Emotion regulationa under ambiguous circumstances: COVID-19 (PI: Jonas Everaert)
The Coronavirus Pandemic is a global public health crisis that is massively disrupting people’s day-to-days lives. We are conducting a daily diary study in a cohort of adults across the US to better understand how the COVID-19 outbreak and enforced guidelines to prevent its spread (e.g., social distancing, avoiding contact) impact mental health. We are investigating whether individual differences in how people regulate their emotions (alone and together with others) and interpret ambiguous social situations contribute to daily fluctuations in stress, anxiety, and depression.
Stress reactions in the lab vs. COVID-19 related-stress reactions in depression and pregnancy (PI: Reuma Gadassi Polack)
In the last three years our lab has conducted a study that examines if reactions to social stress in the lab during pregnancy is related to depression on the one hand, and to attention to infant and adult distress. We are currently in the process of contacting women who participated in that study and assessing the degree to which the current COVID-19 crisis is impacting their well-being and their parenting. We hope to identify factors which of the factors we assess in the lab predict functioning and well-being during real-life stressful situation.
Children and Adolescents’ daily emotional and social reactions during the COVID-19 crisis (PI: Reuma Gadassi Polack)
Last year we recruited 138 children and adolescents (age 8-15) from the New Haven county area who completed daily surveys for 21 days on their emotions, emotion-regulation strategies, social interactions with family members and friends, eating behaviors, and depressive symptoms. We are now in the process of asking these youth to participate in another, 28-day long, daily assessments of the same variables. We hope to see how the current crisis and changed social situation (less time with friends, additional time with immediate family) impacts children and adolescents’ mental health.
Depression history, emotion regulation, and parenting in times of COVID-19 crisis (PI: Reuma Gadassi Polack)
Parents of school-aged children are facing a particularly complex situation: They need to parent 24/7, many times they need to work, other times they face financial hardship, and of course there are health concerns, and sometimes sickness. To try and understand how to best help parents, we’re assessing how parental depression history (or lack thereof) and parental emotion regulation, together with childrens’ number and ages, as well as the pressure of work right now, are impacting parents’ well-being and their parenting style at this time.
Other Ongoing Studies:
Attention, emotion regulation, and depression during pregnancy (PI: Reuma Gadassi Polack)
Pregnancy is a time of change both physically and mentally. Studies have shown that during pregnancy women exhibit increased attention to infant-related stimuli. This increased attention likely contributes to higher maternal sensitivity and to more secure mother-child attachment. However, pregnancy is also a time of increased risk for depression; in fact, depression during pregnancy is as likely as postpartum depression, and it has effect on the mother, the baby, and their relationship. In the context of attention, studies show that pregnant women who suffer from depression show diminished attention to infant related stimuli. The present study uses advance eye-tracking methods and hormonal assessment to learn about attentional processes during pregnancy and to better understand how the ability to regulate one’s emotions might modulate the effect of depression.
Emotion dysregulation in children of mothers with depression (PI: Reuma Gadassi Polack)
Children whose mothers have a history of depression (vs. mothers with no depression history) are at increased risk for a variety of emotional and social problems, including increased risk for internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. One plausible mechanisms that underlies this increased risk is emotional dysregulation, which is a combination of irregular emotional reactivity combined with use of maladaptive emotion regulation strategies. These difficulties in emotion dysregulation are likely particularly problematic in the context of social interactions, where they could lead to increased interpersonal difficulties (e.g., more conflicts, more avoidance), or to increased reactivity to social situations (e.g., presenting with more depressive symptoms following social rejection). The present study is a multimethod assessment, combining functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and experience-sampling methodologies (daily surveys) that aims to see how youth at high (vs. low) risk respond to social situations in the lab (using fMRI) and in everyday life.
The Effects of Uncertainty on Anticipatory Cognition, Emotion, & Behavior (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 my program of research is to examine: (1) how uncertainty impacts multiple aspects of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responding; and (2) how individual differences in various stages of responding to uncertainty may confer risk for internalizing psychopathology. I investigate these questions using multiple methods, including event-related potentials, peripheral psychophysiology, and behavioral tasks.
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.
The Effect of Rumination on Working Memory and Reinforcement Learning (PI: Ashleigh Rutherford)
Anhedonia, a lack of pleasure in things an individual once enjoyed, and rumination, the process of perseverative and repetitive attention to specific thoughts, are hallmark features of depression (Nolen Hoeksema, 2000; Pizzagalli, 2014). Though rumination has generally been thought of as a process that works to maintain negative affect in depression by taxing working memory (Li et al., 2018), rumination may also interfere with one’s ability to learn from reinforcements and rewards in the environment. Thus, rumination may also preclude the ability to experience positive affect (i.e., anhedonia). This study takes a computational approach to understanding how the ability to learn from reinforcements may be disrupted for individuals high on trait rumination, and how working memory deficits may play a crucial role in this relation.