Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • The Role of Sleep in Odor Memory Consolidation Within the Piriform Cortex

    Author:
    Dylan Barnes
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Donald Wilson
    Abstract:

    Sleep is important for memory consolidation. One potential mechanism of memory consolidation is replay, where recently formed memories are repeated during post-learning sleep. For example, the firing sequences evoked in hippocampus during learning are spontaneously replayed during bouts of slow wave sleep (SWS). The phenomenon of replay during SWS is common in many neocortical systems. Odor memory may also rely on sleep-dependent consolidation, even though olfaction is not a neocortical system. The primary olfactory (piriform) cortex is a three-layered archicortex receiving direct input from the olfactory bulb. Piriform cortical activity during slow-wave sleep-like states is modified by recent odor experiences and becomes highly coherent with the amygdala and hippocampus, suggesting a possibility of replay in the olfactory system. The goal of this research was to describe the role post-training sleep had in odor memory consolidation. The initial study utilized two different types of conditioning: standard odor fear conditioning and differential fear conditioning to examine how olfactory training can affect perceptual odor discrimination. Results from this study showed that animals that undergo differential odor fear conditioning are better able to discriminate similar odors following conditioning compared to animals that undergo standard conditioning. Furthermore, this change in perception is possible through changes in the receptive fields of individual units within the piriform cortex. The next study examined how SWS in the anterior piriform cortex is involved in olfactory memory consolidation following odor fear conditioning. The amount of time animals spent in SWS following conditioning significantly increased compared to baseline habituation days and the amount of time animals spent in SWS following learning predicted how much time they froze to the odor during testing. Finally, the last study assessed changes in both the strength and precision of olfactory memory following modifications made during post-training SWS. Imposing replay of the learned odor during post-training SWS enhanced the strength of the odor memory, while imposing replay of another odor stimulus caused animals to generalize their fear response to multiple olfactory stimuli. Taken together, these results underlie the importance of sleep in the consolidation of both the strength and precision of odor memory.

  • MINORITIES' PERCEPTIONS OF MINORITY-WHITE BIRACIALS: THE ROLE OF IDENTIFICATION FOR COGNITIVE, AFFECTIVE, AND BEHAVIORAL RESPONSES

    Author:
    Sabrica Barnett
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Daryl Wout
    Abstract:

    Research on intergroup relations has a rich history in social psychology, with scholars devoting a considerable effort investigating factors that influence stereotyping, prejudice and discriminatory behavior. The results of these studies suggest that individuals' cognitions, affect, and behaviors are affected by their own group memberships as well as the groups to which others belong. People generally view the groups that they belong to (their ingroup) positively, and view the groups that others belong to (outgroups) stereotypically (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). However, much of the research on social identification and subsequent perceptions has focused on socially distinct groups rather than groups that blur categorical boundaries. As such, there is a dearth of research on how individuals identify with and perceive people who belong to multiple racial groups. To address this gap in the literature, I investigated minorities' identification with minority-White biracials, as well as the downstream cognitive (warmth and competence stereotypes), affective (pride, shame), and behavioral (facilitation, distancing) consequences of identification across three studies. Results demonstrated that Black (Study 1) and Hispanic (Study 2) participants were equally identified with biracials and other ingroup members (Blacks, Hispanics), and were less identified with outgroup members (Whites). In contrast, White participants (Study 1) were most identified with other White people, least identified with Black people, and moderately identified with Black-White biracial people. Moreover, Black participants stereotyped Blacks and Black-White biracials as equally warm and competent (Study 1); Hispanic participants felt equally proud of and were equally willing to help Hispanics and Hispanic-White biracials (Study 2); and both Black and Hispanic participants felt equally ashamed when a Black or Hispanic and Black-White or Hispanic-White biracial person acted in a stereotypically negative manner, and wanted to distance themselves from the wrongdoer (Study 3). In contrast, minorities perceived Whites less positively across measures of stereotypes, emotions and behaviors. Finally, consistent with self-categorization theory (Turner et al., 1987), minorities' identification with minority-White biracials predicted their group-based stereotypes, emotions and behaviors. These results make an important contribution to the limited work on perceptions of biracial people, and extend previous research regarding the role of identification for intergroup perceptions.

  • Components of Emotional Experience and Reaction Time: A study of Normal Aging and Parkinson's Disease

    Author:
    Judy Barry
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Joan Borod
    Abstract:

    We examined whether valence or arousal levels affect decision and movement times in Parkinson's disease (PD) and in healthy aging. For both decision and movement time, we were interested in differences in the speed and variability in responding. We also studied whether emotional experience is altered as a result of the aging process and PD pathology. Participants included 16 young healthy adults, 15 older healthy adults, and 15 non-demented individuals with mild PD. The PD participants were tested on medication. Participants viewed pictures from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS; Lang, Bradley, & Cuthbert, 2001) differing in emotional content and performed self-report valence and arousal ratings during picture presentation. Components of reaction time (i.e., decision time [DT] and movement time [MT]) were assessed during a forced-choice reaction time task. Results demonstrated that DT and MT were differentially affected by emotional stimuli. The PD group demonstrated significantly longer and more variable DTs than did the healthy controls for negative, positive, and neutral pictures; however, only the MTs for negative and neutral images were significantly different or more variable between groups. Although DTs were longer for the older control group relative to the younger control group, MTs were equivalent between the two control groups. Evidence of altered emotional experience in PD was found, as the PD participants rated negative pictures as less negative than did healthy older adults; however, this significant difference was reduced to a trend when individuals with more severe depressive symptomatology were excluded from the analysis. In addition, high arousal images were rated as more highly arousing among the PD group when depressed individuals were not included in the analyses. There was no evidence of impaired emotional experience as a function of aging, as valence and arousal ratings were not significantly different between younger and older adults. Better understanding of emotional processing deficits, which have been associated with poorer quality of life, in healthy aging and PD may lead to a better understanding of the neural bases of emotional processing, as well as offer treatment approaches.

  • THE ROLE OF SEXUAL SATISFACTION IN COUPLE RELATIONSHIP SATISFACTION, INDIVIDUAL STRESS, AND QUALITY OF LIFE

    Author:
    Mae Basow
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Denise Hien
    Abstract:

    One variable frequently found positively associated with relationship satisfaction is sexual satisfaction. In turn, relationship satisfaction is positively associated with both reduced individual stress of each partner and with subjective quality of life. However, little research has examined the relationship among all of these variables. This study examined the possible gender differences in the associations among relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, individual stress, and quality of life. Additionally, this study explored whether the frequency of sex impacts the association among relationship satisfaction and well-being (individual stress and quality of life) for men, but not for women. There were some gender differences in the findings. Specifically, results showed that for men, sexual satisfaction and sexual conflicts were associated with their relationship satisfaction, stress, and quality of life. However, for women, sexual satisfaction and sexual conflicts were not associated with their relationship satisfaction, stress, and quality of life. The results also demonstrated that for both men and women, sexual frequency was not associated with their relationship satisfaction, quality of life, and stress.

  • A Behavioral and Biopsychological Investigation of the Role of the Illusion of Control and Perseverative Chasing Between Problem and Non-problem Gamblers

    Author:
    Brett Bauchner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michael Lewis
    Abstract:

    The illusion of control is associated with problem gambling. The perception that one is in control of a random event, when in reality there is no control, can facilitate problem gambling behaviors. The degree or extent of control may activate physiological mechanism of increased excitation and reward that reinforce gambling. In the studies presented here, performance on simulated gambling tasks that provided varying levels gambling participation were compared to physiological measures of behavioral activation in problem gambler and nongamblers. Participants watched video clips of three horseraces scenarios that permitted different degrees of participation and control over wagering. Concurrently saliva samples were collected throughout the experiment. Salivary cortisol levels, a glucocorticoid produced in response to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation, were increased in problem gamblers in comparison to nongamblers when they were permitted unrestricted wagering. This study provides evidence that that gamblers produce higher levels of salivary cortisol than nongamblers, only when the illusion of control is present within the gambling session. There was no difference between problem gamblers and nongamblers in cortisol production with wins or losses. No correlation was found between participants' ratings of excitability, desirability of control, and production of salivary cortisol and gambling status. In addition, levels of risk-taking and perseverative chasing (chasing after one's losses) were measured using the Balloon Analogue Risk Task using a population of gamblers and nongamblers. Gamblers were found to be both riskier and more likely to chase their losses than nongamblers. The research reported in this dissertation provides support for the hypothesis that the illusion of control and perseverative chasing are two important factors that facilitate problem gambling behavior. Given these findings, treatment strategies for problem gambling may include methods for addressing these important determinants of the behavior.

  • THE IMPACT OF ATTACHMENT ON SEXUAL RISK TAKING, ATTITUDES AND TRAUMA IN ADOLESCENCE: A STUDY OF NEW YORK INNER CITY YOUTH

    Author:
    Elizabeth Baumann
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Denise Hien
    Abstract:

    The present study examines how attachment impacts sexual behavior, attitudes and sexual risk taking among Latino American and African American adolescents on the Lower East Side of New York City. This population was chosen because inner city teens are at particular risk of HIV/STD infection and because past research suggests a high prevalence of sexual risk among inner city youth. The current study is a secondary analysis of an established study at the Hunter College Center for Urban and Community Health investigating adolescent sexual risk in the context of HIV/AIDS. Participants in this study were 120 Latino and African American adolescent residents of the Lower East Side of Manhattan who completed questions about their sexual and risk taking behavior and knowledge of STDs using a computer-administered battery. The overall purpose of this study is to examine the relationships between these high-risk adolescents' sexual behavior in the context of their attachment organization, sexual attitudes and values, and risk behavior. The study predicted that the way a teenager feels comfortable being intimate with others in the world would have an impact of how he perceives himself as a sexual being. The goal of this study of adolescent sexual behavior using an inner city multi-racial sample was to examine the extent to which insecure attachment and trauma were predictive of sexual risk taking. Investigators accomplished this by examining key variables that were hypothesized to play a role in sexual risk taking behavior. Study results provided some support for the hypotheses and revealed several valuable findings. Results revealed that attachment insecurity was significantly related to sexual risk behavior. Moreover, it was determined that adolescents with higher avoidant attachment were more likely to have had sex and engaged in sexual risk behavior. Adolescents with high attachment anxiety were also more likely to participate in risky sexual behavior. The relationship between attachment organization and these risk behaviors were in part but not significantly mediated by PTSD symptoms. These findings are discussed in relations to implications for understanding attachment in adolescent non-white samples as well as public health and clinical practices for adolescents in urban settings.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • RELIGION, SPIRITUALITY AND THE FAMILY IN THE LIVES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ELDERLY MEN

    Author:
    Rhea Benjamin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Steve Tuber
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this study was to provide information about the ways in which African American elderly men raised in the South in Mississippi, during the height of Segregation, managed to survive and live successful lives. The study seeks to illustrate how these men incorporated religion, spirituality and their families as sources of strength and psychological buffers against the many adversarial circumstances that they faced. Qualitative data were drawn from the interviews of eleven subjects, representative of stellar examples of success within their communities. The method of analysis was grounded theory developed by Glaser and Straus. Patterns that emerged from the data were sorted, categorized and identified as codes. An analysis of the codes revealed the following major findings regarding these men. For these men life in Mississippi was limited and difficult because of Segregation. As a result their options about how they would live their lives were gravely influenced and they were under threat of danger on a daily basis. The findings also suggest that these men used religious affiliation, which in many instances is culturally inherent, as a means to cope with the psychological pressures as well as seeking support from their family, and community. Despite the circumstances these men went through, there is much to learn from black males who do thrive. In my sample of now elderly black men, I suggest that these men were able to negotiate and withstand horrific trials, similar to the present day challenges being faced because of a belief in a higher power and deep faith in religion. The study seeks to highlight the ways that these men have used their belief in God to lead successful lives.

  • The Impact of Emotions on Stereotyping and Discrimination in Workplace Selection: The Role of Certainty Appraisals

    Author:
    Daniel Benkendorf
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Kristin Sommer
    Abstract:

    In the present studies, an appraisal tendency approach (e.g., Lerner & Keltner, 2000, 2001) was adopted to make predictions regarding the role of emotional certainty in the use of stereotypes in a workplace context. This approach suggests that emotional certainty increases reliance on heuristic processing strategies, as evidenced by greater use of stereotypes. The current research examined stereotypes associated with physical attractiveness (Studies 1 & 3) and age (Study 2). In Studies 1 and 2, participants completed an emotional memory task designed to induce one of four specific emotions representing two different levels of emotional certainty. They then reviewed interview footage, a résumé, and qualifying criteria before rating the hypothetical job candidate's personality and employability. In Study 3, participants completed four measures of dispositional emotion: anger, fear, happiness, and hope. All other features of the study were identical to Study 1. In Study 1, emotions high in certainty (compared to uncertainty) led to more favorable personality and employability ratings for attractive (compared to unattractive) candidates. In Study 2, the same pattern of results emerged for younger (compared to older) candidates. However, in Study 3, contrary to predictions, trait emotions characterized by high certainty (compared to uncertainty) did not lead to more favorable personality and employability ratings for attractive (compared to unattractive) candidates. Taken together, the findings contribute to a growing literature suggesting that certainty appraisals, when associated with temporary, incidental emotions, are a useful predictor of the likelihood that stereotypes will be applied in decision-making.