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1.  Role of Visual Integration in Gaze Perception and Emotional Intelligence in Schizophrenia 
Schizophrenia Bulletin  2013;40(3):617-625.
Individuals with schizophrenia demonstrate a wide range of social cognitive deficits that significantly compromise functioning. Early visual processing is frequently disrupted in schizophrenia, and growing evidence suggests a role of perceptual dysfunctions in socioemotional functioning in the disorder. This study examined visual integration (the ability to effectively integrate individual, local visual features into a holistic representation), a target construct of basic perception identified by the Cognitive Neuroscience Treatment Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia initiative, and its relationship with eye- contact perception and emotional intelligence in schizophrenia.
Twenty-nine participants with schizophrenia (SCZ) and 23 healthy controls (HC) completed tasks measuring visual integration (Coherent Motion Task, Contour Integration Task), an eye-contact perception task, and a measure of emotional intelligence.
SCZ participants showed compromised visual integration as suggested by poorer performance on the Contour Integration Task relative to HC. Visual integration was a significant predictor of eye-contact perception and emotional intelligence among SCZ. The amounts of variances in these 2 social cognitive areas accounted for by visual integration were comparable to and overlapped with those accounted for by the diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Individuals with schizophrenia showed compromised visual integration, and this may play a significant role in the observed deficits in higher level processing of social information in the disorder.
PMCID: PMC3984511  PMID: 23666503
psychosis; visual perception; perceptual organization; social cognition; sensory processing
2.  The Functional Connectivity Landscape of the Human Brain 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e111007.
Functional brain networks emerge and dissipate over a primarily static anatomical foundation. The dynamic basis of these networks is inter-regional communication involving local and distal regions. It is assumed that inter-regional distances play a pivotal role in modulating network dynamics. Using three different neuroimaging modalities, 6 datasets were evaluated to determine whether experimental manipulations asymmetrically affect functional relationships based on the distance between brain regions in human participants. Contrary to previous assumptions, here we show that short- and long-range connections are equally likely to strengthen or weaken in response to task demands. Additionally, connections between homotopic areas are the most stable and less likely to change compared to any other type of connection. Our results point to a functional connectivity landscape characterized by fluid transitions between local specialization and global integration. This ability to mediate functional properties irrespective of spatial distance may engender a diverse repertoire of cognitive processes when faced with a dynamic environment.
PMCID: PMC4211704  PMID: 25350370
3.  An everyday activity as a treatment for depression: The benefits of expressive writing for people diagnosed with major depressive disorder 
Journal of affective disorders  2013;150(3):1148-1151.
The benefits of expressive writing have been well documented among several populations, but particularly among those who report feelings of dysphoria. It is not known, however, if those diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) would also benefit from expressive writing.
Forty people diagnosed with current MDD by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV participated in the study. On day 1 of testing, participants completed a series of questionnaires and cognitive tasks. Participants were then randomly assigned to either an expressive writing condition in which they wrote for 20 min over three consecutive days about their deepest thoughts and feelings surrounding an emotional event (n=20), or to a control condition (n=20) in which they wrote about non-emotional daily events each day. On day 5 of testing, participants completed another series of questionnaires and cognitive measures. These measures were repeated again 4 weeks later.
People diagnosed with MDD in the expressive writing condition showed significant decreases in depression scores (Beck Depression Inventory and Patient Health Questionnaire-9 scores) immediately after the experimental manipulation (Day 5). These benefits persisted at the 4-week follow-up.
Self-selected sample.
This is the first study to demonstrate the efficacy of expressive writing among people formally diagnosed with current MDD. These data suggest that expressive writing may be a useful supplement to existing interventions for depression.
PMCID: PMC3759583  PMID: 23790815
Expressive writing; Major depressive disorder; Intervention; Written emotional disclosure
4.  Sleep Disordered Breathing in Major Depressive Disorder 
Journal of sleep research  2013;22(4):459-462.
Individuals with major depressive disorder often experience obstructive sleep apnea. However, the relationship between depression and less severe sleep disordered breathing is less clear. This study examines the rate of sleep disordered breathing in depression after excluding those who had clinically significant sleep apnea (> 5 apneas/hr). Archival data collected between 1991 and 2005 was used to assess the prevalence of sleep disordered breathing events in 60 (31 depressed; 29 healthy controls) unmedicated participants. Respiratory events were automatically detected using a program developed in-house measuring thermal nasal air-flow and chest pressure. Results show that even after excluding participants with clinically significant sleep disordered breathing, individuals with depression continue to exhibit higher rates of sleep disordered breathing compared to healthy controls (Depressed group: AHI mean=.524, SE =.105; Healthy group: AHI mean =.179, SE =.108). Exploratory analyses were also conducted to assess for rates of exclusion in depression studies due to sleep-disordered breathing. Study exclusion of sleep disordered breathing was quantified based on self-report during telephone screening, and via first night polysomnography. Results from phone screening data reveal that individuals reporting depression were 5.86 times more likely to report a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea than presumptive control participants. Furthermore, all of the participants excluded for severe sleep disordered breathing detected on the first night were participants with depression. These findings illustrate the importance of understanding the relationship between sleep disordered breathing and depression, and suggests that screening and quantification of sleep disordered breathing should be considered in depression research.
PMCID: PMC3689852  PMID: 23350718
Major Depressive Disorder; Sleep Disordered Breathing
5.  Feeling Blue or Turquoise? Emotional Differentiation in Major Depressive Disorder 
Psychological science  2012;23(11):1410-1416.
Some individuals have very specific and differentiated emotional experiences, such as anger, shame, excitement, and happiness, whereas others have more general affective experiences of pleasure or discomfort that are not as highly differentiated. Considering that individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) have cognitive deficits for negative information, we predicted that people with MDD would have less differentiated negative emotional experiences than would healthy people. To test this hypothesis, we assessed participants' emotional experiences using a 7-day experience-sampling protocol. Depression was assessed using structured clinical interviews and the Beck Depression Inventory-II. As predicted, individuals with MDD had less differentiated emotional experiences than did healthy participants, but only for negative emotions. These differences were above and beyond the effects of emotional intensity and variability.
PMCID: PMC4004625  PMID: 23070307
emotions; depression; happiness; emotional control; individual differences
6.  Interacting with Nature Improves Cognition and Affect for Individuals with Depression 
Journal of Affective Disorders  2012;140(3):300-305.
This study aimed to explore whether walking in nature may be beneficial for individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD). Healthy adults demonstrate significant cognitive gains after nature walks, but it was unclear whether those same benefits would be achieved in a depressed sample as walking alone in nature might induce rumination, thereby worsening memory and mood.
Twenty individuals diagnosed with MDD participated in this study. At baseline, mood and short term memory span were assessed using the PANAS and the backwards digit span (BDS) task, respectively. Participants were then asked to think about an unresolved negative autobiographical event to prime rumination, prior to taking a 50 minute walk in either a natural or urban setting. After the walk, mood and short-term memory span were reassessed. The following week, participants returned to the lab and repeated the entire procedure, but walked in the location not visited in the first session (i.e., a counterbalanced within-subjects design).
Participants exhibited significant increases in memory span after the nature walk relative to the urban walk, p < .001, ηp2= .53 (a large effect-size). Participants also showed increases in mood, but the mood effects did not correlate with the memory effects, suggesting separable mechanisms and replicating previous work.
Sample size and participants’ motivation.
These findings extend earlier work demonstrating the cognitive and affective benefits of interacting with nature to individuals with MDD. Therefore, interacting with nature may be useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments for MDD.
PMCID: PMC3393816  PMID: 22464936
Major Depressive Disorder; memory; nature; intervention; mood; attention restoration
7.  Depression, rumination and the default network 
Major depressive disorder (MDD) has been characterized by excessive default-network activation and connectivity with the subgenual cingulate. These hyper-connectivities are often interpreted as reflecting rumination, where MDDs perseverate on negative, self-referential thoughts. However, the relationship between connectivity and rumination has not been established. Furthermore, previous research has not examined how connectivity with the subgenual cingulate differs when individuals are engaged in a task or not. The purpose of the present study was to examine connectivity of the default network specifically in the subgenual cingulate both on- and off-task, and to examine the relationship between connectivity and rumination. Analyses using a seed-based connectivity approach revealed that MDDs show more neural functional connectivity between the posterior-cingulate cortex and the subgenual-cingulate cortex than healthy individuals during rest periods, but not during task engagement. Importantly, these rest-period connectivities correlated with behavioral measures of rumination and brooding, but not reflection.
PMCID: PMC3190207  PMID: 20855296
depression; rumination; default network; subgenual cingulate; functional magnetic resonance imaging
8.  Gender Specific Disruptions in Emotion Processing in Younger Adults with Depression 
Depression and anxiety  2009;26(2):182-189.
One of the principal theories regarding the biological basis of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) implicates a dysregulation of emotion processing circuitry. Gender differences in how emotions are processed and relative experience with emotion processing might help to explain some of the disparities in the prevalence of MDD between women and men. The current study sought to explore how gender and depression status relate to emotion processing.
This study employed a 2 (MDD status) × 2 (gender) factorial design to explore differences in classifications of posed facial emotional expressions (N = 151).
For errors, there was an interaction between gender and depression status. Women with MDD made more errors than did non-depressed women and men with MDD, particularly for fearful and sad stimuli (ps < .02), which they were likely to misinterpret as angry (ps < .04). There was also an interaction of diagnosis and gender for response cost for negative stimuli, with significantly greater interference from negative faces present in women with MDD compared with non-depressed women (p = .01). Men with MDD, conversely, performed similarly to control men (p = .61).
These results provide novel and intriguing evidence that depression in younger adults (< 35 years) differentially disrupts emotion processing in women as compared to men. This interaction could be driven by neurobiological and social learning mechanisms, or interactions between them, and may underlie differences in the prevalence of depression in women and men.
PMCID: PMC3013355  PMID: 18800371
psychiatric disorders; affect perception; sex differences
9.  Anticipation of Affect in Dysthymia: Behavioral and Neurophysiological Indicators 
Biological psychology  2007;77(2):197-204.
Anticipation for future affective events and prediction uncertainty were examined in healthy controls and individuals with dysthymia (DYS) using behavioral responses and the contingent negative variation (CNV) and post-imperative negative variation (PINV) event related potential (ERP) components. Warning stimuli forecasted the valence of subsequently presented adjectives (“+”, positive; “=”, neutral; “-”, negative), and participants indicated whether each adjective would describe them over the next two weeks. Controls expected fewer negative, and individuals with DYS expected fewer positive, adjectives to apply to them. CNV amplitudes were enhanced in controls prior to positive versus other adjectives. Response times and PINV amplitudes were greater following neutral compared to other adjectives, and PINV was larger overall in dysthymics compared to controls. In sum, healthy controls and individuals with DYS exhibit different behavioral and neurophysiological biases in anticipation for future affective events. These results are discussed in the context of cognitive theories of depression.
PMCID: PMC2709790  PMID: 18063468
dysthymia; affective bias; anticipation; event-related potentials

Results 1-9 (9)