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Journal of Abnormal Psychology - Vol 126, Iss 6

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Journal of Abnormal Psychology The Journal of Abnormal Psychology publishes articles on basic research and theory in the broad field of abnormal behavior, its determinants, and its correlates. The following general topics fall within its area of major focus: (a) psychopathology—its etiology, development, symptomatology, and course; (b) normal processes in abnormal individuals; (c) pathological or atypical features of the behavior of normal persons; (d) experimental studies, with human or animal subjects, relating to disordered emotional behavior or pathology; (e) sociocultural effects on pathological processes, including the influence of gender and ethnicity; and (f) tests of hypotheses from psychological theories that relate to abnormal behavior.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Real-life validation of reduced reward processing in emerging adults with depressive symptoms.
    Subclinical symptoms of depression are common in emerging adults. Anhedonia is one such symptom that specifically puts one at risk for developing clinical depression. Recently, important progress has been made in elucidating the underlying neurobiology of anhedonia. This progress rests on many experimental studies examining how subjects with depressive symptoms respond to anticipating and consuming rewarding stimuli. Translating these findings to real-life reward processing dynamics is an important next step in order to guide fine-tuning of preventive treatments. We propose that the Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM) represents a useful tool in addressing this issue. ESM requires individuals to carry a device that beeps at semirandom moments, inviting them to fill out a short questionnaire on mood, context, and behavior. Using this methodology, we aimed to decompose the construct of reward processing into its daily life dynamics, by investigating how positive affect (PA), reward anticipation and active behavior influence each other over time. A group of emerging adults (aged 16–25) was included, of which two-thirds presented with subclinical depressive symptoms. Associations between PA, reward anticipation and active behavior manifested in the flow of daily life. Depressive symptoms were significantly associated with reduced time-lagged associations between reward anticipation and active behavior (β = −.005, p = .006) and active behavior and reward anticipation (β = −.002, p = .027). The moderating effect of depressive symptoms on the time-lagged association between reward anticipation and PA approached significance (β = −.002, p = .051). These findings represent an important step in translating experimental knowledge on reward processing into daily life processes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Examination of real-time fluctuations in suicidal ideation and its risk factors: Results from two ecological momentary assessment studies.
    Two studies examined 2 important but previously unanswered questions about the experience of suicidal ideation: (a) How does suicidal ideation vary over short periods of time?, and (b) To what degree do risk factors for suicidal ideation vary over short periods and are such changes associated with changes in suicidal ideation? Participants in Study 1 were 54 adults who had attempted suicide in the previous year and completed 28 days of ecological momentary assessment (EMA; average of 2.51 assessments per day; 2,891 unique assessments). Participants in Study 2 were 36 adult psychiatric inpatients admitted for suicide risk who completed EMA throughout their time in the hospital (average stay of 10.32 days; average 2.48 assessments per day; 649 unique assessments). These studies revealed 2 key findings: (a) For nearly all participants, suicidal ideation varied dramatically over the course of most days: more than 1-quarter (Study 1 = 29%; Study 2 = 28%) of all ratings of suicidal ideation were a standard deviation above or below the previous response from a few hours earlier and nearly all (Study 1 = 94.1%; Study 2 = 100%) participants had at least 1 instance of intensity of suicidal ideation changing by a standard deviation or more from 1 response to the next. (b) Across both studies, well-known risk factors for suicidal ideation such as hopelessness, burdensomeness, and loneliness also varied considerably over just a few hours and correlated with suicidal ideation, but were limited in predicting short-term change in suicidal ideation. These studies represent the most fine-grained examination of suicidal ideation ever conducted. The results advance the understanding of how suicidal ideation changes over short periods and provide a novel method of improving the short-term prediction of suicidal ideation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Insomnia symptoms drive changes in suicide ideation: A latent difference score model of community adults over a brief interval.
    Insomnia is robustly associated with suicidal behavior, but methodological limitations in existing studies hinder nuanced understanding of this relationship. The current study addressed these limitations by utilizing a longitudinal design and advanced statistical modeling. Participants who endorsed lifetime experience of suicidal behavior were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (N = 589) and completed self-report online surveys at 6 time points over a 15-day period. Latent difference score modeling was utilized to investigate whether levels and/or changes in insomnia symptoms drive subsequent changes in suicide ideation, or vice versa. Results revealed that previous level of insomnia symptoms was predictive of positive changes in suicide ideation (i.e., level of insomnia symptoms predicted lagged increases in suicide ideation). This relationship was not bidirectional (i.e., suicide ideation exerted no effects on insomnia symptoms). Additionally, only previous level, and not previous changes, in insomnia symptoms were predictive of changes in suicide ideation. Our results help clarify the nature of the relationship between insomnia symptoms and suicide ideation as one that is unidirectional, thereby offering evidence of insomnia symptoms as a variable risk factor for suicide ideation. These findings yield clinical implications, including the importance of screening for insomnia symptoms, and provide support for exploring the potential effectiveness of insomnia treatments to target suicide ideation. Moreover, our study design and methodology establish a foundation for more rigorous and nuanced investigations of imminent suicide risk in future studies, which can ultimately promote better clinical practice in the reduction of suicidal behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Frontal alpha asymmetry in OCD patients and unaffected first-degree relatives.
    Frontal electroencephalographic alpha asymmetry as an indicator of trait approach and trait inhibition systems has previously been studied in individuals with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) with mixed results. We explored frontal alpha asymmetry as a possible risk factor in OCD by investigating a large sample of OCD patients (n = 113), healthy control participants (n = 113), and unaffected 1st-degree relatives of OCD patients (n = 37). Additionally, the relationship between OCD symptom dimensions and frontal alpha asymmetry was explored. OCD patients and healthy control participants did not differ in alpha asymmetry scores. Hence, the current results do not support the notion that OCD as a diagnostic entity is associated with a shift in frontal cortical activity. Furthermore, alpha asymmetry scores were not statistically related to specific OCD symptom dimensions. Reasons for inconsistent results in OCD are discussed and should be explored in future studies. Compared to OCD patients and healthy control participants, unaffected 1st-degree relatives of OCD patients showed increased left frontal activity. Such asymmetry has previously been found to be associated with positive affect and adaptive emotion regulation under stress. Because stressful life events play an important role in the onset and exacerbation of OCD, increased left frontal activity might serve as a resilience factor in unaffected 1st-degree relatives. Future studies should follow up on these results with longitudinal risk studies and pre- and posttherapy assessments to further explore causality of this putative factor. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Implicit approach and avoidance in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
    Avoidance is regarded as an important feature for the development and maintenance of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and is usually assessed using explicit measures such as self-report scales. However, some behavioral schemata are unavailable to introspection, making them partially inaccessible by explicit measures. We used an approach-avoidance task (AAT) as an implicit measure to examine behavioral tendencies in patients with OCD, including patients with checking- and contamination-related symptoms (n = 63), compared with a healthy control group (n = 30). Participants were asked to respond to the color of a stimulus or stimulus frame by pulling a joystick toward themselves or by pushing it away. The stimuli were comprised of checking-related, contamination-related, and neutral pictures and words. Patients with contamination-related symptoms were slower when responding to OCD-related stimuli, independent of approach or avoidance. Unexpectedly, patients with checking-related symptoms were faster at pulling (approaching) and slower at pushing (avoiding) checking-related material compared with neutral stimuli. The slower pushing (avoiding) of checking-related compared with neutral material correlated positively with explicit ratings of avoidance. These results suggest a biased approach-avoidance tendency in patients with checking-related symptoms of OCD, but not in those with contamination-related symptoms of OCD. Future studies are necessary to assess whether the AAT might be useful in the assessment of treatment gains as well as whether it might be a training tool to enhance psychotherapeutic changes in OCD. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Heterogeneity in development of aspects of working memory predicts longitudinal attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptom change.
    The role of cognitive mechanisms in the clinical course of neurodevelopmental disorders is poorly understood. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is emblematic in that numerous alterations in cognitive development are apparent, yet how they relate to changes in symptom expression with age is unclear. To resolve the role of cognitive mechanisms in ADHD, a developmental perspective that takes into account expected within-group heterogeneity is needed. Method: The current study uses an accelerated longitudinal design and latent trajectory growth mixture models in a sample of children ages 7–13 years carefully characterized as with (n = 437) and without (n = 297) ADHD to (a) identify heterogeneous developmental trajectories for response inhibition, visual spatial working memory maintenance, and delayed reward discounting and (b) to assess the relationships between these cognitive trajectories and ADHD symptom change. Results: Best-fitting models indicated multiple trajectory classes in both the ADHD and typically developing samples, as well as distinct relationships between each cognitive process and ADHD symptom change. Developmental change in response inhibition and delayed reward discounting were unrelated to ADHD symptom change, while individual differences in the rate of visual spatial working memory maintenance improvement predicted symptom remission in ADHD. Conclusion: Characterizing heterogeneity in cognitive development will be crucial for clarifying mechanisms of symptom persistence and recovery. Results here suggest working memory maintenance may be uniquely related to ADHD symptom improvement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Structural learning difficulties implicate altered hippocampal functioning in adults with autism spectrum disorder.
    Structural learning is fundamental to the formation of cognitive maps that are necessary for learning, memory, and spatial navigation. It also enables successful navigation of the social world, which is something that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) find particularly difficult. To master these situations, a person needs to bind pieces of information to one another and to consider the context in which experiences happen. Such binding is a capacity of the hippocampus. Although altered hippocampal function has for long been suspected to play a role in the etiology of ASD, the relevant evidence has remained inconclusive because few behavioral tests that are known to specifically necessitate preserved hippocampal function have been employed in studies of ASD. To address this gap in the literature, a total sample of 57 pairs of age and ability matched ASD and comparison participants was divided into 3 subsamples who were asked either to complete structural learning, or 1 of 2 configural learning control tasks (biconditional discrimination and transverse patterning) drawn from animal research. As predicted, ASD adults demonstrated specific difficulty with structural learning but not with other forms of configural learning. These differences were not attributable to decreased attentional shifting or increased perseveration, which would have indicated atypical frontal modulation of hippocampal processes. Instead, the observations implicate atypical hippocampal functioning as the source of structural learning difficulties in ASD. The data suggest that disturbances in domain-general cognitive processes such as structural learning, caused by altered hippocampal function, play a critical role in the etiology of ASD. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Heightened attentional capture by visual food stimuli in anorexia nervosa.
    The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that anorexia nervosa (AN) patients are relatively insensitive to the attentional capture of visual food stimuli. Attentional avoidance of food might help AN patients to prevent more elaborate processing of food stimuli and the subsequent generation of craving, which might enable AN patients to maintain their strict diet. Participants were 66 restrictive AN spectrum patients and 55 healthy controls. A single-target rapid serial visual presentation task was used with food and disorder-neutral cues as critical distracter stimuli and disorder-neutral pictures as target stimuli. AN spectrum patients showed diminished task performance when visual food cues were presented in close temporal proximity of the to-be-identified target. In contrast to our hypothesis, results indicate that food cues automatically capture AN spectrum patients’ attention. One explanation could be that the enhanced attentional capture of food cues in AN is driven by the relatively high threat value of food items in AN. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Stability and change in etiological factors for alcohol use disorder and major depression.
    Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) are often comorbid. It is not understood how genetic risk factors for these disorders relate to each other over time and to what degree they are stable. Age-dependent characteristics of the disorders indicate that different genetic factors could be relevant at different stages of life, and MDD may become increasingly correlated with AUD over time. DSM–IV diagnoses of AUD and MDD were assessed by interviews of 2,801 young adult twins between 1999 and 2004 (T1) and 2,284 of the same twins between 2010 and 2011 (T2). Stability, change, and covariation were investigated in longitudinal biometric models. New genetic factors explained 56.4% of the genetic variance in AUD at T2. For MDD, there was full overlap between genetic influences at T1 and T2. Genetic risk factors for MDD were related to AUD, but their association with AUD did not increase over time. Thus, genetic risk factors for AUD, but not MDD, vary with age, suggesting that AUD has age-dependent heritable etiologies. Molecular genetic studies of AUD may therefore benefit from stratifying by age. The new genetic factors in AUD were not related to MDD. Environmental influences on the 2 disorders were correlated in middle, but not in young adulthood. The environmental components for AUD correlated over time (r = .27), but not for MDD. Environmental influences on AUD can have long-lasting effects, and the effects of preventive efforts may be enduring. Environment influences seem to be largely transient. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Psychometrics and the neuroscience of individual differences: Internal consistency limits between-subjects effects.
    In the clinical neuroscience literature, between-subjects differences in neural activity are presumed to reflect reliable measures—even though the psychometric properties of neural measures are almost never reported. The current article focuses on the critical importance of assessing and reporting internal consistency reliability—the homogeneity of “items” that comprise a neural “score.” We demonstrate how variability in the internal consistency of neural measures limits between-subjects (i.e., individual differences) effects. To this end, we utilize error-related brain activity (i.e., the error-related negativity or ERN) in both healthy and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) participants to demonstrate options for psychometric analyses of neural measures; we examine between-groups differences in internal consistency, between-groups effect sizes, and between-groups discriminability (i.e., ROC analyses)—all as a function of increasing items (i.e., number of trials). Overall, internal consistency should be used to inform experimental design and the choice of neural measures in individual differences research. The internal consistency of neural measures is necessary for interpreting results and guiding progress in clinical neuroscience—and should be routinely reported in all individual differences studies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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