Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • VEGF treatment during status epilepticus alters long-term hippocampal astrocyte morphology: A detailed description of astrocyte morphology and glutamate transporter patterns with and without administration of VEGF and seizure induction

    Author:
    Janice Lenzer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Susan Croll
    Abstract:

    VEGF treatment during pilocarpine-induced status epilepticus (SE) causes enduring preservation of behavioral function in rats in the absence of enduring neuroprotection (Nicoletti et al., 2010). In addition, VEGF treatment reduces hyperexcitability in hippocampal slices without altering neuronal membrane properties (McCloskey et al, 2005). Combined, these data suggest the possibility that other cells or mechanisms could be involved in the beneficial effects of VEGF during SE. Our laboratory is interested in the potential contribution of astrocytes to these effects. Astrocytes are not only reported to contribute to epileptiform discharges in the hippocampus (Tian et al., 2005; Kang et al., 2005) but also to express VEGF receptors (Krum & Rosenstein, 2002). We previously reported that VEGF treatment significantly alters multiple astrocyte parameters such as cell soma size, branching complexity, branch volume, number of dendrites, nodes counts and highest order branching after SE. The current study investigated both astrocyte morphology and glutamate transporter expression one month after SE in animals treated with VEGF or inactivated VEGF during SE. Individual GFAP-immunostained astrocytes from both CA1 and the dentate gyrus hilus were traced using Neurolucida software (Microbrightfield Inc.), allowing morphological parameters to be analyzed via Branched Structure and Sholl analyses. In addition, Image J software was used to measure optical density in GLT1 (glial glutamate transporter 1)-immunostained sections. VEGF treatment during SE significantly prevented post-SE increases in number of branch intersections, process length, and node count. Furthermore, an analysis of the distance to the nearest neighboring astrocyte revealed that VEGF treatment significantly increased inter-astrocyte distance. GLT1 immunoreactivity in VEGF treated animals was decreased compared to seized controls. VEGF treatment did not significantly alter the shape of the astrocytes but rather the branching complexity and size. Because cell morphology impacts cell physiology, it is possible that VEGF's enduring effects on post-SE astrocyte morphology impacts the functioning of the post-seizure hippocampus.

  • EATING THE CITY: FOOD ENVIRONMENTS, INEQUALITY, AND THE DAILY JOURNEYS OF EATERS IN NEW YORK AND LONDON

    Author:
    Kimberly Libman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Susan Saegert
    Abstract:

    Municipal policies aiming to improve equity in food access and health often rely on the assumption that neighborhoods with limited availability of healthy foods and high levels of diet-related illness should be the targets for change. However, food systems planners have used the 'local trap' to caution that there is nothing inherently beneficial about the local or any other scale of action with regard to improving the social justice, ecological sustainability, or public health outcomes of food systems. This study examines the local trap argument in the food policy contexts of New York and London. It asks: Are there comparable inequalities in food environments of New York and London? How do individuals living and working in the highest and lowest income areas of these cities perceive, navigate, and use the food environment? How does local, or neighborhood, food availability influence access to food and health? This study employed a cross-national, comparative, and mixed-method design. A total of 110 food establishments were observed in the study areas. The number and type of establishments in the study sites reflected the income of residents. The types of food available reflect the place-types present as well as the demography of local areas. To gather narrative and spatial data about everyday experience and food events, space-time food diaries, mental mapping, and semi-structured interviews were collected from a total 40 participants. Space-time food diaries and mental maps were analyzed to determine the proportion of in- and out- of neighborhood food events. Individual participants operationalized neighborhood boundaries in their mental maps of the study sites. There was a variation across individuals with regard to the percentage of in-neighborhood food events they reported in the space-time food diaries. Findings show that neighborhood food environments are meaningful determinants of diet for diverse eaters, but eaters' usages, perceptions, and identifications with the food environment operate across a range of geographic scales. They suggest that neighborhood social and economic integration may be a determinant of urban food environments. Thus, definitions of urban food policy should include those housing and community development policies that impact neighborhood social and economic diversity.

  • The Effects of Code-Based Literacy Interventions on Spelling Achievement: A Meta-Analysis

    Author:
    Joy Lin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Brooks
    Abstract:

    Poor spelling is a pervasive problem among children and adults alike. Yet despite an abundance of research on reading development, there is a surprising lack of emphasis on spelling, a related and arguably equally important skill. Given that research in the past two decades has established the importance of code-based knowledge such as phonological and alphabetic knowledge in reading, it is reasonable to suspect that code-based knowledge would also impact spelling ability. However, few intervention studies have directly addressed spelling. To investigate this issue, this study utilizes meta-analysis to quantitatively assess the effects of systematic code-based literacy interventions on spelling achievement. Studies included in the meta-analysis were published in English, involved a code-based literacy intervention in a school setting, included a control or comparison group, measured spelling as an outcome at post-test, and reported sufficient statistics to compute effect sizes. Random effects analysis models were based on 91 studies and 153 computed effect sizes. The mean effect size for all studies was moderate, d = 0.58, 95% CI [.49, .67], indicating that systematic code-based literacy instruction is more effective at improving spelling outcomes than non-code-based or less systematic code-based instruction. The total sample size was 9,341 participants in pre-school to Grade 11. These findings directly oppose the claim that learning to spell is a passive process that occurs in all literacy contexts, as well as lay assumptions that knowledge about spelling does not need to be taught. Rather, the findings from this meta-analysis suggest that students who had received interventions that incorporated explicit instruction in phonological, orthographic, morphological knowledge fared better than their control-group peers on spelling outcomes. However, given the limitations of meta-analysis, further research is needed to substantiate these findings. Overall, evidence from this meta-analysis suggests that spelling, like reading, is best improved by explicit instruction in linguistic knowledge.

  • Recovery Trajectories of Women with Co-Occurring Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Use Disorders

    Author:
    Teresa Lopez-Castro
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Denise Hien
    Abstract:

    Over the past ten years interventions utilizing an integrated model of treatment for co-occurring PTSD and SUD in women have emerged to address the links between trauma and addiction. The current study applied a longitudinal, dynamic lens to 353 women dually diagnosed with SUD and PTSD in an effort to classify common trajectories of substance use during the first 12 months following treatment. As a secondary analysis of the largest behavioral trial to date for the concurrent treatment of PTSD and SUD in women (Hien et al., 2009), the present study utilized latent growth mixture models (LGMM) with multiple groups to estimate substance use patterns after treatment in order to further clarify the phenomenon of recovery for traumatized substance users. Results from the growth mixture analyses provided support for three distinct trajectories of use and recovery in the post-treatment year. Findings highlight the necessity of accounting for heterogeneity in post-treatment substance use and the relevance of incorporating methodologies like LGMM when evaluating treatment outcomes.

  • The Effect of the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) on Emotional Experience, Social Engagement, and Facial Mobility in Parkinson's Disease

    Author:
    Michelle Lubomski
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Joan Borod
    Abstract:

    Research has shown that Parkinson's disease (PD) is associated with emotional processing deficits. The impact of PD on communication and social interaction is gaining appreciation. Although successful treatments exist for motor signs in PD, few exist for the non-motor symptoms. This study examined the impact of a voice treatment (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment [LSVT; Ramig, Pawlas, & Countryman, 1995]) on facial mobility, social engagement, and emotional experience in PD. Fifty-three poser participants (39 PD; 14 demographically-matched healthy controls [HCs]) were studied. The PD posers were assigned to three groups: 12 received voice therapy (LSVT), 14 received articulation therapy (ARTIC; Spielman et al., 2012), and 13 received no therapy (Untreated). All posers were video-taped, before and after treatment, while producing emotional (happy, sad, and angry) and neutral monologues from the New York Emotion Battery (Borod, Welkowitz, & Obler, 1992). Monologues were divided into 15-second segments and evaluated by 18 naïve, yet trained and reliable, raters for facial mobility (amount of non-emotional facial movement) and social engagement (how much the rater wanted to interact with the poser). In addition, immediately following each emotional monologue, posers evaluated three aspects of their emotional experience: (1) intensity of their emotional feelings immediately following the monologue, (2) accuracy with which they carried out the monologue task, and (3) intensity of their emotional feelings throughout the monologue. Results revealed a treatment effect for LSVT, such that PD posers in this group demonstrated improvement in facial mobility, intensity of emotional feelings during the monologue, and immediate feelings after the monologues. Additionally, male posers in the LSVT group reported improved accuracy during the angry monologue following treatment. There were also gender differences; ratings for female posers on facial mobility and immediate emotional feelings were higher than those for male posers. There were no significant results for social engagement. The findings for facial mobility and emotional experience have clinical implications. Enhanced emotional experience may help improve mood disorders that are frequently co-morbid with PD. Further, LSVT might be useful in a broader range of psychiatric disorders. Finally, the findings regarding emotional experience provide exciting avenues for future research.

  • How Do Youth Make Sense of Interpersonal Interactions and Resolve Conflicts With Diverse Groups?

    Author:
    Luka Lucic
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Colette Daiute
    Abstract:

    Building upon recent work that defines cognitive development as a continuous process of sense-making situated within a cultural and historical context this dissertation explores how youth growing up in New York City develop relational-flexibility, defined as a context-sensitive extension of perspective-taking enacted in narrative and discourse in interactions with culturally diverse peers. The theoretical basis for this study is that children and youth develop through interpersonal interactions as they enter and attempt to make sense of new communities of minds broadly defined in this work as groups of people gathered together by participation in joint cultural activities. Seen from this perspective, contemporary youth - growing up in large and diverse American cities - develop in a socio-cultural context which is radically different from the socio-cultural context that shaped the development of youth 20, 30 or even 10 years ago. This difference is, I argue, produced by increasing diversity and by the phenomenon known as the `time-space compression' of their social life. The study examines how immigrant and U.S. born youth, developing alongside one another in an hyper-diverse context such as New York City, enact relational-flexibility as they construct projective narratives in order to make sense of interactions with diverse others in situations involving technologically mediated interpersonal interactions. Forty-four youth (ages 15-19) were involved in a quasi-experimental research condition and asked to answer three questions in response to a vignette depicting a slightly ambiguous text-messaging (SMS) interaction between two non-gendered individuals. Given the confluence of factors involved in increasing diversity and time-space compression of social life with plausible effects on cognitive development, the following questions are addressed in this study: How do youth growing up in an increasingly multicultural U.S. society, manage to make sense of their diverse interpersonal interactions? To what extent do they develop and enact relational flexibility in narratives and discourse with their culturally diverse peers? Narrative construction of projective writing in response to questions aimed to engage the process of sense-making was analyzed using a well-known socio-linguistic narrative analysis scheme and focused, in particular, on the evaluative function in narrative. Findings indicate that immigrant youth have a greater range of relational flexibility then do their U.S. born peers. Immigrant youth use the functions of causation, logic and hypothetical reasoning significantly more frequently when attempting to make sense of interactions with members of their own culture than they do when attempting to make sense of bi-cultural interpersonal interactions with their U.S. born peers. Conversely, significantly higher use of affective linguistic devices in the process of sense-making by U.S. born youth scaffolds the use of affective discourse by immigrant youth who, over time, adopt that discursive strategy while maintaining another in relation to other immigrant youth.

  • Attentional Blink and Top-Down Directives in Alzheimer's Disease and Aging

    Author:
    Jenny Ly
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Nancy Foldi
    Abstract:

    It is not well understood why patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) have difficulty attending to relevant information in their environment. Deficits in top-down processing (such as difficulty using prior instruction or category identification to direct attention) or limitations in coping with rapid temporal demands maybe possible explanations for this impairment. This study was design to address attention deficits using the attentional blink paradigm that can dissociate top-down directives from rapid temporal demands. The attentional blink occurs when two stimuli (S1 and S2) are presented in rapid succession and the accurate identification of the second stimulus (S2) is reduced if it is presented very shortly after the first (S1). The accuracy of S2 was compared in patients with AD, age-matched healthy controls and younger healthy controls. We hypothesized that aging would affect the ability to keep pace with rapid presentations, but patients with AD would have additional deficits in top-down directives. Results showed that younger and older controls could utilize top-down instructions to improve their accuracy, but older controls could only improve their performance with sufficient time between stimuli presentation. This confirmed our hypothesis of age-related slowing. Accuracy in the AD group was lower overall than either healthy groups but importantly, performance was the same whether or not a priori instructions were provided. This supports our hypothesis that patients with AD are not able to utilize top-down directives. Results are discussed in the context of theories related to limited attentional resources and inhibition.

  • Eat At Mom's: Critiquing and Rebuilding The Breastfeeding Paradigm

    Author:
    Catherine Ma
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michelle Fine
    Abstract:

    For the past three decades breastfeeding has been globally promoted as the ideal method of infant feeding with policy makers defining breastfeeding and shaping the current breastfeeding paradigm with their recommendations that often leave out the voices of nursing women. We believe that the voices of mothers and their infants can be a valuable source of information to balance this discrepancy and offer suggestions to changing the current model of breastfeeding education to better match their specific needs. One hundred and twenty-seven first time mothers (FTM) committed to breastfeeding were recruited from popular online communities that focus on pregnancy and parenting for a multi-method study on breastfeeding views. Participants completed a series of quantitative measures consisting of the Iowa Infant Feeding Assessment Scale, Ways of Knowing Inventory, and Maternal Breastfeeding Evaluation Scale that focused on maternal infant feeding preference, learning styles, and maternal breastfeeding satisfaction. In addition, a variety of open-ended questions regarding prenatal breastfeeding beliefs and postpartum realities were used to identify changes that occurred as women negotiated from pregnancy to the early and late postpartum periods. Repeated measures ANOVA indicated significant differences in the silence and subjective dimensions of the Ways of Knowing Inventory indicating that as time passed, women were less likely to feel as though they had no voice in matters concerning breastfeeding their infants, F (2, 142) = 3.21, p < .05 and more apt to realize the value of their intuitive powers and believe that the truth could reside from within as opposed to relying on outside authorities, F (2, 142) = 4.98, p < .01. Critical discourse analysis revealed power struggles between FTMs and hospital personnel whose actions often undermined maternal efforts. Infant responses to feeding method were found to play a pivotal role in breastfeeding outcome suggesting a bilateral decision making process. Mothers also preferred individualized care as opposed to generalized instructions. The adequacy of the current breastfeeding paradigm will be discussed with suggestions on how to restructure current breastfeeding education to be more focused on the unique needs of women and their infants.

  • The Interpersonal Foundations of Anti-Atheist Prejudice

    Author:
    Michael Magee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Curtis Hardin
    Abstract:

    Anti-atheist prejudice in the U.S. is socially accepted and rife--and not just because most Americans are religious. This research suggests that hostility toward atheists is related in part to protecting parental relationships. To the extent that they are established within parental relationships, shared reality theory implies that religious beliefs and associated attitudes will be psychologically defended to the extent that the parental relationships engaged are strong, healthy, and vital (Magee & Hardin, 2010; see also Hardin & Higgins, 1996). Three experiments examined the regulation of anti-atheist prejudice in the defense and protection of religious shared realities with parents, as implied by shared reality theory, and used parental attachment as an indicator of the strength and vitality of the parental relationship. The first two experiments explored parental attachment in the regulation of automatic anti-atheist prejudice during social interactions. In Experiment 1, automatic attitudes toward atheists were assessed with a subliminal sequential priming task in a social tuning paradigm in which the experimenter casually mentioned he was an atheist, or did not (e.g., Lowery et al., 2001). Interacting with an atheist reduced automatic anti-atheist prejudice among those with low parental attachment and, if anything, increased automatic anti-atheist prejudice among those with high parental attachment. Experiment 2 tested the causal role of parental attachment by experimentally manipulating parental attachment with an essay task and found complementary results: Interacting with an atheist reduced automatic anti-atheist prejudice among those with low manipulated parental attachment, increased automatic anti-atheist prejudice among those with high manipulated parental attachment, and did not affect automatic anti-atheist prejudice among those in a non-parental salience comparison condition. Experiment 3 manipulated the mere cognitive salience of the concept `atheist' (in the absence of relationship demands) via a subliminal prime word task. Subliminal exposure to the word atheist reduced explicit anti-atheist prejudice among those with low parental attachment and low parental religious shared reality, but not among those with high parental attachment or high parental religious shared reality. This research suggests that when religious people interact with atheists (or think about atheists) anti-atheist prejudice is activated and then regulated by parental attachment.

  • Fructose-Conditioned Flavor-Flavor Preferences in the Rat: Role of Dopaminergic Receptor Subtypes in the Nucleus Accumbens, Amygdala, and Medial Prefrontal Cortex

    Author:
    Danielle Malkusz
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Richard Bodnar
    Abstract:

    Fructose-Conditioned Flavor-Flavor Preferences in the Rat: Role of Dopaminergic Receptor Subtypes in the Nucleus Accumbens, Amygdala, and Medial Prefrontal Cortex by Danielle C. Malkusz Systemic administration of dopamine (DA) D1 (SCH23390) and D2 (raclopride) antagonists blocked both acquisition and expression of fructose-conditioned flavor preferences (CFP). It is unclear what brain circuits are involved in mediating these effects. The present study investigated DA signaling within the nucleus accumbens shell (NAC), amygdala (AMY) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in the acquisition and expression of fructose-CFP. In Experiment 1, separate groups of rats were injected daily in the NAC or AMY with saline, SCH23390 (24 nmol) or raclopride (24 nmol) prior to training sessions with a flavor (CS+) mixed with 8% fructose and 0.2% saccharin (CS+/F) and a different flavor (CS-) mixed with only 0.2% saccharin. In two-bottle choice tests with the CS+ or CS- flavor presented in a 0.2% saccharin solution, only rats injected with raclopride in the AMY failed to acquire a CS+ preference (45-54%). In Experiment 2, new rats were identically trained, but saline, SCH23390 and raclopride were injected in the mPFC. In subsequent two-bottle choice tests, SCH23390 -and raclopride -treated rats failed to exhibit a CS+ preference (50-56%). In Experiment 3, new rats were trained with CS+/F and CS-without injections. Subsequent two-bottle choice tests were then conducted following bilateral injections of SCH23390 or raclopride in the mPFC at total doses of 12, 24 and 48 nmol. Expression of the CS+ preference failed to be affected by either antagonist, indicating that the mPFC is not involved in the maintenance of this preference. These data indicate that the acquisition of fructose-CFP is dependent on DA signaling in the mPFC and AMY.