Cognitive Underpinnings of Positive Emotion Disruption in Depression (PI: Michael Vanderlind)
There is extensive evidence that positive emotions are beneficial. Indeed, positive emotions have been linked to greater levels of sociability and originality and have been shown to predict increased resilience and life satisfaction over time. Some individuals, however, exhibit difficulties experiencing and maintaining positive emotion. In fact, markedly diminished levels of positive affect are a hallmark feature of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Thus, research aimed at identifying factors associated positive emotion disruptions is needed in order to refine interventions for this pervasive disorder. Previous research has demonstrated that biases in attention are associated with negative emotion dysregulation. No study, however, has examined the role that cognition plays in the regulation of positive affect. This study therefore seeks to examine the relations among attention, major depression, and subjective and electrocortical measures of positive emotion regulation.
Anticipating an Uncertain Future: Anxious Apprehension in Anxiety and Depression (PI: Ema Tanovic)
Uncertainty is ubiquitous. Most of the situations that we encounter in our daily lives are characterized by some degree of uncertainty, and individuals vary in their ability to tolerate this. In particular, individuals with anxiety and depression report experiencing more distress in the face of uncertainty and score more highly on measures of intolerance of uncertainty than do healthy individuals (Mahoney & McEvoy, 2012). The goal of this project is to characterize how anxious and depressed individuals anticipate uncertain outcomes. We are doing this using multiple methods (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging, event-related potentials, and behavioral tasks) and are examining how this anticipation process may affect domains like decision making, emotion, cognitive control, and memory.
Cognitive and Neural Underpinnings of Worry and Rumination (PI: Elizabeth [Libby] Lewis)
A key determinant of an individual’s happiness is the ability to regulate emotion effectively by “controlling” thoughts; a pitfall of this may be the faulty planning and reflecting that occurs in worry and rumination. Worry is defined as negative repetitive thought about possible future events (Borkovec & Inz, 1990), whereas rumination is defined as negative repetitive thought about past events (Nolen-Hoeksema et al., 2008). Although these processes share several characteristics, research has demonstrated that they are dissociable constructs (Kircanski, in press). However, very few studies have delineated the neural underpinnings of worry and rumination. By doing this, we may be able to elucidate what differentiates healthy processing of emotions from the pernicious processing that occurs in uncontrollable worry and rumination.
Control When It Counts: Emotion Regulation and Executive Control Under Stress (PI: Meghan Quinn)
Deficits in executive control are thought to contribute to an inability to effectively regulate emotions. For some individuals, deficits in executive control emerge only in response to stress exposure. Thus, for certain individuals, when executive control may be needed to regulate emotions during a stressful event, executive control is compromised. Yet it remains unclear whether stress-induced decline in executive control is related to the ability to use emotion regulation strategies during times of stress. The current study investigates the impact of stress exposure on executive control as well as the relation between stress-induced decline in executive control and ability to use a variety of emotion regulation strategies.
Emotional and Physiological Consequences of Capitalization and Discounting (PIs: Aleena Hay and Michael Vanderlind)
There is now amounting evidence that sharing positive news with other individuals is linked to many positive psychological consequences. It remains unclear, however, if negative responses to positive events (i.e., discounting) can reduce positive affect among those that share good news. This study explores the emotional, behavioral, and physiological consequences of capitalization and discounting. Additionally, we explore the mechanisms underlying emotional and physiological responses as well as their relationship to clinical symptoms such as depression and hypomania.
Emotion Regulation Strategies and their Differential Influence on Attention (PIs: Hannah Raila & Michael Vanderlind)
Two important emotion regulation strategies (reappraisal and distraction) are often used to help reduce unwanted negative emotions like sadness, anger, and fear. Attention allocation is purported to play an important role in how distraction works - that is, by allotting attention to unrelated neutral stimuli, distraction can reduce the felt emotional impact of a negative stimulus at hand. This study looks at whether reappraisal - that is, thinking about the negative stimulus at hand in more neutral terms - also changes how people allot their attention to a negative stimulus. By directly comparing the attentional results of reappraisal vs. distraction, we can better understand cognitive mechanisms involved in each of these important strategies, with an ultimate goal of improving emotion regulation skills to optimize emotion experience.
The Role of Self-Focus in Social Anxiety (PI: Victoria Lawlor)
It is commonly understood that self focus - that is, allotting attention to internal cues and sensations - is a common but maladaptive phenomenon for people with social anxiety. This is based on an understanding that internal focus can increase situational anxiety for the socially anxious person. However, self-focused attention could additionally be maladaptive in that it depletes cognitive resources and takes away attention from the external environment, which could lead to difficulty with social tasks such as maintaining a conversation. This study tests this by examining whether self focused attention in socially anxious subjects leads to performance difficulties on attention tasks.