Kevin Lewis

February 11, 2018

Social media as a shield: Facebook buffers acute stress
Holly Rus & Jitske Tiemensma
Physiology & Behavior, 1 March 2018, Pages 46-54


Facebook remains the most widely used social media platform. Research suggests that Facebook may both enhance and undermine psychosocial constructs related to well-being, and that it may impair physiological stress recovery. However, little is known about its influence on stress reactivity. Using novel experimental methods, this study examined how Facebook influences reactivity to an acute social stressor. Facebook users (n = 104, 53 males, mean age 19.50, SD = 1.73) were randomly assigned to use their own Facebook account or sit quietly with the option of reading electronic magazines before experiencing an acute social stressor. All participants showed significant changes in subjective and physiological stress markers in response to the stressor. However, participants who used Facebook experienced lower levels of psychosocial stress, physiological stress, and rated the stressor as less threatening (p's < 0.05) when controlling for gender and emotional investment in the website compared to controls. Results suggest that Facebook use may buffer stress — in particular psychosocial stress — if used before experiencing an acute social stressor. This study is among the first to incorporate both objective and subjective measures in investigating the complex relationship between Facebook use and well-being.

Do you believe happiness can change? An investigation of the relationship between happiness mindsets, well-being, and satisfaction
Daryl Van Tongeren & Jeni Burnette
Journal of Positive Psychology, March/April 2017, Pages 101-109


Three studies (N = 794) examined if beliefs about the malleable nature of happiness (growth mindsets) are associated with well-being and if this well-being had downstream implications for satisfaction with one’s relationships (Studies 1–3), health (Study 3), and job (Study 3). In Study 1 (N = 277), happiness growth mindsets were associated with greater well-being and greater relationship satisfaction. In Study 2 (N = 337), using an experimental paradigm and serial mediation, encouraging growth mindsets led to stronger beliefs in the changeable nature of happiness, which in turn was associated with subjective well-being, and, finally, relationship satisfaction. In Study 3 (N = 180), we replicated the downstream effects of growth mindsets of happiness on well-being and subsequently on relationship satisfaction and extended these serial mediation effects to health and job satisfaction. We discuss the implications of happiness mindsets.

Things are looking up: Physical beauty, social mobility, and optimistic dispositions
Robert Urbatsch
Social Science Research, forthcoming


Physical attractiveness tends to inspire friendlier reactions and more positive evaluations from others, so that the beautiful are likelier to succeed across many kinds of endeavors. Does this history of success lead to a more optimistic, hopeful attitude? Evidence from the 2016 General Social Survey and the 1972 National Election Study suggests that it often does: those whom interviewers rate as better-looking tend to report higher expectations that life will turn out well for them, and show signs of greater upward social mobility. Since optimism is itself an important contributor to success in many social endeavors, these findings suggest an understudied mechanism by which beauty leads to better life outcomes, as well as a means by which social interactions may shape personal dispositions.

Do material, psychosocial and behavioural factors mediate the relationship between disability acquisition and mental health? A sequential causal mediation analysis
Zoe Aitken et al.
International Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming

Methods: We used four waves of data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (2011–14) to compare self-reported mental health between individuals who acquired any disability (n=387) and those who remained disability-free (n=7936). We tested three possible pathways from disability acquisition to mental health, examining the effect of material, psychosocial and behavioural mediators. The effect was partitioned into natural direct and indirect effects through the mediators using a sequential causal mediation analysis approach. Multiple imputation using chained equations was used to assess the impact of missing data.

Results: Disability acquisition was estimated to cause a five-point decline in mental health [estimated mean difference: –5.3, 95% confidence interval (CI) –6.8, –3.7]. The indirect effect through material factors was estimated to be a 1.7-point difference (–1.7, 95% CI –2.8, –0.6), explaining 32% of the total effect, with a negligible proportion of the effect explained by the addition of psychosocial characteristics (material and psychosocial: –1.7, 95% CI –3.0, –0.5) and a further 5% by behavioural factors (material-psychosocial-behavioural: –2.0, 95% CI –3.4, –0.6).

Conclusions: The finding that the effect of disability acquisition on mental health operates predominantly through material rather than psychosocial and behavioural factors has important implications. The results highlight the need for better social protection, including income support, employment and education opportunities, and affordable housing for people who acquire a disability.

Efficacy and Safety of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation as an Add-on Treatment for Bipolar Depression: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Bernardo Sampaio-Junior et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, February 2018, Pages 158-166

Design, Setting, and Participants: A randomized, sham-controlled, double-blind trial (the Bipolar Depression Electrical Treatment Trial [BETTER]) was conducted from July 1, 2014, to March 30, 2016, at an outpatient, single-center academic setting. Participants included 59 adults with type I or II bipolar disorder in a major depressive episode and receiving a stable pharmacologic regimen with 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17) scores higher than 17. Data were analyzed in the intention-to-treat sample.

Interventions: Ten daily 30-minute, 2-mA, anodal-left and cathodal-right prefrontal sessions of active or sham tDCS on weekdays and then 1 session every fortnight until week 6.

Results: Fifty-nine patients (40 [68%] women), with a mean (SD) age of 45.9 (12) years participated; 36 (61%) with bipolar I and 23 (39%) with bipolar II disorder were randomized and 52 finished the trial. In the intention-to-treat analysis, patients in the active tDCS condition showed significantly superior improvement compared with those receiving sham (βint = −1.68; number needed to treat, 5.8; 95% CI, 3.3-25.8; P = .01). Cumulative response rates were higher in the active vs sham groups (67.6% vs 30.4%; number needed to treat, 2.69; 95% CI, 1.84-4.99; P = .01), but not remission rates (37.4% vs 19.1%; number needed to treat, 5.46; 95% CI, 3.38-14.2; P = .18). Adverse events, including treatment-emergent affective switches, were similar between groups, except for localized skin redness that was higher in the active group (54% vs 19%; P = .01).

Conclusions and Relevance: In this trial, tDCS was an effective, safe, and tolerable add-on intervention for this small bipolar depression sample. Further trials should examine tDCS efficacy in a larger sample.

Resting-state functional connectivity predicts neuroticism and extraversion in novel individuals
W-T Hsu et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming


The personality dimensions of neuroticism and extraversion are strongly associated with emotional experience and affective disorders. Previous studies reported fMRI activity correlates of these traits, but no study has used brain-based measures to predict them. Here, using a fully cross-validated approach, we predict novel individuals’ neuroticism and extraversion from functional connectivity (FC) data observed as they simply rested during fMRI scanning. We applied a data-driven technique, connectome-based predictive modeling (CPM), to resting-state FC data and neuroticism and extraversion scores (self-reported NEO Five Factor Inventory) from 114 participants of the Nathan Kline Institute Rockland sample. After dividing the whole brain into 268 nodes using a predefined functional atlas, we defined each individual’s FC matrix as the set of correlations between the activity timecourses of every pair of nodes. CPM identified networks consisting of functional connections correlated with neuroticism and extraversion scores, and used strength in these networks to predict a left-out individual’s scores. CPM predicted neuroticism and extraversion in novel individuals, demonstrating that patterns in resting-state FC reveal trait-level measures of personality. CPM also revealed predictive networks that exhibit some anatomical patterns consistent with past studies and potential new brain areas of interest in personality.

Association of Heritable Cognitive Ability and Psychopathology With White Matter Properties in Children and Adolescents
Dag Alnæs et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Design, Setting, and Participants: We investigated clinical symptoms as well as cognitive function in 6487 individuals aged 8 to 21 years from November 1, 2009, to November 30, 2011, in the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort and analyzed diffusion magnetic resonance imaging brain scans for 748 of the participants.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Independent component analysis was used to derive dimensional psychopathology scores, and genome-wide complex trait analysis was used to estimate its heritability. Multimodal fusion simultaneously modeled contributions of the diffusion magnetic resonance imaging metrics fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, radial diffusivity, L1 (the principal diffusion tensor imaging eigen value), mode of anisotropy, as well as dominant and secondary fiber orientations, and structural connectivity density, and their association with general psychopathology and cognition.

Results: Machine learning with 10-fold cross-validation and permutation testing in 729 individuals (aged 8 to 22 years; mean [SD] age, 15.1 [3.3] years; 343 females [46%]) revealed significant association with general psychopathology levels (r = 0.24, P < .001) and cognition (r = 0.39, P < .001). A brain white matter pattern reflecting frontotemporal connectivity and crossing fibers in the uncinate fasciculus was the most associated feature for both traits. Univariate analysis across a range of clinical domains and cognitive test scores confirmed its transdiagnostic importance. Both the general psychopathology (16%; SE, 0.095; P = .05) and cognitive (18%; SE, 0.09; P = .01) factor were heritable and showed a negative genetic correlation.

Conclusion and relevance: Dimensional and heritable general cognitive and psychopathology factors are associated with specific patterns of white matter properties, suggesting that dysconnectivity is a transdiagnostic brain-based phenotype in individuals with increased susceptibility and symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

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