Author Interviews, Gender Differences, OBGYNE, Psychological Science, Sexual Health / 11.02.2019 Interview with: Dr. Alexander Lischke, Dipl.-Psych. Universität Greifswald Institut für Psychologie Physiologische und Klinische Psychologie/Psychotherapie University of Greifswald, Germany What is the background for this study? Response: We know for a long time that cyclic variations in womens' estrogen and progesterone levels affect their emotion recognition abilities by modulating neural activity in brain regions implicated in emotion processing. We also know that oral contraceptives suppress cyclic variations in womens' estrogen and progesterone levels. We, thus, assumed that oral contraceptives would affect womens' emotion recognition abilities due to the aforementioned suppression of cylic variations in estrogen and progesterone levels that modulate neural activity in brain regions during emotion processing. To test this assumption, at least with respect to the behavioral effects of oral contraceptive use on emotion recognition, we performed the current study. We recruited regular cylcling women with and without oral contraceptive use for our study. None of the women were in psychotherapeutical or psychopharmacological treatment at the time of the study. During the study, women performed a emotion recognition task that required the recognition of complex emotional expressions like, for example, pride or contempt. (more…)
Author Interviews, Social Issues / 18.12.2018 Interview with: Alice Verstaen, PhD VA Puget Sound Health Care System What is the background for this study? Response: The study began in the 1980s in Dr. Levenson’s laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley in collaboration with Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington and Dr. Laura Carstensen at Stanford University. Prior to this study, most research on marriage had focused on younger marriages that ended in separation and divorce. Our study was designed to focus on marriages that had lasted for many years. The idea was that these successful longer-term marriages could provide important clues as to what makes marriages succeed and stay together over time.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Lipids, Psychological Science / 12.09.2017 Interview with: Jiah Yoo Ph.D. Student in Social Psychology University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI 53706 What is the background for this study? Response: A growing number of studies have shown that positive emotions predict better physical health. However, a caveat of these findings is that most studies have been conducted with Western samples. As cultural psychologists, we have learned that European American cultural contexts are particular in that positive emotions are highly valued and emphasized. For example, in East Asian cultures, it is a commonly shared view that positive emotions have some dark sides such as that they are fleeting, may attract unnecessary attention from others, and can be a distraction from focusing on important tasks. Given the cultural differences in emotions, we thought it would be important to test whether the established link between positive emotion and enhanced physical health are relevant to other cultural contexts, such as those in East Asia. We focused on blood lipids profiles, one of the major risk factors for heart diseases, as objective measures of health. Because of the global prevalence of coronary artery diseases, blood lipids are considered important indices of biological health in many Western and East Asian countries. In addition, blood lipids are largely influenced by lifestyles and behavioral factors so we further tested the role of various health behaviors (i.e., dietary habits, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption) in the lipids-emotion link in different cultures. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Microbiome / 01.06.2017 Interview with: Dr. Gerard Clarke PhD APC Microbiome Institute Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioural Science University College Cork, Cork, Ireland What is the background for this study? Response: Over the last decade or so, we and others have shown that the gut microbiome exerts a broad influence on the central nervous system, reflected in a range of abnormal behaviours and altered brain function in germ-free animals. These germ-free animals grow up in a sterile bubble and allow us to see what aspects of brain and behaviour could be under the influence of the microorganisms in our gastrointestinal tract. One of the most consistent findings to emerge relates to anxiety-like behaviours. (more…)
Author Interviews, Memory / 04.03.2017 Interview with: Signy Sheldon, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Psychology McGill University Montreal, QC, CAN What is the background for this study? Response: It is clear to most people that emotion and memory are strongly linked - thinking about our past experiences is often accompanied with a strong feelings, sometimes good and sometimes bad. In psychological research, many investigations have looked at how emotional memories are remembered differently than non-emotional memories. A lot of this research has found that the valence of a memory, whether it is positive or negative, will impact how detailed a past event can be recalled. Much less research as looked at how the emotions we feel at the time of remembering can also influence the way that memory is recalled. This is a very important area of research. If emotions during remembering can influence what memories are accessed and how we experience these memories, this would suggest that our memories are tagged and organized according to emotions. In this study, we looked at how different aspects of emotion can affect the types of past experiences we bring to mind to further investigate how emotions direct memory retrieval. To do this, we had participants listen to unfamiliar excerpts of music that ranged in both memory valence (positive and negative) and arousal (high or low levels). To each piece of music, participants were asked to think of a past memory and then describe their experience of that event they were remembering. (more…)
Author Interviews, Duke, Medical Imaging, MRI, PLoS, Psychological Science, Social Issues / 15.09.2016 Interview with: Kevin S. LaBar, Ph.D. Professor and Head, Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience Program Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies in Neuroscience Center for Cognitive Neuroscience Duke University Durham, NC What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Emotion research is limited by a lack of objective markers of emotional states. Most human research relies on self-report, but individuals may not have good insight into their own emotions. We have developed a new way to identify emotional states using brain imaging and machine learning tools. First, we induced emotional states using film and music clips while individuals were in an MRI scanner. We trained a computer algorithm to identify the brain areas that distinguished 7 emotions from each other (fear, anger, surprise, sadness, amusement, contentment, and a neutral state). This procedure created a brain map for each of the 7 emotions. Then, a new group of participants self-reported their emotional state every 30 seconds in an MRI scanner while no stimuli were presented. We could predict which emotion was spontaneously reported by the subjects by comparing their brain scans to each of the 7 emotion maps. Finally, in a large group of 499 subjects, we found that the presence of the fear map during rest predicted state and trait anxiety while the presence of the sadness map predicted state and trait depression. (more…)
Author Interviews, Insomnia, Psychological Science / 12.09.2015

Markus Jansson-Fröjmark PhD Associate professor, clinical psychologist Department of Psychology Stockholm University Interview with: Markus Jansson-Fröjmark PhD Associate professor, clinical psychologist Department of Psychology Stockholm University   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: There is ample evidence suggesting that how people regulate their emotions might influence several types of psychopathology, including anxiety and mood disorders. The purpose of our longitudinal investigation was therefore to examine the association between emotion regulation and how insomnia develops over time. Our main finding was that people whose ability to regulate their emotions had diminished were more likely to develop insomnia and that it was more likely to be persistent. A reduced ability to regulate emotions was associated with an 11% increased risk of developing a new bout of insomnia or reporting persistent insomnia. For anyone that has to deal with insomnia on a daily basis, they may find that is can effect a large part of their lives. Sleep is important for even, as it allows us all to function properly throughout the day. When it comes to Insomnia, there is medication out there that people can take that may help them with this issue. A popular method of treatment is through the use of medical marijuana. If this is something that you have been planning on trying, you would need to obtain your medical marijuana card in Cincinnati (if you live in this city) before you could start receiving product. Hopefully this will help with your insomnia and provide you with a better quality of sleep. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research / 09.05.2015

Rebecca Todd Ph.D. Assistant Professor University of British Columbia Department of Psychology Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability Vancouver, Interview with: Rebecca Todd Ph.D. Assistant Professor University of British Columbia Department of Psychology Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability Vancouver, BC Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Todd: This study brings together two lines of research. First, a couple of years ago my colleagues and I reported that in general people literally see emotional aspects of the world as more vivid - as if they burn more brightly on the eye - than mundane things. We call this effect emotionally enhanced vividness, or EEV. Here we wanted to look at how this phenomenon of emotionally enhanced vividness might differ between individuals. Second, in another previous study we found that people who carry a very common variation in the ADRA2b gene, which influences levels of norepinephrine (a neuromodulator in the brain that is important to the stress response and for emotional influences on memory) were more likely to have their attention captured by emotionally relevant aspects of the world. We also found that how arousing they perceived an event to be at the time it happened predicted how well they remembered it better than for people who did not carry this variation. Here we continued to examine what is unique to this group of people by testing to see if they showed higher levels of the other phenomenon we had found, emotionally enhanced vividness, and what patterns of brain activation would play a role. (more…)