New Research From Clinical Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Clinical Psychological Science:

Daily Actigraphy Profiles Distinguish Depressive and Interepisode States in Bipolar Disorder

Anda Gershon, Nilam Ram, Sheri L. Johnson, Allison G. Harvey, and Jamie M. Zeitzer

Bipolar disorder (BD) is characterized, in part, by disruption in physical activity; however, few studies have adequately tracked activity levels in BD to see if they are truly an indicator of mood states. Participants with and without BD wore a watch-based activity-monitoring device for 3 months. Participants completed demographic, symptom, and medication assessments at the beginning of each month. Depressive states were found to be characterized by an overall lower activity level, whereby activity onset occurred later in the day, was elevated in midday, and was lower in the evening. No distinct pattern of activity was found for hypomanic/manic periods. These findings may help researchers and clinicians better identify mood states in patients, leading to more effective and faster treatment.

Nilam Ram will speak in the invited symposium “Adult Development in the Social World” at the 28th APS Annual Convention in Chicago, Illinois, USA

Affective Disruption From Social Rhythm and Behavioral Approach System (BAS) Sensitivities: A Test of the Integration of the Social Zeitgeber and BAS Theories of Bipolar Disorder

Elaine M. Boland, Jonathan P. Stange, Denise R. LaBelle, Benjamin G. Shapero, Rachel B. Weiss, Lyn Y. Abramson, and Lauren B. Alloy

The researchers examined whether the integration of two leading biopsychological theories — behavioral approach system (BAS)/reward theory and social zeitgeber theory — may help explain affective dysregulation that occurs in people with bipolar spectrum disorders. Adolescents categorized as having high or moderate BAS sensitivity were assessed for affective disorders, schizophrenia, depression, and mania and for their experiences of different life events. The researchers found that people high in BAS sensitivity have increased exposure to BAS-relevant life events compared with those who have moderate BAS sensitivity, and that this increased exposure leads to heightened social-rhythm disruption. Social-rhythm disruption, in turn, leads to the development of hypomanic or depressive symptoms. This finding is what would be expected based on the integration of the two models, providing support for this conceptualization of affective disruption.

Self-Distancing Buffers High Trait Anxious Pediatric Cancer Caregivers Against Short- and Longer-Term Distress

Louis A. Penner, Darwin A. Guevarra, Felicity W. K. Harper, Jeffrey Taub, Sean Phipps, Terrance L. Albrecht, and Ethan Kross

Caregivers for a child with a severe illness are often present during difficult treatments and report that being present during these treatments is a significant source of stress. Caregivers cope with this stress unequally, and the researchers examined whether self-distancing during procedures explained this variability. Primary caregivers of children being treated for cancer were assessed for trait anxiety, anxiety immediately prior to treatments, and tendency to spontaneously self-distance while reflecting on the cancer treatment. Three months after the last data collection, caregivers reported their level of psychological distress. Ability to self-distance protected caregivers with high — but not low — trait anxiety against anticipatory stress and psychological distress 3 months later. These findings support the use of self-distancing as a technique to reduce caregiver stress.

Impaired Visual Cortical Processing of Affective Facial Information in Schizophrenia

Stephen Maher, Tor Ekstrom, and Yue Chen

People with schizophrenia display an impaired ability to process facial emotion. This is generally thought to arise from an affective processing problem; however, in this study, the authors examined whether this impairment might also be due to problems with visual processing. Participants with and without schizophrenia performed a forced-choice task in which they indicated which of two sequentially presented faces was more emotive (happy or sad). This task was meant to determine participants’ perceptual threshold for identifying emotion. These threshold levels were then used in a later task, performed in a functional magnetic resonance imager, in which participants indicated whether faces contained an emotive expression. Participants with schizophrenia had lower activation in the amygdala and visual cortex in response to emotion-containing faces, and activation occurred abnormally early in response to fear perception, indicating deficient affective and visual processing of emotion in schizophrenia.

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