Assistant Professor of Psychology Gili Freedman and colleague Dr. Jennifer Beer (University of Texas at Austin) recently received a collaborative, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for a total of $465,222 ($75,102 of which will go to SMCM). In the project titled “Collaborative Research: Lessening the Blow of Social Rejection,” Freedman and Beer will be investigating the language of social rejection and how power and concern for one’s reputation shape the way that individuals reject others. A central aim of the project is to develop empirically supported training that teaches individuals how to be less hurtful when they engage in social rejection. Starting this fall, Freedman will be working with SMCM collaborative research students on the first stages of the grant.
Read the award abstract on NSF’s website.
Williams. E. N. (2020). Research with underserved populations: Matching method to need. In J. Zimmerman, J. Barnett, & L. Campbell (Eds.), Bringing psychotherapy to the underserved: Challenges and strategies. New York: Oxford University Press.
Here is the abstract for the book chapter:
“The research findings to date are clear: health disparities exist and are persistent. This chapter explores current research strategies and considers additional, less often employed methodologies in the area of mental health disparities. In particular, previous correlational and survey studies examining barriers to treatment are reviewed. In addition to understanding barriers to treatment, however, we need to focus on what works for underserved populations. Additional experimental studies of treatment modalities (e.g., tele-health), the impact of integrated care and geographic access, and the use of cultural and language-sensitive programs seem timely. Additional qualitative studies of individual experiences within various underserved populations will also help us devise innovative treatment approaches. By matching method to need, we will be able to find new ways to help underserved populations decide to seek help, access the care they need, and receive the best psychotherapeutic treatments available.”
Congratulations to Dr. Gili Freedman on her recent publication!
Freedman, G., Brandler, S. & Beer, J. S. (2019). Does engaging in social rejection heighten or diminish social processing? Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/23743603.2019.1684820
Engaging in social rejection can lead to feeling both increased social power and decreased belongingness. Yet, social power is associated with diminished social sensitivity, whereas threatened belongingness can enhance social sensitivity. In a registered report, Freedman and coauthors tested these competing hypotheses of how engaging in social rejection may affect social sensitivity. Contrary to the competing hypotheses tested, they did not find evidence that social rejection, compared to social acceptance, led to increased or decreased social sensitivity. An exploratory analysis found that men who engaged in rejection showed decreased social sensitivity compared to men who did not engage in rejection.
Congratulations to Dr. Gina Fernandez on her recent publication, “General Anesthetic Exposure in Adolescent Rats Causes Persistent Maladaptations in Cognitive and Affective Behaviors and Neuroplasticity” in the journal Neuropharmacology.
In the article, Fernandez and her coauthors examine evidence that indicates that exposure to general anesthetics during infancy and childhood can cause persistent cognitive impairment, alterations in synaptic plasticity, and increased incidence of behavioral disorders.
Publisher link abstract: Accumulating evidence indicates that exposure to general anesthetics during infancy and childhood can cause persistent cognitive impairment, alterations in synaptic plasticity, and, to a lesser extent, increased incidence of behavioral disorders. Unfortunately, the developmental parameters of susceptibility to general anesthetics are not well understood. Adolescence is a critical developmental period wherein multiple late developing brain regions may also be vulnerable to enduring general anesthetic effects. Given the breadth of the adolescent age span, this group potentially represents millions more individuals than those exposed during early childhood. In this study, isoflurane exposure within a well-characterized adolescent period in Sprague-Dawley rats elicited immediate and persistent anxiety- and impulsive-like responding, as well as delayed cognitive impairment into adulthood. These behavioral abnormalities were paralleled by atypical dendritic spine morphology in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus (HPC), suggesting delayed anatomical maturation, and shifts in inhibitory function that suggest hypermaturation of extrasynaptic GABAA receptor inhibition. Preventing this hypermaturation of extrasynaptic GABAA receptor-mediated function in the PFC selectively reversed enhanced impulsivity resulting from adolescent isoflurane exposure. Taken together, these data demonstrate that the developmental window for susceptibility to enduring untoward effects of general anesthetics may be much longer than previously appreciated, and those effects may include affective behaviors in addition to cognition.
Congratulations to Dr. Nathan Foster on his recent publication, “Why Does Interleaving Improve Math Learning? The Contributions of Discriminative Contrast and Distributed Practice” in the journal Memory & Cognition.
In the article, Foster and his coauthors examine why interleaved practice of materials has been shown to enhance test performance.
Interleaved practice involves studying exemplars from different categories in a non-systematic, pseudorandom order under the constraint that no two exemplars from the same category are presented consecutively. Interleaved practice of materials has been shown to enhance test performance compared to blocked practice in which exemplars from the same category are studied together. Why does interleaved practice produce this benefit? We evaluated two non-mutually exclusive hypotheses, the discriminative-contrast hypothesis and the distributed-practice hypothesis, by testing participants’ performance on calculating the volume of three-dimensional geometric shapes. In Experiment 1, participants repeatedly practiced calculating the volume of four different-sized shapes according to blocked practice, interleaved practice, or remote-interleaved practice (which involved alternating the practice of volume calculation with non-volume problems, like permutations and fraction addition). Standard interleaving enhanced performance compared to blocked practice but did not produce enhanced performance compared to remote interleaving. In Experiment 2, we replicated this pattern and extended the results to include a remote-blocked group, which involved blocking volume calculation with non-volume problems. Performance on key measures was better for remote-interleaved groups compared to remote-blocked groups, a finding that supports the distributed-practice hypothesis.
Congratulations to Dr. Gili Freedman on her recent publication, “Obituaries can Popularize Science and Health: Stephen Hawking and Interest in Cosmology and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis” in Psychology of Popular Media Culture.
Freedman’s research examines the influence of physicist Stephen Hawking’s death on public interest in science topics related to his work. She also examines whether the representation of male versus female physicists quoted in the obituary increased perceptions of gender equity in science.
Congratulations to Dr. Libby Nutt Williams on her recent publication, “Turning 50: Past Presidents Reflect on What We Have Learned in our First Half Century” in the journal Psychotherapy.
In the article, Williams asks Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy past presidents to reflect on the role of Division 29 of the American Psychological Association and to consider the future as they reach an important birthday milestone of turning 50.
Congratulations to Dr. Nathan Foster on his recent publication, “Self-regulated Learning of Principle-based Concepts: Do Students Prefer Worked Examples, Faded Examples, or Problem Solving?” in the journal Learning and Instruction.
In the article, Foster and his coauthors examined the effectiveness of different methods students used to solve probability problems.
Publisher link abstract: Acquisition of principle-based concepts involves learning how and when to apply a specific principle to different instances of the same problem type. Within this domain, learning is best achieved when practice involves studying worked examples followed by problem solving. When given the choice to use worked examples versus problem solving, how do people regulate their learning? Furthermore, do they use faded examples effectively when given the opportunity during learning? In three experiments, participants learned how to solve probability problems under practice conditions involving either (a) a combined schedule of worked examples, partial examples (Experiments 2 and 3), and problem solving, (b) problem solving only, or (c) self-regulated learning in which participants could choose a worked example, a partial example (Experiments 2 and 3), or problem solving on each trial. Self-regulated learners chose to study worked examples on fewer than 40% of the trials and seldom did so prior to problem solving. However, participants did regulate their learning effectively when they could use partial examples during practice. Participants also demonstrated some sophisticated problem solving, such as by studying worked examples more often after failed versus successful problem-solving attempts.
Katie Robey ‘19, a biochemistry major and neuroscience minor, and biology major and neuroscience minor Brooke Steinhoff ’19 both received grants in support of their joint St. Mary’s Project in Psychology, “Antidepressant efficacy of L-655,708 following infusion into the medial prefrontal cortex,” which is being mentored by Dr. Aileen Bailey.
Project abstract: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in the United States, as it affects around 1 in 5 Americans at some point in their lifetime (Hasin et al.,
2018) . Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common therapeutic treatment employed, despite the fact that these prescriptions are only effective in half of patients
and take several weeks for symptomatic relief to be experienced (Fischell, Van Dyke, Kvarta, LeGates, & Thompson, 2015) . Previous studies have found evidence that links the etiology of
depression with decreases in glutamatergic transmission and expression in neuronal regions associated with reward processing (Thompson et al., 2015; Yuen et al., 2012). The present study
aims at investigating the fast-acting antidepressant value of the drug L-655,708, a negative allosteric modulator of GABA A receptors containing alpha-5 subunits, following direct infusions
into the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Baseline depressive-like behaviors will be measured through the employment of the novelty-suppressed feeding (NSF) test, social interaction test
(SIT), sucrose preference test (SPT), and open field test (OFT) in an animal model of depression. Following 28 days of exposure to a chronic unpredictable stress paradigm, the rats will be
surgically implanted with guide cannulas and will receive direct infusions into the mPFC of either L-655,708 or a vehicle. We hypothesize that the rats that receive L-655,708 will show
significant decreases in the depressive-like behaviors measured by each of the tests as compared to the vehicle group. The outcome of this study may provide support for targeting the mPFC as
an option for the therapeutic treatment of depression.