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Components of Emotional Experience and Reaction Time: A study of Normal Aging and Parkinson's Disease
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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
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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
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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
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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.
Effects of Reproductive Experiences on Age-related Neural and Behavioral Changes in Female Rats
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Abstract EFFECTS OF REPRODUCTIVE EXPERIENCES ON AGE-RELATED NEURAL AND BEHAVIORAL CHANGES IN FEMALE RATS by Saranna K. Belgrave Advisor: Victoria N. Luine PhD The experiences of motherhood, pregnancy, birth and postnatal care, are associated with neural and behavioral changes. Female rats undergoing multiple bouts of motherhood (multiparous) have been shown in some, but not all studies, to have a dampened HPA axis stress response, changes in some hormone levels and better performance on spatial memory tasks compared to age matched females who have not given birth (nulliparous). Moreover, some of these changes extend into old age, approximately 24 months old. Thus, parous rats provide a unique, physiological model in which to investigate neural and hormonal factors that may contribute to cognitive decline and other changes with aging. Subjects investigated were 2-4 months old nulliparous, 10-12 months old nulliparous and 10-12 months old female Fisher 344 (F344) rats. In the first study, we found nulliparous young females had significantly better spatial memory on the object placement task than the nulliparous middle-aged females and that the multiparous middle-aged females were not different from the nulliparous young or middle-aged groups. Thus parity partially mitigated the age dependent decrease in spatial memory found in nulliparous females. No differences in anxiety between any groups were noted on the elevated plus maze (EPM). Thus, multi-parity may have long lasting effects on spatial memory, but not on anxiety. In addition, serum oxytocin levels were assessed since oxytocin is known to contribute to maternal behavior and to mood, and levels are increased during pregnancy and lactation. Circulating oxytocin did not differ between groups. Similarly, basal serum corticosterone was not different in the groups. Possible mechanisms underlying these behavioral effects were investigated by measuring dendritic spine density in the hippocampus, the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. Apical and basal spine density in hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cells of young virgins and multiparous females was higher than in the middle-aged nulliparous females. In the prefrontal cortex, apical spine density of hippocampal cells layer II/III showed a similar pattern as the hippocampus, but no significant differences were present in basal spines. Consistent with anxiety results, there were no significant differences in spine density in the medial amygdala, an area that contributes to anxiety regulation. Thus, the preservation of spine density in parous females may contribute to the mitigation of spatial memory loss at middle age. Because olfaction is a necessary component of maternal behavior and the olfactory bulb shares connections with memory and emotion centers, another cohort of female rats were assessed for olfactory behavior. Using an acuity task and an olfactory habituation/dis-habituation task, olfactory sensitivity was assessed. Anxiety was further investigated by testing closer to weaning of the last litter, using additional anxiety measures and assessing before other behavior test. As in the first study, no difference between groups was found on the EPM. In addition, the latency to approach an object was not different between groups. In contrast, nulliparous middle-aged females exhibited significantly more rearing compared to multiparous middle-aged females and significantly more wall climbing than nulliparous young females. Thus, some effects of parity on age-related increases in anxiety were noted. Corticosterone was lower in nulliparous middle-aged females as compared to multiparous middle-aged females following acute restraint stress indicating that multiparous middle-aged females appear to be more sensitive to restraint stress and exhibited a larger stress response. In olfactory assessments, no differences between groups were found on the acuity task. All groups also significantly habituated to the odor, but, in habituation 3, multiparous females spent significantly less time with the presented odor compared to nulliparous young females. This result suggests that olfactory sensitivity in multiparous females is impaired compared to young nulliparous females. While there were no differences in spine density of the semi-lunar cells in layer II/III of the piriform cortex, mitral cell number in the olfactory bulb of multiparous middle-aged females was significantly lower compared to nulliparous young females. Thus, both behavioral and morphological data suggest that parity may be detrimental to olfactory sensitivity as female's age. Overall, these results suggest that the motherhood experience confers some neuro-protective effects that attenuate some of the negative aspects of cognitive aging. Parity preserves spine density in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex as well as spatial memory in reproductively experienced females as they age. Parity does not appear to attenuate anxiety long-term. The benefits of parity do not appear to extend to the amygdalar or semi-lunar cells of the piriform cortex. Long-term effects of parity on olfactory behavior need further investigation because the current results were inconclusive. In conclusion, parous females therefore may offer valuable insights into the aging process, could serve as a unique and useful model for studying aging in general and for understanding how reproductive experiences influence female aging.
The Road to Recovery: A Neural Characterization of Cocaine Abstinence
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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
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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
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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
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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.
Street Code Adherence, Callous-Unemotional Traits and the Capacity of Violent Offending versus Non-Offending Urban Youth to Mentalize About Disrespect Murder
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Abstract STREET CODE ADHERENCE, CALLOUS-UNEMOTIONAL TRAITS AND THE CAPACITY OF VIOLENT OFFENDING VERSUS NON-OFFENDING URBAN YOUTH TO MENTALIZE ABOUT DISRESPECT MURDER By Zoë A. Berko Advisor: Steven Tuber, Ph.D. National statistics are not available on the proportion of violent juvenile offenses driven by the experience of being disrespected. However, the New York Police Department estimates that about 40% of the city's shootings involve members of violent crews of 12 to 20 year olds with most of this gun violence driven by incidents of disrespect. Mentalization, defined as the ability to envision mental states (i.e., feelings, beliefs and intentions) in oneself and others, is viewed as underlying affect regulation, impulse control, self-monitoring, and the experience of self-agency, all of which are implicated in interpersonal violence (Fonagy, Gergely, Jurist, & Target, 2002). From a developmental psychodynamic perspective, the capacity to mentalize is seen as developing within the context of secure early attachment relationships via the process of caregiver affect attunement (Fonagy et al., 2002; Stern, 1985; Winnicott, 1963) with further scaffolding optimally provided by secure social contexts such as school and the wider socio-cultural environment (Twemlow, 2003). This mixed-methods pilot study investigated the extent and nature of breakdowns in mentalization in the context of street violence in a community sample (N = 18) of violent offending versus non-offending male adolescents from low-income New York City neighborhoods and the degree to which these breakdowns are shaped by level of street code adherence and callous-unemotional (CU) traits. Secondary analyses examined the relationship of CU traits with street code adherence and with the capacity to mentalize in the context of attachment relationships given the limited investigation of social-cultural and relational factors that may shape the development of CU traits. Self-report measures assessed participants' level of street code adherence, CU traits and the capacity to mentalize in attachment relationships. Mentalizing capacity in the context of street violence was assessed through a semi-structured interview using movie clips of disrespect murders involving teenaged perpetrators that was coded for level of reflective function by an independent rater as well as analyzed qualitatively. Violent offenders presented with significantly lower overall mentalizing capacities (M = 3.30, SD = .67) than controls (M = 4.19, SD = .88), t (df) = -2.41, p = .03) in the context of street violence. Qualitatively, violent offenders exhibited more frequent and extensive breakdowns than controls when called upon to mentalize both the perpetrators' and victims' experiences ranging from a more limited affective repertoire to the complete collapse of mentalization and greater defensive distancing (e.g., yawning). A higher level of street code adherence was found to be moderately related to a lower capacity to mentalize in the context of street violence. A medium effect size was found for the relationship between higher levels of CU traits and lower capacity to mentalize the victim's (though not the perpetrators) experience. While this latter finding was not statistically significant it is suggested that with a larger sample size this effect may be statistically significant. Lower mentalizing capacities in the context of attachment relationships were found to be associated with higher levels of street code adherence. From this perspective, individuals whose early attachment related experiences did not support the acquisition of adequate mentalizing capacities may be more drawn to the predictable yet organizing framework for interpersonal interactions provided by street code. Finally, a case study of one of the violent offender participants is presented to demonstrate how impoverished emotional responses among high CU and high street-code adhering youth may, in part, represent a "turning off" of emotions secondary to the trauma of community violence. Implications for the adaption of mentalization-based therapy for street code-invested violent youth are discussed. Key Words: Mentalization, Disrespect Murder, Street Culture, Callous-unemotional traits, Juvenile Offenders.