Fos labeling to examine activation of mesocorticolimbic DA terminal regions. As expected, AP-5 significantly impaired the acquisition of conditioned approach and significantly reduced the amount of c-Fos expressed in the cells in the mesocorticolimbic DA terminal regions in response to the CS. Also, AP-5 did not impair the expression of the already learned conditioned approach response. All together, the results support the model - that a CS acquires, via the VTA NMDA receptor, the capacity to cause conditioned activation of VTA DA cells and mesocorticolimbic DA terminal regions therefore eliciting conditioned approach in a manner similar to a US.

  • EVALUATION OF CONFESSION EVIDENCE AND EXPERT TESTIMONY IN ADVERSARIAL AND INQUISITORIAL TRIALS IN THE UNITED STATES AND SOUTH KOREA

    Author:
    Min Kim
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Steven Penrod
    Abstract:

    There have been many attempts to determine the "better" legal system between inquisitorial and adversarial, but some legal scholars argue that a direct comparison of different justice systems is impossible because every system is distinctive. Based on van Koppen and Penrod (2003)'s argument that the trial system with fewer wrongful convictions should be considered as the "better" justice system, this dissertation compared the inquisitorial and adversarial trials by evaluating the quality of legal decision-making between legal professionals and lay people on the assessment of trial evidence and their verdicts in South Korea and the United States. This study examines how coerced confession evidence and expert testimony influence the legal decisions when the evidence is introduced in an adversarial or in an inquisitorial trial and whether the two forms of trial yield the same types of biases and errors. The results indicate that inquisitorial trials yield higher guilt probabilities and produce more guilty verdicts than adversarial trials. The presence of confession evidence significantly increases guilt probability ratings and guilty verdicts. The introduction of expert testimony on confession evidence reduces the damaging effects of the confession evidence to a certain degree, but only lay persons are able to utilize expert testimony to critically evaluate the evidence. Koreans in general are more likely to perceive that the defendant's confession was coerced than Americans and give lower guilt probability ratings and guilty verdicts. When confession evidence and expert testimony are introduced in an adversarial trial, only lay persons are able to utilize the expert testimony information, give lower guilt probability ratings and were less likely to produce guilty verdicts. Americans' verdicts are more likely to be influenced by the trial type than Koreans. Americans in inquisitorial trials are more likely to vote guilty than Americans in adversarial trials. Furthermore, path analysis indicates that legal professionals and lay persons evaluate and weigh evidence differently, but legal professional-lay agreement rates indicated that the performance of lay persons is comparable to the performance of legal professionals. Korean legal professional-lay person agreement rates are also comparable to the American legal professional-lay person agreement rates. Implications for the Korean lay participation system are discussed.

  • The Effect of Emotional Intelligence on Emotional Competence and Transformational Leadership

    Author:
    Kristen Kirkland
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Harold Goldstein
    Abstract:

    Transformational leadership is often characterized as a form of leadership that is based on trust, admiration, and an emotional connection between the leader and the followers. Therefore, it is not surprising that many researchers have examined and expected to find a positive relationship between emotional intelligence and transformational leadership. However, the results of that research have revealed inconsistent findings. Several researchers have suggested that the inconsistencies are due to problems with the definition of emotional intelligence and a lack of clear mediating variables between emotional intelligence and transformational leadership. One potential mediating variable that has been suggested, but never tested, is that of emotional competence. Therefore, the current studies examined the effect of emotional intelligence on emotional competence and transformational leadership. In two studies, participants completed measures of emotional intelligence, emotional competence, and transformational leadership. It was predicted that higher levels of emotional intelligence predict emotional competence, which in turn predict transformational leadership. The data did not provide support for emotional competence as a mediator, and there was mixed support for the predicted relationships between emotional intelligence and emotional competence and between emotional competence and transformational leadership. In addition to the hypothesis testing, factor structure support was obtained for the newly developed emotional, intellectual, and managerial competence measures. However, the factor structures of the new behavioral measures of transformational leadership were not supported. Future research suggestions, limitations of the current studies, and applied implications are discussed.