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The Relations Between Childhood Trauma, Cortisol Levels, and Pain Perceptions in Response to Induced Thermal Pain in Fibromyalgia Patients

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Childhood trauma has been linked to an increased risk of chronic pain in adulthood. One potential mechanism is via childhood trauma's impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) response to stress,

Childhood trauma has been linked to an increased risk of chronic pain in adulthood. One potential mechanism is via childhood trauma's impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) response to stress, reflected in changes in salivary cortisol levels (Nicolson et al., 2010). This study sought to determine the relations between childhood trauma, increases in cortisol levels following induced pain, and pain perceptions in adults with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition. It drew on data collected from participants enrolled in an investigation comparing the effectiveness of behavioral treatments for chronic pain. Before receiving treatment, participants attended a laboratory session during which they first rested, and then were exposed to heat stimuli to assess pain threshold and tolerance. Saliva samples were collected from each participant immediately following the rest, and twice during pain induction. Fibromyalgia participants with a history of childhood trauma were expected: 1) to report lower pain threshold and tolerance levels (i.e., have higher pain sensitivity), 2) to exhibit a higher resting cortisol level, and 3) to have greater increases in cortisol in response to acute pain induction than fibromyalgia participants without a history of childhood trauma. Findings showed that childhood trauma scores were: 1) related to lower pain tolerance (but not pain threshold), 2) unrelated to resting cortisol levels, and 3) unrelated to changes in cortisol in response to pain induction and pain tolerance, contrary to prediction. However, a subtype of childhood trauma, i.e., emotional maltreatment: 1) predicted lower pain tolerance, and 2) moderated the cortisol changes over time in response to pain induction during the laboratory session in the expected direction. That is, individuals who reported higher levels of childhood emotional maltreatment showed greater cortisol responses to the pain induction than individuals who reported lower levels of exposure to emotional maltreatment. Cortisol responses did not relate to pain perception. Thus, childhood emotional trauma predicted greater pain sensitivity and cortisol reactivity, but cortisol did not relate to pain perception. The findings suggest that early childhood trauma predicts cortisol reactivity and pain sensitivity, but that cortisol reactivity is not a mediator in the trauma-pain relation.

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Date Created
  • 2013-12

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Heart Rate Variability as a Moderator of the Relations Between Marital Support and Social and Emotional Functioning Among Female Fibromyalgia Patients

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Being able to self-regulate has been found to be an important part of a person’s physiological and psychological health. It allows someone to regulate their emotions well in trying to

Being able to self-regulate has been found to be an important part of a person’s physiological and psychological health. It allows someone to regulate their emotions well in trying to obtain a goal, or in realizing a goal is unobtainable and re-evaluating the situation to form an obtainable goal (Rasmussen, Wrosch, Scheier & Carver, 2006). Self-regulation can be measured in many ways, but a physiological measure of self-regulation is heart rate variability (HRV). HRV monitors the body’s response to emotional stressors through measuring how variable a person’s heartbeat is (Appelhans & Luecken, 2006). A second potential factor contributing to self-regulation is social closeness. Research has also shown that the more social closeness a person experiences, the better able they are to regulate their emotions (Kok & Fredrickson, 2010; Kok et al., 2013). Social closeness is assessed via self-reports. There is a difference between partners’ and self-reports, such that the partners tend to be more positive when asked about the participants through questionnaires (Vuorisalmi, Sarkeala, Hervonen & Jylhä, 2012). When examining the relationship between reports of spouses, research has shown that the husbands are worse at reliably reporting their wives’ behaviors, but are more reliable when reporting on personal situations between the couple than is the wife (Khawaja & Tewtel-Salem, 2004). To date we know that a higher HRV is associated with better self-regulation and that social closeness leads to better emotional regulation; however, we do not know if HRV and social closeness combine to predict better functionality or if it matters if the husbands or wives are filling out the self-reports on social closeness. This study investigated four hypotheses regarding the relations between HRV and social relations between partners and how the social or emotional functioning of female fibromyalgia (FM) patients. The first hypothesis is that when the FM patient feels disregard from her partner, she is more likely to exhibit a decline in her social functioning, and that this decline is less pronounced in high HRV. The second hypothesis is that if a FM patient feels disregarded by her partner, her emotional functioning will become inhibited; furthermore, that this relationship is moderated by her HRV. The third hypothesis is that when her partner feels he disregards her, her social functioning is impaired, and that this relationship is moderated by her HRV. The last hypothesis is that when her partner feels he disregards her, her emotional functioning declines, and that this relationship is moderated by HRV. The FM patient’s HRV was measured in a laboratory setting, and the partner disregard was measured by a partner survey that was administered to both the FM patient and her partner. Through the analysis of all of the results, none of the four hypotheses had significant results showing that none of them were supported by this experiment.

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  • 2014-05

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The Effect Of Discrete Positive Emotions On Attentional Focus and Creativity

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Both attentional focus and creativity have been shown to differ depending on the emotional state one is experiencing. We hypothesize that different positive emotions, in this case amusement, enthusiasm and

Both attentional focus and creativity have been shown to differ depending on the emotional state one is experiencing. We hypothesize that different positive emotions, in this case amusement, enthusiasm and awe, induce characteristically different breadths of attentional focus that are reflective of their respective evolutionary functions and levels of approach motivation. Ultimately we predict that high-approach motivations such as enthusiasm will result in attentional localization and an overall decrease in creativity, whereas low-approach motivations, such as amusement and awe, will result in attentional globalization and overall increased levels of creativity. In this study 105 participants read an emotion inducing story, followed by a globalization attentional focus test, the Alternate Uses Task test for creativity, and an emotion manipulation check. A 1-way ANOVA followed by several t-tests were completed to compare the effects of the different emotion conditions as a whole, and then individually against one another. The experiment was statistically underpowered, and as such there were no significant differences found either for overall emotional affects or those between emotions. However, the patterns suggested by the results of the analyses were not expected and creativity measures differed strongly from predicted results. Data collection is ongoing, and in the future problems with study underpowerment will likely be amended.

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Date Created
  • 2011-05

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When resilience rides the cycle of fatigue: the role of interpersonal enjoyment on daily fatigue in women with fibromyalgia

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Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic pain condition characterized by debilitating fatigue. This study examined the dynamic relation between interpersonal enjoyment and fatigue in 102 partnered and 74 unpartnered women with

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic pain condition characterized by debilitating fatigue. This study examined the dynamic relation between interpersonal enjoyment and fatigue in 102 partnered and 74 unpartnered women with FM. Participants provided three daily ratings for 21 days. They rated their fatigue in late morning and at the end of the day. Both partnered and unpartnered participants reported their interpersonal enjoyment in the combined familial, friendship, and work domains (COMBINED domain) in the afternoon. Additionally, partnered participants reported their interpersonal enjoyment in the spousal domain. The study was guided by three hypotheses at the within-person level, based on daily diaries: (1) elevated late morning fatigue would predict diminished afternoon interpersonal enjoyment; (2) diminished interpersonal enjoyment would predict elevated end-of-day fatigue; (3) interpersonal enjoyment would mediate the late morning to end-of-day fatigue relationship. In cross-level models, the study explored whether individual differences (between-person) in late morning fatigue and afternoon interpersonal enjoyment would moderate within-person relations from late morning fatigue to afternoon interpersonal enjoyment, and from afternoon interpersonal enjoyment to end-of-day fatigue. Furthermore, it explored whether the hypothesized relationships at the within-person level would also emerge at the between-person level (between-person mediation models). Multilevel structural equation modeling and multilevel modeling were employed for model testing, separately for partnered and unpartnered participants. Within-person mediation models supported that on high fatigue mornings, afternoon interpersonal enjoyment was dampened in the spousal and combined domains in partnered and unpartnered samples. Moreover, low afternoon interpersonal enjoyment in both the spousal and combined domains predicted elevated end-of-day fatigue. Afternoon interpersonal enjoyment mediated the relationship of late morning to end-of-day fatigue in the combined domain but in not the spousal domain. Cross-level moderation analyses showed that individual differences in afternoon spousal enjoyment moderated the day-to-day relation between afternoon spousal enjoyment and end-of-day fatigue. Finally, the mediational chain was not observed at the between-person level. These findings suggest that preserving interpersonal enjoyment in non-spousal relations limits within-day increases in FM fatigue. They highlight the importance of examining domain-specificity in interpersonal enjoyment when studying fatigue, and suggest that targeting enjoyment in social relations may improve the efficacy of existing treatments.

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Date Created
  • 2013