Theses Doctoral

Perseveration and health: An experimental examination of worry and relaxation on autonomic, endocrine, and immunological processes

Renna, Megan Elizabeth

The field of psychoneuroimmunology seeks to examine the impact of stress and other psychological processes on physical health. While some theories suggest that processes such as worry may have a significant impact on prolonging the physiological stress response and subsequently increasing risk for long-term health issues, to date, this research has not yet thoroughly examined the impact of worry on physical health processes. The current study sought to combine theories from clinical and health psychology to investigate the impact of experimentally-induced worry and relaxation on cortisol, heart rate variability (HRV), and inflammation. Participants (N = 85) were community members from the New York City area. They completed worry and relaxation inductions within the laboratory while HRV was collected continuously. Three blood samples were taken throughout the study to test for inflammation and cortisol. Results indicated changes in HRV, IL-6, and IFN-γ throughout the study conditions that were not moderated by levels of trait worry. HRV, cortisol, and inflammation did not covary throughout the different experimental conditions and changes in cortisol and/or HRV did not temporally precede changes in inflammation throughout the study. Overall, the findings from the current study offer insight into the contrasting impact that worry and relaxation have on physiological biomarkers and highlights important directions for future research in the field of psychoneuroimmunology.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Clinical Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Mennin, Douglas
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 7, 2019