1. Unwanted intrusive thoughts: A global perspective
The 101-item International Intrusive Thoughts Interview Schedule (IITIS) along with several other questionnaires was administered to 777 nonclinical individuals from 13 countries that included Canada, the United States, Spain, Hong Kong, Iran, Turkey, Israel, and Sierra Leone to name but a few. Unwanted intrusive thoughts were reported by a majority of individuals in all countries, with appraisals of significance and greater control efforts associated with higher frequency and distress at all sites. This is the largest ever cross-cultural study on intrusive thoughts. The findings have been presented at various international conferences and the main findings will be published in the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.
2. Survey of Anxiety and Depression Treatment in New Brunswick
Despite research evidence of effective psychological treatments for anxiety and depression, very few Canadians actually have access to these effective treatments. In part the problem of limited access to evidence-based treatment rests with mental health professionals. In this study a mail-out survey was completed by 100 psychologists, 152 family physicians, 103 social workers, 18 psychiatrists and 48 mental health nurses in New Brunswick. Analysis revealed that psychologists were more likely to offer minimal practice standards for treatment of anxiety and depression than social workers or nurses, but the majority of all three professional groups failed to meet more stringent practice standards. Social workers and nurses, in particular, considered lack of training the main barrier to offering evidence-based treatment.
3. Cognitive Inhibition, Rumination and Cognitive Control in Depression
This doctoral dissertation research, conducted by Nicola McHale, investigated whether weak cognitive inhibition of negative stimuli and trait rumination act as vulnerability factors in depression because they amplify the negative effects of the maladaptive sad mood repair strategy called thought suppression. Two hundred and eighteen individuals, which included 25 participants with major depression, completed a directed forgetting task, sad mood induction and thought suppression condition. Analysis revealed that the mood induction was successful and the high ruminator, but not depressed, individuals evidenced weaker cognitive inhibition. Moreover the thought suppression condition was a successful sad mood repair strategy but again the high ruminative group was unable to utilize thought suppression as effectively as the depressed and low ruminator groups. Data analysis is now complete and the dissertation is in the write-up and examination phase.
4. Cognitive Processing after Romantic Breakup: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
This multi-phased doctoral dissertation study by Adriana del Palacio Gonzaléz investigated maladjustment and post-traumatic growth following dating breakup in young adults. One hundred and forty-eight undergraduates who reported a romantic breakup in the past four months were administered a battery of questionnaires and a modified autobiographical memory task that assessed overgeneralized memory for positive and negative relationship memories. Sixty-five students completed a 6 month online follow-up that assessed current distress and post-trauma growth. As well a small subsample completed an online three day diary of intrusive memories about the breakup. Preliminary analyses revealed that individuals who experienced more unwanted intrusive thoughts about their ex-relationship had greater future personal distress and depressive symptoms, whereas those who experienced more constructive, reflective thinking about the ex-relationship experienced more post-trauma growth. There was no evidence of an overgeneralized memory effect linked to distress over the relationship breakup. Data analysis is almost complete and the dissertation is in the write-up phase.
5. Cognitive Reactivity to Dysphoric Mood in Depression Vulnerability
This experiment investigated whether individuals vulnerable to depression evidence a heightened cognitive reactivity to dysphoric mood. Fifteen individuals with major depression, 13 nondepressed but vulnerable and 27 nonvulnerble, nondepressed participants were exposed to a sad mood induction and then completed a memory recall task. All individuals reported an increase in sadness following the mood induction. The predicted cognitive reactivity effect was evident with the clinically depressed and vulnerable groups recognizing and recalling more negative trait adjectives than the nondepressed, nonvulnerable control group. As well EEG recordings were taken during presentation of the trait adjectives. Analysis revealed significant group differences in the P200 amplitude, with the clinically depressed group showing significantly higher amplitudes indicative of deeper stimulus processing. Data analysis is almost complete but the results have not yet been submitted for publication.
6. Cognitive Reactivity, Self-Esteem Vulnerability and Life Events in Depressed and Nondepressed Individuals
In this experiment 24 high self-esteem (resilient), 22 low self-esteem (vulnerable), 23 clinically depressed, and 23 controls completed diagnostic and life event interviews as well as the Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale (DAS) and self-referent encoding task (SRET) before and after a seven minute sad mood induction. Preliminary analyses indicated clinically depressed recalled significantly more negative and fewer positive trait adjectives both before and after the sad mood induction. The high self-esteem showed the greatest decline in negative trait recall after the mood induction condition, which indicates a type of “reversed cognitive reactivity” for these resilient individuals. We are still in the process of analyzing these data in order to submit for publication.