Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Narrating Hurricane Katrina: Identifying Linguistic Patterns in Survivors' Trauma Accounts

    Author:
    Lisa Goldfine
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Lissa Weinstein
    Abstract:

    An attempt was made to identify characteristic linguistic patterns within a sample of Katrina survivors. Meanwhile, an effort was made to assess the survivors' levels of Referential Activity (RA) and Unresolved Trauma. Though the RA measure has been utilized in several research studies, it has never before been applied to a non-clinical sample of traumatized individuals. This work also aimed to distinguish transcripts coded as "Unresolved" according to the Unresolved Trauma and Loss Scale of the Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) from transcripts coded as "Resolved" on the basis of linguistic markers. With these multiple objectives in mind, an archival collection of 18 oral history interviews of Hurricane Katrina evacuees was subjected to narrative and linguistic analysis. The evacuees received predominantly High RA scores (relative to their individual mean RA scores) as they provided their storm accounts. This indicates some degree of absorption in their traumatic recollections. The Unresolved individuals also received overwhelmingly High RA scores, which suggests that RA may play a unique role in traumatized populations. Rather than serving as a signifier of mental health, High RA may reflect the presence of trauma-related pathology in a traumatized individual. The evacuees' use of certain linguistic mechanisms also suggested a high degree of psychological immersion in the trauma. Though the extent of traumatic immersion differed between the Resolved and Unresolved evacuees, the linguistic devices used in both sets of transcripts were fundamentally similar. This suggests that the hard categorical distinction usually made between the Resolved and Unresolved classifications might be more fluid than previously thought. Also, the results of this study demonstrated that attuned listening by clinicians might present a naturalistic method of identifying those survivors who may be at heightened risk for stress-related pathology following trauma. To this end, clinicians should pay special attention to patients' use of linguistic mechanisms (such as the use of sensory imagery, linguistic repetition, metaphors for the trauma, shifts into present tense, shifts into second-person pronouns, heavy use of dialogue, and inclusion of detail). Traumatized individuals who demonstrate excessive use of these mechanisms should be monitored closely for the development of stress-related symptomatology.

  • Narrating Hurricane Katrina: Identifying Linguistic Patterns in Survivors' Trauma Accounts

    Author:
    Lisa Goldfine
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Lissa Weinstein
    Abstract:

    An attempt was made to identify characteristic linguistic patterns within a sample of Katrina survivors. Meanwhile, an effort was made to assess the survivors' levels of Referential Activity (RA) and Unresolved Trauma. Though the RA measure has been utilized in several research studies, it has never before been applied to a non-clinical sample of traumatized individuals. This work also aimed to distinguish transcripts coded as "Unresolved" according to the Unresolved Trauma and Loss Scale of the Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) from transcripts coded as "Resolved" on the basis of linguistic markers. With these multiple objectives in mind, an archival collection of 18 oral history interviews of Hurricane Katrina evacuees was subjected to narrative and linguistic analysis. The evacuees received predominantly High RA scores (relative to their individual mean RA scores) as they provided their storm accounts. This indicates some degree of absorption in their traumatic recollections. The Unresolved individuals also received overwhelmingly High RA scores, which suggests that RA may play a unique role in traumatized populations. Rather than serving as a signifier of mental health, High RA may reflect the presence of trauma-related pathology in a traumatized individual. The evacuees' use of certain linguistic mechanisms also suggested a high degree of psychological immersion in the trauma. Though the extent of traumatic immersion differed between the Resolved and Unresolved evacuees, the linguistic devices used in both sets of transcripts were fundamentally similar. This suggests that the hard categorical distinction usually made between the Resolved and Unresolved classifications might be more fluid than previously thought. Also, the results of this study demonstrated that attuned listening by clinicians might present a naturalistic method of identifying those survivors who may be at heightened risk for stress-related pathology following trauma. To this end, clinicians should pay special attention to patients' use of linguistic mechanisms (such as the use of sensory imagery, linguistic repetition, metaphors for the trauma, shifts into present tense, shifts into second-person pronouns, heavy use of dialogue, and inclusion of detail). Traumatized individuals who demonstrate excessive use of these mechanisms should be monitored closely for the development of stress-related symptomatology.

  • The Abilities and Differential Difficulties of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Children with Specific Language Impairment to Use Semantic and Social Contexts to Infer and Recall Novel Words

    Author:
    Melody Goldman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Laraine McDonough
    Abstract:

    Two studies assessed the ability of 12 pre-school children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD; N = 7) or Specific Language Impairment (SLI; N = 5) to use semantic context and eye gaze to infer the meanings of novel nouns, and to recall those meanings after a 24-hour delay. In Experiment 1, the children heard statements containing a familiar, transitive verb and a novel noun (e.g., "Daddy eats the artichoke"). Children were asked to point to the picture of the correct referent which was presented with 3 other novel items. On day 2, they were asked to point out the correct novel referents (e.g., "Show me the artichoke") that were now rearranged in different displays and were requested without reference to the previous semantic context. In Experiment 2, the children saw a representation of a face with eyes oriented to one of 4 items, each located in a different quadrant around the face. Children were asked about the cartoon face's desires based on the social cues provided by the eye gaze (e.g., "Sully makes the bouquet. Show me the bouquet"). On Day 2, the children were asked to point to the previously labeled items that were arranged in a new display without reference to the previous social context. All participants performed better using semantic context than eye gaze, but the children with ASD had greater difficulty with eye gaze than those with SLI. Recommendations for future training and intervention based on the results of both experiments are provided.

  • The Abilities and Differential Difficulties of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Children with Specific Language Impairment to Use Semantic and Social Contexts to Infer and Recall Novel Words

    Author:
    Melody Goldman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Laraine McDonough
    Abstract:

    Two studies assessed the ability of 12 pre-school children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD; N = 7) or Specific Language Impairment (SLI; N = 5) to use semantic context and eye gaze to infer the meanings of novel nouns, and to recall those meanings after a 24-hour delay. In Experiment 1, the children heard statements containing a familiar, transitive verb and a novel noun (e.g., "Daddy eats the artichoke"). Children were asked to point to the picture of the correct referent which was presented with 3 other novel items. On day 2, they were asked to point out the correct novel referents (e.g., "Show me the artichoke") that were now rearranged in different displays and were requested without reference to the previous semantic context. In Experiment 2, the children saw a representation of a face with eyes oriented to one of 4 items, each located in a different quadrant around the face. Children were asked about the cartoon face's desires based on the social cues provided by the eye gaze (e.g., "Sully makes the bouquet. Show me the bouquet"). On Day 2, the children were asked to point to the previously labeled items that were arranged in a new display without reference to the previous social context. All participants performed better using semantic context than eye gaze, but the children with ASD had greater difficulty with eye gaze than those with SLI. Recommendations for future training and intervention based on the results of both experiments are provided.

  • Interactive effects of chronic stress and alcohol intake on behavioral, physiological, and neuronal components in male and female rats

    Author:
    Juan Gomez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Victoria Luine
    Abstract:

    For many individuals, exposure to stress is frequently accompanied by increased substance use. However, studies on stress and alcohol consumption often only focus on anxiety and depression to assess the interaction between these two factors. Cognitive function has been implicated in acquisition of drug abuse and thus requires further investigation. In addition to anxiety and depression, the interactive effects of stress and alcohol were evaluated on memory function using the object placement, object recognition, and Y-maze tasks. Four experimental designs used male and female rats randomly assigned to one of 4-groups: No Stress / No Alcohol Control (CON), Alcohol alone (ALC), Stress alone (STR), or Stress plus Alcohol (STR+ALC). In Aim 1, we found that restraint stress increased voluntary alcohol consumption in males and that alcohol consumption after a stressor alleviated stress-induced memory impairments in the object placement task. To control for variability in voluntary drinking, Aim 2 administered alcohol via gastric gavage (2 g/kg). Males exposed to the combination treatment (STR+ALC) had intact working and spatial memory and reduced levels of anxiety on the elevated plus maze and depression in the forced swim task (Aim 2). In contrast, females showed impaired memory and increased depression following 7-days of alcohol intake after a stressor (Aim 3). Physiological measures from male rats exposed only to the 7-day treatment (Aim 4) were consistent with some of the behavioral findings. The STR+ALC group showed adaptation of the corticosterone response from day-1 to day-7 of stress, while the other groups showed consistent corticosteroid release. Additionally, neurotransmitter receptor expression of hippocampal GABA-alpha4 and GluN2B was upregulated for the ALC and STR+ALC groups on the last day of stress, but not 3-days after stress. Overall, the interactive effects of exposure to stress and alcohol were evident in behavior in a sexually dimorphic manner. These effects may explain the increased use of psychoactive substances during times of stress and may contribute to the development of dependence. The opposing results between males and females in response to alcohol intake after a stressor suggests a need for sex specific prevention and treatment methods for chronic stress and alcoholism.

  • NEUROPHYSIOLOGICAL MECHANISMS OF AUDIO-VISUAL INTERSENSORY ATTENTION: EVIDENCE FROM HIGH-DENSITY SURFACE EEG AND HUMAN INTRACRANIAL RECORDINGS

    Author:
    Manuel Gomez-Ramirez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    John Foxe
    Abstract:

    The spatio-temporal dynamics of audio-visual intersensory attention were investigated in a series of neurophysiological studies in cognitively healthy individuals. Four studies recorded electrophysiological (EEG) activity from high-density surface electrodes to investigate the broadband and band-specific mechanisms of attention in low and high-order cortices. A separate study recorded electro-cortico (ECoG) activity in two cognitively-healthy individuals to assess entrainment mechanisms at the earliest levels of auditory cortex during an audio-visual attention task. The results further established the role of the alpha (8 - 14 Hz) frequency band as an active gating mechanism in early sensory cortex during intersensory attention. Further, the data revealed that oscillatory power in this frequency band can serve as a neurophysiological marker for behavioral outcome during high-demanding intersensory attentional deployments. In a rhythmic and predictable task, alpha-band power was modulated by the periodicity of a delta-band (1-3 Hz) frequency oscillation, thus further suggesting that higher frequency oscillations (> 8 Hz) influence sensory processing through power fluctuations, while slow oscillations (< 7 Hz) influence activity through phase-dependent mechanisms. In addition, the data also revealed that neuronal activity within the alpha-band is highly sensitive to the natural pharmacological agent L-Theanine. Finally, the data suggests that by allowing participants to voluntarily generate an attentional deployment, top-down attentional signals get reconfigured, which might give rise to a more endogenous (or less automatic) attentional set. Taken together, the present data firmly supports the `early-model' of attention in that top-down attentional signals were found to have an effect on neural activity in early sensory areas and at relatively `early' stages of stimulus processing.

  • NEUROPHYSIOLOGICAL MECHANISMS OF AUDIO-VISUAL INTERSENSORY ATTENTION: EVIDENCE FROM HIGH-DENSITY SURFACE EEG AND HUMAN INTRACRANIAL RECORDINGS

    Author:
    Manuel Gomez-Ramirez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    John Foxe
    Abstract:

    The spatio-temporal dynamics of audio-visual intersensory attention were investigated in a series of neurophysiological studies in cognitively healthy individuals. Four studies recorded electrophysiological (EEG) activity from high-density surface electrodes to investigate the broadband and band-specific mechanisms of attention in low and high-order cortices. A separate study recorded electro-cortico (ECoG) activity in two cognitively-healthy individuals to assess entrainment mechanisms at the earliest levels of auditory cortex during an audio-visual attention task. The results further established the role of the alpha (8 - 14 Hz) frequency band as an active gating mechanism in early sensory cortex during intersensory attention. Further, the data revealed that oscillatory power in this frequency band can serve as a neurophysiological marker for behavioral outcome during high-demanding intersensory attentional deployments. In a rhythmic and predictable task, alpha-band power was modulated by the periodicity of a delta-band (1-3 Hz) frequency oscillation, thus further suggesting that higher frequency oscillations (> 8 Hz) influence sensory processing through power fluctuations, while slow oscillations (< 7 Hz) influence activity through phase-dependent mechanisms. In addition, the data also revealed that neuronal activity within the alpha-band is highly sensitive to the natural pharmacological agent L-Theanine. Finally, the data suggests that by allowing participants to voluntarily generate an attentional deployment, top-down attentional signals get reconfigured, which might give rise to a more endogenous (or less automatic) attentional set. Taken together, the present data firmly supports the `early-model' of attention in that top-down attentional signals were found to have an effect on neural activity in early sensory areas and at relatively `early' stages of stimulus processing.

  • Differences Among ADHD Preschoolers with and without Comorbid ODD

    Author:
    Chaya Gopin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Jeffrey Halperin
    Abstract:

    The objective of this dissertation was to assess the distinctions between preschool children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD-), those diagnosed with ADHD and comorbid Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD; henceforth referred to as ADHD+), and typically developing (TD) children in an effort to evaluate the concurrent differential validity of these groups. Study 1, the first of a series of three studies, compared the neuropsychological functioning of these three groups on the domain and subtest levels. In addition, similar analyses were conducted after the sample was stratified based on overall intellectual functioning so that the contributions of IQ could be investigated. Study 2 assessed whether the groups differed in performance depending upon the degree of task engagement/reinforcement. Change in performance was assessed through comparing the groups' median reaction time (RT) and variability in RT during two conditions of a computerized task, which differed only in whether or not reinforcement was provided. Finally, Study 3 analyzed the differences in the parent-child relationship during video-taped tasks that differed in degree of parental involvement and task engagement. The results of Study 1 indicated that when the sample was not stratified based on IQ, preschool children diagnosed with ADHD were found to have global cognitive impairment, regardless of comorbid ODD status. Discrepancies in the performance of the two ADHD groups began to materialize only through secondary analyses, in which IQ was taken into account. The findings from Study 2 revealed that the ADHD+ group had a significantly greater reduction in reaction time variability relative to the other groups when the degree of engagement/reinforcement increased. The results of Study 3 revealed that the TD children were rated as exhibiting more positive behaviors than the ADHD children, regardless of comorbid ODD status; however, the ADHD+ children exhibited a differentially larger response to reinforcement relative to the ADHD- and TD preschoolers. Overall, these findings suggested that while ADHD- and ADHD+ children may not be distinguishable based on their neuropsychological profiles, the added ODD diagnosis confers an additional core deficit of an aberrant reward system. Given these findings, treatment implications are discussed, and directions for future research are suggested.

  • Differences Among ADHD Preschoolers with and without Comorbid ODD

    Author:
    Chaya Gopin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Jeffrey Halperin
    Abstract:

    The objective of this dissertation was to assess the distinctions between preschool children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD-), those diagnosed with ADHD and comorbid Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD; henceforth referred to as ADHD+), and typically developing (TD) children in an effort to evaluate the concurrent differential validity of these groups. Study 1, the first of a series of three studies, compared the neuropsychological functioning of these three groups on the domain and subtest levels. In addition, similar analyses were conducted after the sample was stratified based on overall intellectual functioning so that the contributions of IQ could be investigated. Study 2 assessed whether the groups differed in performance depending upon the degree of task engagement/reinforcement. Change in performance was assessed through comparing the groups' median reaction time (RT) and variability in RT during two conditions of a computerized task, which differed only in whether or not reinforcement was provided. Finally, Study 3 analyzed the differences in the parent-child relationship during video-taped tasks that differed in degree of parental involvement and task engagement. The results of Study 1 indicated that when the sample was not stratified based on IQ, preschool children diagnosed with ADHD were found to have global cognitive impairment, regardless of comorbid ODD status. Discrepancies in the performance of the two ADHD groups began to materialize only through secondary analyses, in which IQ was taken into account. The findings from Study 2 revealed that the ADHD+ group had a significantly greater reduction in reaction time variability relative to the other groups when the degree of engagement/reinforcement increased. The results of Study 3 revealed that the TD children were rated as exhibiting more positive behaviors than the ADHD children, regardless of comorbid ODD status; however, the ADHD+ children exhibited a differentially larger response to reinforcement relative to the ADHD- and TD preschoolers. Overall, these findings suggested that while ADHD- and ADHD+ children may not be distinguishable based on their neuropsychological profiles, the added ODD diagnosis confers an additional core deficit of an aberrant reward system. Given these findings, treatment implications are discussed, and directions for future research are suggested.

  • The Third Mind: on the triadic origin of reflective functioning

    Author:
    Dana Goren
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Arietta Slade
    Abstract:

    The present study adopts a `three-person psychology' model in understanding the mental lives of young children. Integrating psychoanalytic, attachment and family systems formulations regarding the regulatory functions of the mother-father-child triad, it explores the triadic underpinnings of mentalization capacities at age 6. It was hypothesized that parents' capacity to mentalize about the mother-father-child triangle would be linked to the quality of the child's representations of self and others as intentional beings. Furthermore, the study explored the possibility that the interactive qualities of the triad mediate between parental mentalization and child mentalization. An exploratory study was conducted with a community-based sample of 6 triads of mother-father and their 6-year-old firstborn child. Parents were interviewed individually using the Parental Triadic Interview (PTI; Goren, Slade & Aber, 2010). Interactive qualities of the triads were assessed based on a pretend picnic play (Frascarolo & Favez, 2005). In addition, each child was administered 6 Story Stems (MSSB; Bretherton, Oppenheim, Buchsbaum, & Emde, 1990), and Affect Task (Steele, Steele & Fonagy, 1994). Qualitative analysis revealed continuity across representational and interactive domains: couples who manifested strong and balanced triadic RF capacities also engaged in collaborative and inclusive three-way play. In contrast, parents with a low level of mentalization and notable difficulties around reflecting on the child-partner relationship, evidenced a competitive three-way play. In line with the study's exploratory hypothesis there were associations between parental RF and child RF: The children of the least reflective couples exhibited substantially higher aggressive themes in their story stems and labile ability for narrative coherence and intentionality. The preliminary findings support the notion of intergenerational transmission of RF capacities as a multi-person process with complex additive relationships between maternal and paternal triadic RF competences. A three-fold typology of cooperative/strained/disrupted triads is discussed. Additionally, The study challenges gender-based parental roles in child development literature. Implications for the theory of Oedipus complex resolution are discussed, as well as gender differences in RF development in childhood.