New First Year Undergraduate Research Program: Animal and Human Models of Stress in Close Relationships
Among humans and many non-human species, individuals have a fundamental need to initiate, develop, and sustain close relationships. For example, early in development, when parents rear their young, multiple relationships characterize this period, including relationships between parents as well as between parents and their young. As children develop, family relationships continue to hold some importance to the child, but so do relationships that develop outside of the family (e.g., mate selection in animal species, romantic and work relationships in humans).
Relationship security refers to beliefs that relationship partners care for one's welfare, have positive regard for the self, and are committed to maintaining the relationship. These beliefs are important because they have a strong impact on satisfaction with relationships, relationship persistence, and personal well-being. Hence, it is important to understand how these beliefs are formed. Research in the Interpersonal Relationships Lab, directed by Dr. Edward Lemay, suggests that these beliefs are a result of motivated cognition. Motivated cognition, or "wishful thinking," is the tendency to see the world in ways that are consistent with one's desires.
Autobiographical memory refers to memories for our own personal life experiences (e.g., our high school graduation, summer vacation last year, etc). These memories are important as they contribute to our self-identity and enhance our social ties with others. Interestingly, when most adults look back on their life experiences they can recall very few, if any memories from early childhood (before 6 years of age). This phenomenon has been referred to as infantile or childhood amnesia; the lack of personal memories from early in life.
Chronic drug use impairs brain function leading to persistent deficits in impulse control and decision-making. Although much is known about structural and chemical changes that occur after long term drug abuse, it is still unclear how brain signals necessary for adaptive decision-making are affected. To address this issue, Dr. Roesch has spent his career recording neural activity from single brain cells as rats perform a variety of decision-making tasks with the overarching goal to elucidate how the brain controls behavior in both healthy animals and in animal models of disease. Ultimately, the goal is to rescue disrupted signals and restore behavior to normal levels.
Fifteen to 20% of young children can be classified as behaviorally inhibited (BI) during infancy, meaning that they consistently respond to unfamiliar situations, objects, and people with negative emotion and withdrawal. Roughly half of infants classified as BI remain so throughout childhood. Prospective studies demonstrate that stable BI across infancy and early childhood is associated with the development of later anxiety, particularly social anxiety disorder—suggesting a need for early intervention.