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Authors: Sandner, Magdalena Eva
Title: Characterizing the Dynamic Multilevel Stress Response and its Influence on Cognitive Emotion Regulation
Online publication date: 2-Aug-2021
Language: english
Abstract: Numerous studies emphasize the pivotal role of stress in the development and maintenance of various mental and somatic disorders. Despite this growing field of research, the specific mechanisms how stress affects psychological well-being remain elusive. Hereby, stress research is considerably challenged by the complexity of the concept at hand: stress is commonly considered a complex phenomenon involving multiple response systems and dimensions and exerting a variety of short- and long-term effects on the brain and the body. This dissertation aimed at providing a detailed characterization of the multidimensional stress response and its determinants (Study 1). In a second step we investigated the effect of stress on subsequent psychological processes, here emotion regulation (Study 2). In concrete, Study 1 focused on the effect of long-term hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis activation (as assessed in hair cortisol concentration (HCC)) on acute stress reactivity. Acute stress reactivity was assessed in all its complexity on multiple response levels: on a psychological level (i.e. changes in self-reported affective state), on an endocrine level (i.e. changes in saliva cortisol concentration), on a neural level (i.e. changes in Blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) responses), and on a physiological level (i.e. changes in heart rate). For laboratory stress induction, the ScanSTRESS-C was implemented and validated. The ScanSTRESS-C provides a short psychosocial stress protocol combining mentally challenging arithmetic tasks with socio-evaluative elements. Results proved the ScanSTRESS-C to be effective in eliciting significant stress responses on all response levels. Moreover, acute stress responses on endocrine and neural level were negatively associated with HCC, indicating blunted stress reactivity in individuals with high levels of long-term cortisol secretion. The latter finding is further discussed in the light of stress immunization processes based on recent or chronic stress exposure. In Study 2, the ScanSTRESS-C was applied to investigate the effect of acute multilevel stress responses on subsequent emotion regulation in a between-group design. Given the importance of intact emotion regulation abilities to adequate psychosocial functioning and long-term mental health, knowledge of whether and how emotion regulation shows impairments in the face of stress can further advance psychological and psychiatric research. To test emotion regulation abilities in the aftermath of the ScanSTRESS-C, we used the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Task (CERT), a picture-based paradigm assessing both reappraisal and distraction of aversive negative pictures. Self-reported emotional state ratings as well as BOLD-responses to the pictures served as dependent variables. Interestingly, while the ScanSTRESS-C again effectively elicited stress responses on multiple response levels in the stress group, emotion regulation abilities did not differ between the stress and the control group, neither in self-report, nor in brain activity during the CERT. This result indicates that both reappraisal and distraction abilities survive the aftermath of a laboratory psychosocial stressor. Previous literature suggests that the relationship of stress and emotion regulation may be more complex, even bidirectional, depending on a multitude of intrapersonal (e.g. habitual reappraisal, fatigue) and contextual (e.g. timing, stressor intensity) factors. Taken together, the key messages of this dissertation are two-fold: first, it provides a detailed characterization of the dynamic multilevel stress response by introducing an eligible and reliable stress protocol for in-MR use, i.e. the ScanSTRESS-C. Second, it contributes significantly to understanding the complex interplay of stress and emotion regulation, incorporating ambiguous results of previous studies. In the broader context of resilience research, this dissertation serves to identify the mechanisms underlying stress-related mental dysfunctions and thereby to inform preventive and therapeutic interventions.
DDC: 150 Psychologie
150 Psychology
Institution: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Department: FB 02 Sozialwiss., Medien u. Sport
Place: Mainz
URN: urn:nbn:de:hebis:77-openscience-54447324-961b-4e7c-ab1c-eaef7eebee346
Version: Original work
Publication type: Dissertation
License: In Copyright
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Extent: 114 Seiten, Illustrationen
Appears in collections:JGU-Publikationen

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