Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • The Ecology and Ontogeny of Odor Fear Learning

    Author:
    Patricia Kabitzke
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Christoph Wiedenmayer
    Abstract:

    Predator odors have been found to induce unconditioned fear in adult animals and provide the opportunity to study the mechanisms underlying unlearned and learned fear. The clinical application of this research is to explore the causal relationships between aversive events and psychopathologies such as PTSD. However, trauma often occurs early in life but most current investigations use adult animals in paradigms that employ stimuli with little ecological relevance in limited environmental contexts. Additionally, predator threats change across an animal's lifetime, as do abilities that enable the animal to learn or engage in different defensive behaviors. Thus, the first objective of this study was to determine the combination of factors that successfully induce unlearned fear to predator odor across development. Cat odor effectively induced fear-related behavior across development using the behavioral measure of freezing, especially in infant (PN14) and juvenile (PN26) rats. Once these parameters were understood, they were exploited to develop a learning paradigm to predator odors that could be used in early life. Cat odor produced unlearned, innate fear in infant and juvenile rats, but contextual fear learning occurred only in juveniles. The mechanisms underlying the development of this learning in early life were then explored. It was hypothesized that contextual fear learning is mediated by norepinephrine. Systemic injections of the â-adrenergic antagonist propranolol before exposure to the cat odor reduced the unlearned fear response and memory acquisition whereas injection of propranolol after exposure to cat odor inhibited contextual fear learning in juvenile rats. We suggest that NE mediates the formation of contextual fear memories by activation of the transcription factor CREB in the hippocampus in juveniles but not in infants. Levels of phosphorylated CREB (pCREB) were increased in the dorsal and ventral hippocampus in juvenile, but not infant, rats that had been exposed to cat odor but not in animals exposed to a control odor. Further, propranolol blocked these increases in pCREB. Taken together, these results indicate that, although innate fear occurs within the neonatal period, contextual fear learning is a relatively late-occurring event, is hippocampal dependent, and mediated by norepinephrine.

  • The Ecology and Ontogeny of Odor Fear Learning

    Author:
    Patricia Kabitzke
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Christoph Wiedenmayer
    Abstract:

    Predator odors have been found to induce unconditioned fear in adult animals and provide the opportunity to study the mechanisms underlying unlearned and learned fear. The clinical application of this research is to explore the causal relationships between aversive events and psychopathologies such as PTSD. However, trauma often occurs early in life but most current investigations use adult animals in paradigms that employ stimuli with little ecological relevance in limited environmental contexts. Additionally, predator threats change across an animal's lifetime, as do abilities that enable the animal to learn or engage in different defensive behaviors. Thus, the first objective of this study was to determine the combination of factors that successfully induce unlearned fear to predator odor across development. Cat odor effectively induced fear-related behavior across development using the behavioral measure of freezing, especially in infant (PN14) and juvenile (PN26) rats. Once these parameters were understood, they were exploited to develop a learning paradigm to predator odors that could be used in early life. Cat odor produced unlearned, innate fear in infant and juvenile rats, but contextual fear learning occurred only in juveniles. The mechanisms underlying the development of this learning in early life were then explored. It was hypothesized that contextual fear learning is mediated by norepinephrine. Systemic injections of the â-adrenergic antagonist propranolol before exposure to the cat odor reduced the unlearned fear response and memory acquisition whereas injection of propranolol after exposure to cat odor inhibited contextual fear learning in juvenile rats. We suggest that NE mediates the formation of contextual fear memories by activation of the transcription factor CREB in the hippocampus in juveniles but not in infants. Levels of phosphorylated CREB (pCREB) were increased in the dorsal and ventral hippocampus in juvenile, but not infant, rats that had been exposed to cat odor but not in animals exposed to a control odor. Further, propranolol blocked these increases in pCREB. Taken together, these results indicate that, although innate fear occurs within the neonatal period, contextual fear learning is a relatively late-occurring event, is hippocampal dependent, and mediated by norepinephrine.

  • Telework and Organizational Citizenship Behaviors: The Underexplored Roles of Social Identity and Professional Isolation

    Author:
    Lauren Kane
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Kristin Sommer
    Abstract:

    Although telework--a flexible work arrangement in which employees work from a remote location at least some of the time--has been increasing in practice, little research has investigated its implications for employee behaviors and performance. The main focus of this study was to identify the mediating processes that explain the relationship between telework frequency and OCB performance, and to determine whether personality moderates the psychological consequences of teleworking. Survey data were collected from 286 teleworkers and 62 of their coworkers across organizations from a range of industries, jobs, and locations. Coworkers were recruited in order to assess teleworkers' OCBs, but OCBs were also measured via teleworkers' self-reports, as coworker ratings were more difficult to obtain. Two mediational processes were investigated: teleworkers' perceptions of professional isolation, and their identification with their work group and their organization. Individual differences in proactive personality and need to belong were also assessed. Hypotheses positioning professional isolation and identification as partial mediators of the telework-OCB link were not supported. Also contrary to predictions, the personality variables of proactive personality and need to belong did not moderate the relationship between telework and these proposed mediators. However, a serial mediator model provided a better fit to the data. In this revised model, telework frequency was positively related to professional isolation, which was negatively related to both organizational and work group identification, which were subsequently positively related to self-rated OCBs. Telework frequency also bore a direct, positive relationship to identification when controlling for the effects of professional isolation. Lastly, there was a negative direct effect of telework frequency on self-rated OCBs, suggesting that the more frequently individuals teleworked, the fewer OCBs they tended to perform, even after controlling for the mediational roles of professional isolation and social identification. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.