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1.  Using novel methods to examine stress among HIV-positive African American men who have sex with men and women 
Journal of behavioral medicine  2012;36(3):10.1007/s10865-012-9421-5.
Biomarker composites (BCs) that objectively quantify psychosocial stress independent of self report could help to identify those at greatest risk for negative health outcomes and elucidate mechanisms of stress-related processes. Here, BCs are examined in the context of existing disease progression among HIV-positive African American men who have sex with men and women (MSMW) with high stress histories, including childhood sexual abuse. Participants (N = 99) collected 12-h overnight and morning urine samples for assay of cortisol and catecholamines (primary BC) and neopterin (an indicator of HIV disease progression). Data on cumulative psychosocial trauma history (severity, types, frequency, age at first incident), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, sexual risk behaviors, and a secondary BC consisting of routine health indicators (heart rate, blood pressure, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio) were also collected. Lifetime trauma exposure was highly pervasive and significantly greater among those meeting a standard cutoff for PTSD caseness (24 %). After controlling for HIV factors (neopterin levels and years with disease), PTSD was a significant (p <.05) predictor of the primary, but not secondary BC. Those with PTSD also had significantly more sexual partners, sex without a condom, and exchange sex for money or drugs than those without PTSD. Specific trauma characteristics predicted PTSD severity and caseness independently and uniquely in regression models (p’s <.05–.001). A primary BC appears sensitive to cumulative trauma burden and PTSD in HIV-positive African American MSMW, providing support for the use of BCs to quantify psychosocial stress and inform novel methods for examining mechanisms of stress influenced health behaviors and disease outcomes in at-risk populations.
PMCID: PMC3860373  PMID: 22538773
HIV; African American; Bisexual; Biomarkers of stress; Child sexual abuse
2.  Childhood sexual abuse severity and disclosure as predictors of depression among adult African American and Latina women 
A history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has been associated with adult depression, but data on abuse severity and disclosure are scant, particularly among low income ethnic minorities. CSA often co-occurs with other adversities, which also increase the risk of depression. This study examined the peri-trauma variable of abuse severity and the post-trauma variables of disclosure and self-blame as predictors of current depression symptoms in 94 low-income African American and Latina women with histories of CSA. After controlling for non-sexual childhood adversity and adult burden (i.e., chronic stress), severe CSA overall was associated with higher depression scores, especially among Latinas who disclosed their abuse. Depression symptoms among African American women were highest in those who disclosed and reported high levels of self-blame at the time of the incident. The link between depression and specific peri- and post-CSA factors in minority women may help guide future interventions.
PMCID: PMC3445434  PMID: 21716061
3.  The feasibility of ambulatory biosensor measurement of salivary alpha amylase: Relationships with self-reported and naturalistic psychological stress 
Biological psychology  2010;86(1):50-56.
Recent developments in biosensor technology allow point-of-use reporting of salivary alpha amylase (sAA) levels while approaching the precision and accuracy of conventional laboratory-based testing. We deployed a portable prototype sAA biosensor in 54 healthy, male dental students during a low stress baseline and during final exams. At baseline, participants completed the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). At baseline and the exam week, participants provided saliva samples at 10 AM, 1 PM, and 5 PM, and rated concurrent subjective distress. Although subjective distress was higher during exams compared to baseline, sAA levels did not differ between baseline and exams. Higher sAA levels were related to higher concurrent subjective distress, and higher depressive and social isolation symptoms on the BSI were related to lower sAA during exams. Results from this study, in combination with previous validation data, suggest that the sAA biosensor is a promising tool for point-of-use measures of exposure to stress.
PMCID: PMC3021975  PMID: 20955759
salivary alpha amylase; salivary diagnostics; biomarker; stress; biosensor; point of care measurement
4.  The Long War and Parental Combat Deployment: Effects on Military Children and At-Home Spouses 
Given the growing number of military service members with families and the multiple combat deployments characterizing current war time duties, the impact of deployments on military children requires clarification. Behavioral and emotional adjustment problems were examined in children (aged 6 –12) of an active duty Army or Marine Corps parent currently deployed (CD) or recently returned (RR) from Afghanistan or Iraq.
Children (N=272) and their at-home civilian (AHC) (N=163) and/or recently returned active duty (AD) parent (N=65) were interviewed. Child adjustment outcomes were examined in relation to parental psychological distress and months of combat deployment (of the AD) using mixed effects linear models.
Parental distress (AHC and AD) and cumulative length of parental combat-related deployments during the child’s lifetime independently predicted increased child depression and externalizing symptoms. Although behavioral adjustment and depression levels were comparable to community norms, anxiety was significantly elevated in children in both deployment groups. In contrast, AHC parental distress was greater in those with a CD (vs. RR) spouse.
Findings indicate parental combat deployment has a cumulative effect on children which remains even after the deployed parent returns home, and is predicted by psychological distress of both the AD and AHC parent. Such data may be informative for screening, prevention and intervention strategies.
PMCID: PMC2875082  PMID: 20410724
military children; deployment stress; family risk
5.  Child Sexual Abuse Severity and Disclosure Predict PTSD Symptoms and Biomarkers in Ethnic Minority Women 
Adult posttraumatic stress symptoms (PSS) and a biomarker index of current health risk in childhood sexual abuse (CSA) survivors was investigated in relation to CSA severity, disclosure and other peri-and post-trauma factors.
A community sample of 94 African American and Latina women CSA survivors was assessed.
Severe CSA predicted PSS overall, avoidance/numbing symptoms and greater biomarker risk, and was not mediated by post-trauma variables. Moderate CSA severity was mediated by post-trauma disclosure, predicted re-experiencing symptoms but was unrelated to biomarker risk. No overall ethnic differences were found.
Results suggest targets for interventions to improve the well-being of minority women CSA survivors.
PMCID: PMC2907077  PMID: 20373204
6.  Stress Biomarkers as Outcomes for HIV+ Prevention: Participation, Feasibility and Findings Among HIV+ Latina and African American Mothers 
AIDS and Behavior  2009;14(2):339-350.
Mothers living with HIV (MLH) are at high risk for acute and chronic stress, given challenges related to their HIV status, ethnicity, economic and urban living conditions. Biomarkers combined into a composite index show promise in quantifying psychosocial stress in healthy people, but have not yet been examined among MLH. According, we examined potential biomarker correlates of stress [cortisol and catecholamines from home-collected urine and basic health indicators (blood pressure, height and weight, waist-to-hip ratio) measured during an interview] among 100 poor African American and Latina mothers MLH and demographic-matched control mothers without HIV (n = 50). Participants had been enrolled in a randomized controlled trial about 18 months earlier and had either received (MLH-I) or were awaiting (MLH-W) the psychosocial intervention. Participation was high, biomarkers were correctly collected for 93% of cases, and a complete composite biomarker index (CBI) calculated for 133 mothers (mean age = 42). As predicted, MLH had a significantly higher CBI than controls, but there was no CBI difference across ethnicity or intervention group. CBI predicted CD4 counts independently after controlling for age, years since diagnosis, prior CD4 counts, medication adherence, and depression symptoms. The study demonstrates acceptability, feasibility and potential utility of community-based biomarker collections in evaluating individual differences in psychosocial stress.
PMCID: PMC2834765  PMID: 19350378
Stress; Biomarkers; Female; Mental health; Ethnicity; Allostatic load
Psychiatry  2006;69(3):191-203.
Allostatic load (AL) is the term used to describe cumulative physiological wear and tear that results from repeated efforts to adapt to stressors over time. Operationalized as a composite index of biological risk factors (e.g., blood pressure, cholesterol, glycosylated hemoglobin, and cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine), AL has been shown to increase with age, predict long-term morbidity and mortality among the elderly, and be associated with low parent education in a large adolescent sample. However, AL has not yet been studied in samples with putative “high stress” or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Accordingly, AL was measured in women with high acute and chronic stress: mothers of pediatric cancer survivors with and without PTSD and control mothers of health children. AL emerged in a “dose-dependent” ranking from high to low: cancer mothers meeting all criteria for PTSD, cancer mothers with no or low symptoms, and control mothers, respectively (p < .001). Effects were not altered by self-reported sleep quality or substance use (tobacco, caffeine, alcohol or drugs) and remained significant when analyzing AL without cortisol or catecholamines. Results indicate elevated AL can be detected in relatively young women with high stress histories, and particularly those with PTSD. Future prospective studies must evaluate whether this pattern represents an accelerated aging process and increased risk of disease.
PMCID: PMC1615715  PMID: 17040172
Allostatic Load; Stress; Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
8.  Impact of CNS Treatment on Mood in Adult Survivors of Childhood Leukemia: A Report From the Children’s Cancer Group 
This study assessed the relationship between CNS treatment and psychologic mood using the Profile of Moods State (POMS), a standardized measure of affect, among a large sample of young adult survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL; N = 555).
Patients and Methods
Survivors of childhood ALL (ages 18 to 33 years at study entry) participated in a structured telephone interview eliciting demographic, health, and behavioral data and the POMS. Treatment data included total dose of CNS irradiation (CRT) and intrathecal methotrexate (MTX) obtained from medical records.
Mood disturbance was reported by 24% of survivors. High-dose CRT and MTX predicted disturbance rates modestly and primarily in combination with education variables. Interactions between educational achievement, a history of attendance in special education classes, and sex were better predictors than treatment type or dose. Non-white males, those younger than 12.5 years of age at diagnosis, and those with negative perceptions of current health and cancer’s impact on employment were also at greater risk for mood disturbance (P < .01 to .001).
Although most survivors are doing well psychologically, a subset of long-term survivors show potentially serious mood disturbance. Mood disturbance seems to be a function of interactions between preexisting individual difference variables (eg, sex, race/ethnicity), treatment factors, and posttreatment educational experiences. Prevention strategies aimed at childhood cancer survivors at greatest risk for mood disturbance may be improved by focus on posttreatment psychosocial and educational supports.
PMCID: PMC1459335  PMID: 14645430
9.  Preliminary evidence for lymphocyte distribution differences at rest and after acute psychological stress in PTSD-symptomatic women☆ 
Brain, behavior, and immunity  2005;19(3):243-251.
This study investigated circulating natural killer (NK), CD4+ and CD8+ cells in response to acute psychological challenge among mothers of child cancer survivors with and without posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). Control mothers of healthy children (n = 9) were compared to 17 cancer mothers with (PTSS: n = 9) and without PTSS (No PTSS: n = 7) under conditions of rest, after a generic stressor (MAT: mental arithmetic task) and a personalized stressor (script-driven trauma imagery), and after recovery from each stressor. Results indicate the PTSS group had higher percentage CD4+ and lower CD8+ levels than non-symptomatic women and blunted NK reactivity to generic challenge. Multiple regression analyses indicated PTSS effects were independent of self-reported distress. Contrary to expectations, cancer mothers without PTSS were not significantly different from controls on tonic or phasic immune outcomes. Also unlike predictions, reactivity to challenge was greatest to the non-social MAT stressor compared to the personalized challenge for all groups. Conclusions are constrained by study limitations (e.g., small sample size and potential phase order effects). Nonetheless, results are consistent with an emerging literature on PTSS-associated immune differences and further suggest these effects may be distinct from that associated with subjective distress more generally.
PMCID: PMC1351002  PMID: 15797313
Posttraumatic stress disorder; Stress; Women; Laboratory challenge; Natural killer
10.  Laughter, Humor and Pain Perception in Children: A Pilot Study 
Although there are many clinical programs designed to bring humor into pediatric hospitals, there has been very little research with children or adolescents concerning the specific utility of humor for children undergoing stressful or painful procedures. Rx Laughter™, a non-profit organization interested in the use of humor for healing, collaborated with UCLA to collect preliminary data on a sample of 18 children aged 7–16 years. Participants watched humorous video-tapes before, during and after a standardized pain task that involved placing a hand in cold water. Pain appraisal (ratings of pain severity) and pain tolerance (submersion time) were recorded and examined in relation to humor indicators (number of laughs/smiles during each video and child ratings of how funny the video was). Whereas humor indicators were not significantly associated with pain appraisal or tolerance, the group demonstrated significantly greater pain tolerance while viewing funny videos than when viewing the videos immediately before or after the cold-water task. The results suggest that humorous distraction is useful to help children and adolescents tolerate painful procedures. Further study is indicated to explore the specific mechanism of this benefit.
PMCID: PMC2686629  PMID: 18955244
children; distraction; laughter; pain

Results 1-10 (10)