Fall 2019 Newsletter | Research Highlights

child watches TVPreschoolers Who Watch TV Sleep Less
UMass Amherst scientist’s ongoing sleep research looks into the impacts of TV on young children
Preschoolers who watch TV sleep significantly less than those who don’t, according to new research by University of Massachusetts Amherst neuroscientist Rebecca Spencer and developmental science graduate student Abigail Helm. More surprising to Spencer, known for her groundbreaking research into the role of naps in children’s memory and learning, 36 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds had TVs in their bedroom, and a third of those kids fell asleep with the TV on, often watching stimulating or violent adult programming. Read full article

naval soldier plays trumpetDo war commemorations influence support for solutions to conflict?
Hanne M. Watkins, postdoctoral research associate in the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program, and her advisor Bernhard Leidner were recently awarded a research grant from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. The grant will support their research on how war commemorations—for example, Memorial Day or Veterans Day—influence people's support for different types of solutions to geopolitical conflict. Read full article

woman looking at bright sunsetSex differences and cognition
In a paper recently published in the journal e-Neuro, Neuroscience and Behavior doctoral recipient Matthew LaClair, his advisor Agnès Lacreuse, and former postdoc Nicole Gervais examined whether biological sex influences some aspects of cognitive performance as well as neural connectivity measures in nonhuman primates. Read full article

zebra finch sits on branchStudying the Role of Inhibition and Neuro-estrogens in Bird Song
Neurobiologist Luke Remage-Healey, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences, recently received a five-year, $1.7 million grant, the renewal of a prior period of funding from the National Institutes of Health. He and colleagues plan to investigate fundamental mechanisms of how the brain learns and processes complex stimuli like birdsong. Read full article

USA city lights at night from satellite mapAdaptation to diversity: Individual and societal processes
In her latest article, Linda Tropp examines the adaptation of people in diverse environments. "With the historic rise in global migration in recent decades and the dispersion of diverse groups into new communities worldwide, greater levels of contact are occurring between social groups than ever before." Read full article

children raise their hands in classroomHow Can Diverse Classrooms Improve A Child's Learning?
Christina Rucinski, postdoctoral researcher, writes about results from her dissertation research studying classroom diversity in elementary schools. She found that a higher exposure to classroom diversity in kindergarten, first grade and second grade classrooms was associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety and problematic interactions with peers for these children when they got to third grade. She also says that evidence shows that exposure to same-race peers and teachers may have a positive impact on development, especially for children of color. Psychology Today

Hal Grotevant speaking at podiumNew directions in adoption
Hal Grotevant, Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology, traveled to Sydney Australia in August to give a series of presentations and consult with university and private sector practice colleagues about new directions in adoption in the United States and in New South Wales. As a speaker in several events, he highlighted the implications of his team’s longitudinal research with adoptive families on new open adoption practices in Australia. He also discussed innovative practices in working with families providing adoption and foster care. Read full article

Jeremy Spool holds a baby sea turtlePostdoctoral associate Jeremy Spool was awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate how the brain transitions from making sense of complex vocalizations to initiating social responses during interactions with other individuals. Spool will conduct his research in the lab of Luke Remage-Healey, investigating a neural circuit linking auditory cortex with social brain areas in songbirds. He is collaborating with NSB faculty members Joseph Bergan and Paul Katz. There is very little known about how areas of cortex that interpret the world around us interface with parts of the vertebrate brain that control social behavior. The goal of Spool’s work is to begin to shed light on these sensory-social area interfaces in the songbird brain.

A new book has been published by Oxford University Press: Principles of Change: How Psychotherapists Implement Research in Practice. This book, edited by Louis G. Castonguay, Michael J. Constantino, and Larry E. Beutler, constitutes a new approach to evidence-based psychotherapy that goes beyond the unidirectional dissemination of findings from researchers to clinicians. Rather, it first offers a review of 38 empirically based principles of therapeutic change grouped into five categories: client prognostic, treatment/provider moderating, client process, therapeutic relationship, and therapist interventions. Next, six therapists from diverse theoretical orientations describe in rich detail how they would implement each of these principles vis-a-vis standardized clinical vignettes. The book also offers a dialogue between researchers and clinicians on several key issues for implementing empirical findings, as well as for future research. Through its synergy, Principles of Change lays the foundation for further collaborations and partnerships between stakeholders in mental health services. A copy of the book can now be pre-ordered through Oxford University Press or Amazon.

Linda Tropp presented "Understanding the Nature of Intergroup Bias and Transforming Relations Between Groups" at the IBREA Foundation's Peace and the Brain conference held at the United Nations, attended by a wide variety of people including educators, students, and NGO and government representatives. Read more about the event

The Periera Lab recently published a paper in the Journal of Neuroendocrinology entitled "Depression‐related disturbances in rat maternal behaviour are associated with altered monoamine levels within mesocorticolimbic structures." Read full article

Janna Mantua ‘18 had a publication accepted in Brain Injury; the study is entitled 'Emotion habituation is accelerated in chronic mild traumatic brain injury. 
Summary: Risk for mental health disturbances is elevated following a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), even in the post-acute/chronic stages of injury. The objective of the current study was to test whether reduced habituation is a mechanism underlying increased risk for mental health disturbances following mTBI. Unexpectedly, we found individuals with mTBI habituated faster to emotional images than uninjured controls. Blunted reactivity in all participants was associated with higher depressive symptoms. Reduced reactions to emotion stimuli may increase risk for mental health issues.

Genna Santorelli successfully passed her dissertation defense in July; her project was entitled “Emotional Response to Negative Mood Induction in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Cognitively-intact Older Adults.” Santorelli’s dissertation investigated response to negative mood induction in older adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) and cognitively-healthy older adults, and the role of executive function (EF) in emotion outcomes. Poorer EF on a measure of behavioral inhibition was associated with greater sadness reactivity; this association was stronger for persons with aMCI than controls. Results of this study lend support to theoretical models of EF and emotion regulation, and may inform psychosocial interventions for those with MCI and psychological distress.

Jasmine Dixon presented her poster “Subjective memory complaints in older adults: Associations with affect and cognitive outcomes” at the annual American Psychological Association (APA) Convention. 
Summary: The primary aim of this study was to determine associations between Subjective Memory Complaints (SMC) and indicators of emotional well-being that include positive and negative subjective outcomes. Data were derived from two datasets of cognitively healthy older adults. In both datasets, older adults with SMC reported significantly worse mental health and physical health, and more depressive symptoms than older adults without SMC. Neuropsychological performance did not moderate associations between emotional well-being and SMC. Thus, when a patient has subjective memory complaints, neuropsychologists should assess a patient’s emotional well-being including negative affect. 

Parker Longwell also presented a poster at the APA  Convention, entitled “Subjective age is associated with emotional well-being in older but not younger adults.”
Summary: This study examined the association between subjective age and cognitive ability and emotional well-being in older and younger adults. Subjective age was not associated with neuropsychological test scores but for older adults, feeling younger than their biological age was associated with greater positive emotions and lower negative emotions lower. Older adult perceptions of their age may be tied to their emotional well-being.