Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Object Relations, Internal Resources, and HIV/AIDS Risk: A Rorschach Study

    Author:
    Virginia Andersen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Arietta Slade
    Abstract:

    Abstract The purpose of this study was to explore the quality of Rorschach scores of a population who self-reported sexual risk-taking behaviors that place them at increased risk for contracting HIV. It was hypothesized that this group would produce scores indicative of fewer internal resources available for impulse inhibition, specifically capacity for affect regulation and stress tolerance. It was further predicted that a measure of object relations would indicate that study participants would generally experience interpersonal interactions as imbalanced and possibly threatening. This group produced significantly lower scores with regard to affect regulation, but did not differ from the normed, non-clinical sample with regard to stress tolerance. Further, study participants produced scores in the healthy range on the measure of object relational development. The potential theoretical and clinical implications of this finding are discussed.

  • DISSOCIATION AND POTENTIAL SPACE ON THE RORSCHACH AS PREDICTORS OF CONCURRENT PTSD AND SUBSTANCE DEPENDENCE TREATMENT OUTCOMES

    Author:
    Stephen Anen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Denise Hien
    Abstract:

    Both posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders (SUD) are ongoing public health crises. Dissociative experiences are considered core processes within both of these conditions (van der Kolk & van der Hart, 1989; Briere & Runtz, 1987; Schafer et al., 2010). Dissociation, which involves the compartmentalization of psychic experience, also exerts a significant influence over psychotherapies that aim to address both PTSD and SUD (Davidson & Foa, 1991; Spitzer, Barnow, Freyberger, & Grabe, 2007). However, dissociation is a wide concept that encompasses several perceptual, cognitive, affective, memory, and self-state processes (Bernstein & Putnam, 1986; Briere, Weathers, & Runtz, 2005). Through separate self-reports and projective measures that operationalize dissociation in distinct ways, this study investigated the quality and intensity of dissociative experiences in a sample of treatment-seeking individuals with comorbid PTSD and SUD. Additionally, this dissertation explored whether these measures of dissociation had significant relationships with treatment outcome. Results: Cross-sectional correlation analysis identified convergence between certain measures of dissociation, but not others. Within hierarchical regression analysis, specific subscales of dissociation demonstrated discrepant relationships with response-to-treatment variables. Altogether, this study further evidenced the multidimensional nature of dissociative processes and, subsequently, the value of multi-method assessment. In addition, separate types of dissociation appeared to differentially influence treatment, indicating a pathway through which to improve customization of treatment planning.

  • Increasing the Variability of Verbal Responding in Children and Adolescents with Autism Using a Conjunctive-Differential Reinforcement Schedule

    Author:
    Paul Argott
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Nancy Hemmes
    Abstract:

    A procedure intended to teach variation in appropriate verbal responding to an antecedent stimulus was systematically manipulated for 5 individuals with autism. Four antecedent stimuli that include the clause, "else do you like to do" were presented in a varying order. Five responses that were appropriate to any of the antecedent stimuli were taught using a script-fading procedure. Percentage of varied verbal responses was studied under a conjunctive-differential reinforcement procedure using a multiple-baseline-across-subjects experimental design. Under a modified percentile requirement of the conjunctive schedule, responses were ranked according to their frequency of emission after every session and reinforcement was omitted for the 2 most frequent responses on the subsequent session. Under a lag-1 schedule requirement, reinforcement was omitted for consecutive occurrences of a given response within a given session. Data showed that the percentage of responses meeting the conjunctive schedule requirement increased with the systematic implementation of the schedule. A variability measure showed that responses were more stereotyped during baseline sessions in comparison to treatment sessions. Comparisons between the numbers of different statements emitted by individuals with autism versus those of their typically developing peers suggest that further research is necessary to increase responding to a typical level. Nevertheless, responses by teachers and parents to a social validity questionnaire suggest that the procedure could be applied in clinical and home settings and used to increase varied verbal responding.

  • Construction of a Forced-Choice Task for the Assessment of Factual Understanding and Feigning in Competency to Stand Trial Evaluations

    Author:
    Elizabeth Arias
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michele Galietta
    Abstract:

    Psychologists are commonly called upon to conduct evaluations of a defendant's competency to stand trial. Under Dusky v. United States (1960) the legal criteria for competency to stand trial were enumerated and since then, a number of standardized assessment instruments that aim to assess those criteria have been developed, each with its own noted strengths and weaknesses. Although there are several instruments available to aid clinicians in these types of evaluations, only three include screens for feigning, and only one assesses for feigned cognitive impairment. In the current research an instrument was constructed to assess for competence related knowledge, while also incorporating several logical and statistical methods to assess for a feigned lack of knowledge of the legal system, including forced-choice testing, floor effect strategies, and completion time methodologies. The Factual Understanding Instrument (FUI) was constructed over five studies. Studies 1-3 involved instrument construction and included a review of the literature, a critical incidents phase with experts in the field, and item construction. Studies 4-5 focused on item evaluation and included an expert review of the constructed items and the pilot testing of the FUI in a simulation study with unimpaired college students. In study 5, multiple statistical analyses were conducted to evaluate the FUI items and the various feigning detection strategies. In this sample reliability of the FUI was high. Items were relatively easy for honest responding participants, with many scoring near perfect. Feigning participants did not score as low as would be predicted by symptom validity testing, as responses varied from less than 50% correct to values seen in honest responders. Intelligence level, item difficulty, and response condition were found to be significant predictors in responses to FUI items. Completion time was not supported as a feigning detection method as hypothesized, however, alternative interpretations of the theory are offered. Further research on the FUI with a known-groups sample in forensic settings is needed to establish a floor value, to further evaluate item performance, and to improve the external validity of the current research. Research methodologies and future directions are offered.

  • SUPRASPINAL AND SPINAL MECHANISMS OF MORPHINE-INDUCED HYPERALGESIA

    Author:
    Caroline Arout
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Benjamin Kest
    Abstract:

    Morphine is the most prominent pharmacological treatment for moderate to severe pain in both acute and chronic paradigms. However, morphine notoriously elicits a paradoxical state of increased pain sensitivity known as hyperalgesia that complicates its use in clinical application. Research over the past three decades has reported that morphine-induced hyperalgesia is dose- and sex-dependent, and likely involves the synchronous activity of several neural networks beyond the opioid system. Whereas systemic, supraspinal, and spinal administration of morphine all cause hyperalgesia that is differentially reversible by N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonists or melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) antagonists, it is unknown as to whether or not these non-opioid systems that contribute to this state are located supraspinally or spinally. The current studies were performed with the goal of elucidating the precise location of regulatory action of this sex- and dose- dependent state of morphine hyperalgesia. In all studies, outbred CD-1 male and female mice were pretreated with the general opioid receptor antagonist, naltrexone (NTX) 24 hours prior to morphine treatment. All mice were subsequently implanted with osmotic pumps, continuously dispensing a low (1.6mg/kg/24h) or high dose of morphine (40mg/kg/24h). As noted previously, mice of both sexes were hyperalgesic by Day 4 of continuous infusion of either morphine dose, a state that persisted through Day 6 of infusion. The first series demonstrated that NMDAR and MC1R systems that mediate this morphine-induced hyperalgesic state are located supraspinally, as intracerebroventricular injections of MK-801 and MSG606, respectively successfully reversed hyperalgesia during a one-hour testing period. A second series of studies investigated possible involvement of spinal systems. Whereas intrathecal MK-801 significantly reversed hyperalgesia in males at both doses, and females at the low morphine infusion dose, spinal administration of MSG606 significantly reduced hyperalgesia in females following continuous high dose morphine infusion. This indicates that the sex-dependent mechanism involved in morphine-induced hyperalgesia is located supraspinally and spinally, and either locus can independently modulate female-typical hyperalgesia. A third series of studies investigated hormonally-regulated mechanisms involved in morphine-induced hyperalgesia. Ovariectomized females displayed male-typical patterns of hyperalgesia after i.c.v. and i.t. antagonist injection paradigms following continuous infusion of either dose of morphine on Day 4. On Day 6, NMDAR and MC1R antagonist injections were preceded by an acute systemic progesterone injection in ovariectomized female mice, and intact male mice. Following continuous morphine infusion, ovariectomized females displayed male-typical patterns of hyperalgesic reversal. However, following progesterone administration, hyperalgesia elicited by high doses of morphine was reversed by i.c.v. injection of MK-801 and MSG606 in both males and ovariectomized females. Conversely, following i.t. injections the data show that ovariectomized females are able to recruit the NMDAR or MC1R system, while males exclusively used the NMDAR system to mediate hyperalgesia. The current studies indicate that in terms of modulating morphine-induced hyperalgesia, there are both supraspinally- and spinally-regulated sex-dependent effects that mediate morphine-induced hyperalgesia.

  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Biomarkers for the Differential Diagnosis of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus and Alzheimers Disease

    Author:
    Stephanie Assuras
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Lisa Ravdin
    Abstract:

    Differential diagnosis of Idiopathic Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) is complicated by symptomatic overlap with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimers Disease (AD). Efforts to improve diagnosis through the use of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers have led to the identification of more than a dozen potential diagnostic markers for NPH. However, no single biomarker has proven sufficient for differential diagnosis in clinical practice. The current study uses proteomic analysis of CSF to identify sets of protein markers that are expressed differentially in NPH and AD. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis was used to analyze the CSF of 8 probable NPH and 8 probable AD patients. Gels were stained with SYPRO Ruby and the percentage volume of over 1339 spots was determined. The Random Forest statistical method was used to identify proteins that optimally segregated NPH cases from AD. Protein identification was achieved by the use of a previously published CSF map and mass spectrometry. Eleven protein spots were found to optimally distinguish the groups, correctly classifying 100% of all NPH and AD samples. Of the 11 proteins of interest, six were identified and include the following: beta-trace, serum albumin A, serum albumin B, apolipoprotein A-IV precursor, pigment epithelium-derived factor, and complement component 3 precursor. The current study identifies CSF biomarkers that differentiate between NPH and AD cases. The highly successful separation of cases obtained in this study suggests that multiplexed CSF markers have the potential to improve the differential diagnosis of NPH from one of its most common competing diagnoses.

  • INTERPERSONAL RHYTHMS DISRUPTED BY A HISTORY OF TRAUMA: AN IN-DEPTH CASE STUDY OF ANALYTICAL MUSIC THERAPY

    Author:
    Tanja Auf der Heyde
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Steven Tuber
    Abstract:

    Abstract INTERPERSONAL RHYTHMS DISRUPTED BY A HISTORY OF TRAUMA: AN IN-DEPTH CASE STUDY OF ANALYTICAL MUSIC THERAPY by Tanja Maud Christine Auf der Heyde Advisor: Steven Tuber, Ph.D. This dissertation project is a phenomenological study of interpersonal rhythms within the music therapy treatment of a client with a history of cumulative trauma. An attempt was made to explore whether and how rhythmic interactions within musical improvisations facilitate the repair of ruptures in such rhythms. Towards this aim, the rhythmic interactions between the two participants were analyzed to find evidence for bi-directional rhythmic co-regulation and loose mid-range coordination. Furthermore, this study tracked shifts in the client's mental state by applying a moment-to-moment analysis of the music with four Improvisation Assessment Profiles (IAPs). It was found that musical improvisation allows for ample opportunities for bi-directional co-regulation and loose mid-range coordination. Most of the mental state ratings were within the "optimal arousal state," suggesting that music does, in fact, facilitate regulation on both intrapsychic and interpersonal levels. However, this study also uncovered the importance of spontaneous and planned disruptions in rhythmic interaction, which find their musical expression in syncopations, polyrhythms, and a-rhythmic sections. These experiences are deeply embedded in the body. Thus, they provide the opportunity not only for reconnecting with one's own rhythms, and for reconstructing a disrupted expectation system within an improvisation, but also for finding agency in the playful thwarting of expectations, and for exploring the continuum of separation and connectedness in a musical relationship. In this sense, music acts as a transitional phenomenon, creating an intermediate space between inner and outer worlds. In this "third" area of experiencing, both participants align with patterns that go beyond the sum of their contributions; when this state of flow is reached, one can feel that one is played by the music as much as one is playing it. The results of this study indicate that a close rhythmic analysis of improvised interactions can help music therapists to assess the client's level of trauma as well as to tailor interventions to move them out of the repetitious rhythms of hyper- and hypoarousal. For verbal psychotherapists and psychoanalysts, the implication is that rhythmically aware, embodied listening can open up new dimensions of transference and countertransference phenomena. To this end, clinicians should pay special attention to rhythmic shifts in affect, speech, and bodily gestures.

  • EVALUATING THE INFLUENCE OF DAUBERT'S CROSS-EXAMINATION SAFEGUARD ON ATTORNEYS' AND JURORS' JUDGMENTS ABOUT SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

    Author:
    Jacqueline Austin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Margaret Kovera
    Abstract:

    The Supreme Court's decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc clarified that federal trial judges were to serve as evidentiary gatekeepers for scientific evidence, evaluating scientific reliability when determining admissibility. When judges fail at gatekeeping and admit unreliable expert testimony, the Court expresses faith in the ability of cross-examination to reveal the reliability of testimony for jurors. For cross-examination to function as the Court intends, attorneys must recognize scientific flaws and craft cross-examination questions that expose scientific threats. Moreover, these scientifically informed cross-examinations must act as a form of scientific training for jurors. I conducted two studies to empirically examine the Court's assumptions regarding cross-examination. In Study One, 95 attorneys read a trial summary that contained expert testimony regarding an intelligence test. I varied the validity (presence v. absence of experimenter bias threat) and reliability (moderate v. high reliability indices on test-retest, inter-observer, and internal consistency scores) of the intelligence test. Attorneys provided lower ratings of scientific quality when the test was unreliable but did not craft cross-examination questions designed to expose the low reliability indices of the scientific test. Attorneys did not provide lower ratings of scientific quality when the intelligence test was invalid; however, a proportion of attorneys did craft cross-examination questions to expose the validity threat. In Study Two, I again varied the reliability and validity of the intelligence test and whether the cross-examination educated jurors about the study's flaws (scientifically informed vs. naïve). Either a judge or an attorney conducted the scientifically informed cross-examinations. Scientifically informed cross-examinations did not assist jurors with evaluating scientific reliability or validity. These studies suggest that cross-examinations may not function as a safeguard against flawed scientific evidence. Although some attorneys may be able to meet the Court's expectations, cross-examination may be an ineffective method of providing methodological training for jurors.

  • An Examination of Predictive Variables of Success in Mental Health Diversion Programs.

    Author:
    Virginia Barber Rioja
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Thomas Kucharski
    Abstract:

    Diversion programs were developed to ease the overrepresentation of individuals with psychiatric disorders in the criminal justice system. These programs divert individuals with mental illnesses out of jails into community treatment. Despite the increased popularity of these programs, little is known about the psychosocial, psychiatric and psychological characteristics of the diverted individuals. In addition, despite the importance of using standardized assessment instruments pre-diversion, no published study has attempted to evaluate the utility of risk assessment instruments or measures of malingering, personality or psychopathology in diverted offenders. This investigation attempted to address this gap in the literature through three different studies that (1) described a sample of 61 defendants released from jail in terms of demographical, clinical, and criminological characteristics; (2) determined the utility of the HCR-20 violence risk assessment scheme and the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL: SV) in the prediction of diversion non-compliance, and recidivism in a sample of 120 defendants, and (3) identified alternative factors that help defendants succeed in diversion through a multiple case-study design. Results revealed that this sample consisted primarily of minority male defendants with extensive histories of prior arrests, significant histories of physical abuse, homelessness and suicidality, and co-morbid substance abuse and psychiatric disorders. The findings provided preliminary validation of the predictive validity of the HCR-20 and PCL: SV with defendants diverted to community treatment. The HCR-20 was found to be superior to the PCL: SV in predicting both non-compliance and recidivism, and the PCL: SV proved to be more useful in predicting recidivism than non-compliance. Results of multiple case-studies found a pattern of characteristics shared by participants who failed diversion regardless of HCR-20 results. These variables included history of physical abuse, family history of substance abuse or criminal behavior, levels of social support, and level of responsibility taken for the instant offence.

  • 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.