Publications by authors named "Ilona Papousek"

114 Publications

Cross-Format Integration of Auditory Number Words and Visual-Arabic Digits: An ERP Study.

Front Psychol 2021 23;12:765709. Epub 2021 Nov 23.

Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Converting visual-Arabic digits to auditory number words and vice versa is seemingly effortless for adults. However, it is still unclear whether this process takes place automatically and whether accessing the underlying magnitude representation is necessary during this process. In two event-related potential (ERP) experiments, adults were presented with identical (e.g., "one" and 1) or non-identical (e.g., "one" and 9) number pairs, either unimodally (two visual-Arabic digits) or cross-format (an auditory number word and a visual-Arabic digit). In Experiment 1 (N=17), active task demands required numerical judgments, whereas this was not the case in Experiment 2 (N=19). We found pronounced early ERP markers of numerical identity unimodally in both experiments. In the cross-format conditions, however, we only observed late neural correlates of identity and only if the task required semantic number processing (Experiment 1). These findings suggest that unimodal pairs of digits are automatically integrated, whereas cross-format integration of numerical information occurs more slowly and involves semantic access.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.765709DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8649696PMC
November 2021

Effects of Touchscreen Media Use on Toddlers' Sleep: Insights from Longtime ECG Monitoring.

Sensors (Basel) 2021 Nov 12;21(22). Epub 2021 Nov 12.

Educational Psychology Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria.

Wearable biomedical sensor technology enables reliable monitoring of physiological data, even in very young children. The purpose of the present study was to develop algorithms for gaining valid physiological indicators of sleep quality in toddlers, using data from an undisturbing and easy-to-use wearable device. The study further reports the application of this technique to the investigation of potential impacts of early touchscreen media use. Toddlers' touchscreen media use is of strong interest for parents, educators, and researchers. Mostly, negative effects of media use are assumed, among them, disturbances of sleep and impairments of learning and development. In 55 toddlers (32 girls, 23 boys; 27.4 ± 4.9 months; range: 16-37 months), ECG monitoring was conducted for a period of 30 (±3) h. Parents were asked about their children's touchscreen media use and they rated their children's sleep quality. The use of touchscreen media predicted the physiologically determined quality of sleep but not parent-reported sleep quality (such as sleep onset latency). Greater heart rate differences between restless sleep phases and restful sleep indicated poorer nighttime recovery in children with more frequent use of touchscreen media. The study demonstrates that the expert analysis of the ECG during sleep is a potent tool for the estimation of sleep quality in toddlers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/s21227515DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8622356PMC
November 2021

Light intervention effects on circadian activity rhythm parameters and nighttime sleep in dementia assessed by wrist actigraphy: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Gerontologist 2021 Nov 12. Epub 2021 Nov 12.

Institute of Psychology, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.

Background And Objectives: Persons with dementia often show circadian rhythm disturbances and sleep problems. Timed light exposure seems to be a promising non-pharmacological treatment option. In this review, meta-analyses were run on light effects on circadian activity rhythm parameters in persons with dementia measured with wrist actimetry. Further, we update a Cochrane review, published in 2014, on actigraphically measured light effects in nighttime sleep parameters in persons with dementia.

Research Design And Methods: Four electronic databases were searched for randomized controlled trials. Effects in meta-analyses were summarized by using mean differences and 95% confidence intervals. We followed PRISMA guidelines to assess the risk of bias and registered the review protocol (PROSPERO: CRD42020149001).

Results: Thirteen trials met inclusion criteria, and either utilized light therapy devices, ambient room lighting systems, or dawn-dusk interventions. Eleven of these studies were subjected to meta-analyses. They did not reveal significant light effects on circadian activity parameters: amplitude (p=.62; n=313), acrophase (p=.34; n=313), intradaily variability (p=.51; n=354), and interdaily stability (p=.38; n=354). Furthermore, no light effects were found on sleep parameters: total sleep duration (p=.53; n=594), sleep efficiency (p=.63; n=333), wake after sleep onset (p=.95; n=212), and sleep onset latency (p=.26; n=156). Subgroup analyses, pooling data from three studies including persons with Alzheimer's dementia, also did not show light effects on circadian activity and sleep parameters. The overall risk of bias of included studies was high.

Discussion And Implications: There is insufficient evidence for actigraphically measured circadian light effects in persons with dementia. More high-quality research is needed to recommend the application of adjunctive light.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnab168DOI Listing
November 2021

Creative, Antagonistic, and Angry? Exploring the Roots of Malevolent Creativity with a Real-World Idea Generation Task.

J Creat Behav 2021 Sep 12;55(3):710-722. Epub 2020 Dec 12.

University of Graz.

Research is currently witnessing more investigations into malevolent creativity-creativity that is used to intentionally harm others. Inspired by previous methods to measure malevolent creativity, in the present study, we introduce a real-world behavioral task designed to capture individuals' capacity for using creativity for the purpose of attaining malevolent goals in response to everyday, provocative situations. In a sample of 105 students, we found malevolent creativity positively correlated with fluency in conventional creative ideation, as well as with self-reported typical malevolent creativity behavior in daily life. Moreover, performance on the malevolent creativity task showed positive correlations with the maladaptive personality trait of antagonism (PID-5) as well as individuals' state anger at the beginning of the experiment. Further, our multiple regression analysis revealed that conventional creative ideation, antagonistic personality, and state anger all explained unique, non-overlapping variance in the capacity for implementing malevolent creativity. As a whole, these findings suggest that different cognitive and affective factors, along with specific personality traits may each contribute to the expression of malevolent creativity in distinct ways. Future investigations striving to further decode the destructive potential of individuals toward others may benefit from this validated behavioral measurement approach to malevolent creativity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jocb.484DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8518065PMC
September 2021

A two-week running intervention reduces symptoms related to depression and increases hippocampal volume in young adults.

Cortex 2021 Nov 24;144:70-81. Epub 2021 Sep 24.

Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Austria.

This study examined the effects of a two-week running intervention on depressive symptoms and structural changes of different subfields of the hippocampus in young adults from the general population. The intervention was realized in small groups of participants in a mostly forested area and was organized into seven units of about 60 min each. The study design included two intervention groups which were tested at three time points and which received the intervention time-delayed: The first group between the first and the second time point, and the second group between the second and the third time point (waiting control group). At each test session, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed and symptoms related to depression were measured by means of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale. Results revealed a significant reduction of CES-D scores after the running intervention. The intervention also resulted in significant increases in the volume of the hippocampus, and reductions of CES-D scores right after the intervention were associated with increases in hippocampal volume. These findings add important new evidence on the beneficial role of aerobic exercise on depressive symptoms and related structural alterations of the hippocampus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2021.08.010DOI Listing
November 2021

Differences in Hemodynamic, Hormonal and Heart Rate Variability Parameters in Complication-Free Pregnancies Compared to Individuals with Gestational Diabetes Mellitus and Preeclampsia: An Observational Retrospective Analysis.

Life (Basel) 2021 Jun 29;11(7). Epub 2021 Jun 29.

Otto Loewi Research Center, Division of Physiology, Medical University of Graz, 8036 Graz, Austria.

To investigate differences in hemodynamic, hormonal and heart rate variability parameters in women following complication-free pregnancies (healthy), preeclampsia and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) after giving childbirth. Data of 60 women (healthy: n = 29, age 32.7 ± 4.5 years, BMI 24.2 ± 4.3 kg/m; preeclampsia: n = 16, age 35.3 ± 4.4 years, 28.5 ± 6.4 kg/m; GDM, n = 15, age 32.3 ± 6.0 years, BMI 26.4 ± 6.2 kg/m) were included. Two visits were conducted 16 and 48 weeks after giving childbirth. Hair samples were taken for analysis of cortisol and testosterone. ECG and blood pressure were recorded at each visit. Data were analyzed via RM-ANOVA and post-hoc testing ( ≤ 0.05). Heart rate increased from visit 1 to visit 2, whereas SDNN decreased (both = 0.03). RMSSD showed an increased trend for groups ( = 0.06). Testosterone in the GDM group was significantly higher compared to the other groups ( = 0.002). Cortisol levels were significantly higher following post-hoc testing GDM was different compared to healthy individuals ( = 0.02). Hemodynamic changes from week 16 to week 48 did not differ between groups ( > 0.05). No differences between individuals with preeclampsia and healthy individuals were found for all hemodynamic parameters ( > 0.05). The study showed higher levels of chronic stress indicators in GDM measured via heart rate variability and cortisol compared to women with a history of preeclampsia and healthy women.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/life11070626DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8306108PMC
June 2021

Unaffected Memory and Inhibitory Functioning Several Weeks Postpartum in Women with Pregnancy Complicated by Preeclampsia.

Behav Sci (Basel) 2021 Apr 18;11(4). Epub 2021 Apr 18.

Otto Loewi Research Center, Division of Physiology, Medical University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria.

Several studies reported impaired cognitive functioning after pregnancy complicated by preeclampsia. The present study examined cognitive and executive functioning in women with preeclampsia at a time at which immediate effects of gestation have resolved, brain damage due to other risk factors have not yet manifested, and impairments may thus primarily occur as a result of the huge stress induced by the potentially life threatening condition. Verbal learning/memory (California Verbal Learning Test) and inhibitory functioning (Mittenecker Pointing Test) of 35 women with preeclampsia and 38 women with uncomplicated pregnancy were followed over five measurement time points during the period from 16 to 48 weeks postpartum. A further control group comprised 40 women with no history of recent pregnancy. The groups did not differ in their verbal learning/memory performance. Higher levels of currently experienced everyday-life stress were associated with poorer inhibitory control/greater stereotypy in responding, but this effect was not directly connected with pregnancy complications. Taken together, the findings do not indicate rapid-onset cognitive impairment after preeclampsia, brought about by its extremely stressful nature or other factors that take effect during gestation. Deficits observed in later life may develop on a long-term basis through late-diagnosed hypertension and unfavorable lifestyle factors. The large time window in which exaggerated cognitive decline can be prevented or mitigated should be utilized for the control of risk factors and interventions to improve lifestyle where appropriate.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/bs11040055DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8072974PMC
April 2021

Failure to reappraise: Malevolent creativity is linked to revenge ideation and impaired reappraisal inventiveness in the face of stressful, anger-eliciting events.

Anxiety Stress Coping 2021 07 26;34(4):437-449. Epub 2021 Apr 26.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, AUT.

The complexities of daily life often necessitate creative ideas to successfully cope with negative social situations. This study investigated the relationship of two types of creativity that may be elicited by similar contexts but are associated with different goals and impact of ideas: reappraisal inventiveness (the capability to generate manifold reappraisals for negative situations) and malevolent creativity, capturing the inventiveness in intentionally harming others. In 73 women, these variables were assessed by performance tests depicting real-life, anger-eliciting situations. Additionally, participants reported their trait anger and depressive symptoms. Inventiveness (ideational fluency) was positively correlated between the two tasks, probably indicating shared divergent thinking demands. A more intricate pattern emerged for quality aspects of generated ideas. Participants inventing particularly harmful ideas for damaging others generated fewer valid reappraisals and displayed less problem-oriented thinking during reappraisal. Greater inventiveness in damaging others was linked to more revenge-related ideation during reappraisal attempts, which also correlated with self-reported depressive symptoms. A higher capacity for malevolent ideation may potentially hamper successful coping with stressful, anger-eliciting events and, as a result, may advance an adverse spiral of reinforcement. Considering these links may help tailor psychotherapeutic interventions to individuals' specific predispositions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2021.1918682DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8367047PMC
July 2021

Brain activation during the observation of real soccer game situations predicts creative goal scoring.

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 2021 07;16(7):707-715

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz 8010, Austria.

Creativity is an important source of success in soccer players. In order to be effective in soccer, unpredictable, sudden and at the same time creative (i.e. unique, original and effective) ideas are required in situations with high time pressure. Accordingly, creative task performance in soccer should be primarily driven by rapid and automatic cognitive processes. This study investigated if functional patterns of brain activation during the observation/encoding of real soccer game situations can predict creative soccer task performance. A machine learning approach (multivariate pattern recognition) was applied in a sample of 35 experienced male soccer players. The results revealed that brain activation during the observation of the soccer scenes significantly predicted creative soccer task performance, while brain activation during the subsequent ideation/elaboration period did not. The identified brain network included areas such as the angular gyrus, the supramarginal gyrus, the occipital cortex, parts of the cerebellum and (left) supplementary motor areas, which are important for semantic information processing, memory retrieval, integration of sensory information and motor control. This finding suggests that early and presumably automatized neurocognitive processes, such as (implicit) knowledge about motor movements, and the rapid integration of information from different sources are important for creative task performance in soccer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsab035DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8259291PMC
July 2021

The Impacts of the Presence of an Unfamiliar Dog on Emerging Adults' Physiological and Behavioral Responses Following Social Exclusion.

Behav Sci (Basel) 2020 Dec 14;10(12). Epub 2020 Dec 14.

Social Psychology Unit, Institute of Psychology, University of Klagenfurt, 9020 Klagenfurt, Austria.

Research indicates that non-human attachment figures may mitigate the negative consequences of social exclusion. In the current experiment, we examined how the presence of an unfamiliar companion dog in the laboratory effects physiological and behavioral reactions in female emerging adults after social exclusion compared to inclusion. Results revealed the beneficial effects of the dog: Socially excluded participants in the company of a dog showed less aggressive behavior in response to the hot sauce paradigm compared to excluded participants in the control condition. Furthermore, cardiac responses indicated mitigated perception of threat in a subsequent insult episode when a dog was present. The presence of a dog did not impact the most instantaneous, "reflexive" response to the social exclusion as revealed by characteristic cardiac changes. Together, the findings indicate that the presence of a companion dog takes effect in a later, reflective period following a social exclusion experience, which implicates relevant social elaboration and appraisal processes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/bs10120191DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7764974PMC
December 2020

How to Use Heart Rate Variability: Quantification of Vagal Activity in Toddlers and Adults in Long-Term ECG.

Sensors (Basel) 2020 Oct 21;20(20). Epub 2020 Oct 21.

Department of Psychology, Biological Psychology Unit, University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria.

Recent developments in noninvasive electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring with small, wearable sensors open the opportunity to record high-quality ECG over many hours in an easy and non-burdening way. However, while their recording has been tremendously simplified, the interpretation of heart rate variability (HRV) data is a more delicate matter. The aim of this paper is to supply detailed methodological discussion and new data material in order to provide a helpful notice of HRV monitoring issues depending on recording conditions and study populations. Special consideration is given to the monitoring over long periods, across periods with different levels of activity, and in adults versus children. Specifically, the paper aims at making users aware of neglected methodological limitations and at providing substantiated recommendations for the selection of appropriate HRV variables and their interpretation. To this end, 30-h HRV data of 48 healthy adults (18-40 years) and 47 healthy toddlers (16-37 months) were analyzed in detail. Time-domain, frequency-domain, and nonlinear HRV variables were calculated after strict signal preprocessing, using six different high-frequency band definitions including frequency bands dynamically adjusted for the individual respiration rate. The major conclusion of the in-depth analyses is that for most applications that implicate long-term monitoring across varying circumstances and activity levels in healthy individuals, the time-domain variables are adequate to gain an impression of an individual's HRV and, thus, the dynamic adaptation of an organism's behavior in response to the ever-changing demands of daily life. The sound selection and interpretation of frequency-domain variables requires considerably more consideration of physiological and mathematical principles. For those who prefer using frequency-domain variables, the paper provides detailed guidance and recommendations for the definition of appropriate frequency bands in compliance with their specific recording conditions and study populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/s20205959DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7589813PMC
October 2020

Everyday bodily movement is associated with creativity independently from active positive affect: a Bayesian mediation analysis approach.

Sci Rep 2020 07 20;10(1):11985. Epub 2020 Jul 20.

Department of Psychology, Health Psychology Unit, University of Graz, Univ.-Platz 2, 8010, Graz, Austria.

Previous (predominantly) laboratory studies reported positive relations of physical activity (or everyday bodily movement) with executive functioning, some even showed effects on creative thinking. Furthermore, positive-activated affect was found to be positively associated with everyday bodily movements and creativity. The mechanisms, however, underlying these relationships are poorly understood. The aim of this study was twofold: Firstly, we investigated whether everyday bodily movement was associated with creative performance. Secondly, we examined if positive-activated affect may mediate the association between bodily movement and creative performance. In a sample of 79 participants everyday bodily movement was recorded during five consecutive days using accelerometers. Creativity in the figural and verbal domain was assessed with performance tests, along with self-reported positive-activated affect as a trait. Findings revealed that creativity, positive-activated affect, and everyday bodily movement were associated with each other. However, positive-activated affect did not mediate the association between everyday bodily movement and creative performance. The pattern of findings argues for shared variance between bodily movement and creativity (fluency and originality) that is largely independent from variations in positive-activated affect.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68632-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7371881PMC
July 2020

Motivational Factors in the Typical Display of Humor and Creative Potential: The Case of Malevolent Creativity.

Front Psychol 2020 23;11:1213. Epub 2020 Jun 23.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Research is still disputing if an individual's use of humor in everyday life is also indicative of his or her creative potential. To date, the focus has been mainly restricted to shared cognitive factors, while motivational aspects that may link the production of humor and of creative ideas have been largely neglected. Humor motivation implicates latent social goals the creator pursues through the use of humor. These goals can be benign or more malicious and manifest in an individual's typical display of comic styles. While often overlooked, creativity often serves social functions as well, especially in common everyday situations. Similar to humor, creativity is typically regarded as beneficial for individuals and society. Yet, creative ideas may also originate from less prosocial goals. This is reflected in the concept of malevolent creativity, where novel ideas are generated to deliberately harm others. The present study investigated individuals' typical display of humor, differentiated in eight distinct comic styles in relation to their productivity in a behavioral test for malevolent creativity and general creative potential ( = 106). Individuals with higher scores on comic styles that are affiliated with malicious interpersonal goals - such as hurting or upsetting others or demonstrating superiority over others - were more fluent in producing malevolent creative ideas in the malevolent creativity test. This finding shows that individual differences in humor motivation relate to the capacity of coming up with relevant creative ideas also outside the domain of humor. The pattern of relationships between humor motivation and general creative potential differed from that of malicious creativity and implied the comic style "wit" only, primarily adding to the notion of shared cognitive processes in the production of humor and creative ideas. The study offers a novel perspective for how the inclusion of motivational factors that are inherent to conceptualizations of humor may also benefit creativity research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01213DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7325593PMC
June 2020

Humor comprehension and creative cognition: Shared and distinct neurocognitive mechanisms as indicated by EEG alpha activity.

Neuroimage 2020 06 3;213:116695. Epub 2020 Mar 3.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria. Electronic address:

Humor comprehension is increasingly recognized as showing parallels to more conventional creative cognition; yet our understanding of brain mechanisms underlying creative cognition in a humorous context is still limited. The present study addressed this issue by investigating functional patterns of EEG alpha activity while 93 participants viewed nonverbal humorous cartoons until they indicated having recognized the punch line, and subsequently vocalized their idea as to what constituted it. In a similar fashion, EEG was also assessed during performance of the Alternate Uses Task (AUT), in order to identify similarities and differences in EEG alpha activity implicated in conventional creative cognition vs. humor comprehension. Analyses revealed a pattern of robust task-related alpha power increases in both tasks, which were markedly more right-lateralized at ventral fronto-temporal sites in the humor task as compared to the AUT. Findings are interpreted in line with recent literature on the functional role of alpha activity in the creativity domain. Altogether, this study adds further evidence to the particular role of EEG alpha oscillations in creative cognition and supports the idea that conventional creative ideation and the comprehension of humor share neural mechanisms affiliated to creative cognition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116695DOI Listing
June 2020

More habitual physical activity is linked to the use of specific, more adaptive cognitive reappraisal strategies in dealing with stressful events.

Stress Health 2020 Aug 9;36(3):274-286. Epub 2020 Feb 9.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Physical activity may improve stress resilience and well-being. However, specific links to individuals' coping abilities with stressful events are sparse. This study tested whether individuals reporting more physical activity in daily life showed a higher capacity for cognitive reappraisal in dealing with potential stressors. Ninety-eight participants reported their regular physical activity in the Freiburger Questionnaire on Physical Activity and completed a maximum performance test of their inventiveness in generating reappraisals for situations depicting real-life stressors. The latter provides scores for overall cognitive reappraisal capacity (quantity of ideas) and preference for specific cognitive reappraisal strategies (quality of ideas; positive reinterpretation; problem-oriented, de-emphasizing reappraisals). Additionally, participants' anxious and depressive dispositions and general creative abilities were assessed. Results showed no association between time spent on physical activities per week and total quantity of generated reappraisal ideas. However, a higher degree of physical activity was specifically linked to a greater relative preference for the reappraisal strategy of positive reinterpretation. Opposite associations emerged for the strategy of de-emphasizing reappraisals. The findings support the notion of more adaptive cognitive reappraisal use in more physically active individuals and may advance research on interrelationships between physical activity and cognitive and affective functions implicated in stress management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/smi.2929DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7497133PMC
August 2020

Influences Of Different Dimensions Of Academic Self-Concept On Students' Cardiac Recovery After Giving A Stressful Presentation.

Psychol Res Behav Manag 2019 7;12:1031-1040. Epub 2019 Nov 7.

Educational Psychology Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz 8010, Austria.

Purpose: Giving a presentation in a seminar is a strenuous academic situation. To meet such a challenge adequately, individuals not only have to activate their mental and physical resources, but they also have to disengage from the task and recover once the challenge has been met. How students experience these situations depends in part on how they recover from the stress, and this has putative impact on their longer-term academic well-being.

Methods: In a sample of 68 university students, the present study investigated the impact of four dimensions of students' academic self-concept on how efficiently students recovered after a challenging presentation in a university seminar. Recovery was assessed using psychophysiological measures; heart rate and heart rate variability were investigated. Higher levels of students' social self-concept (self-concept depending on social comparison) were linked to poorer recovery from the challenge, whereas higher levels of absolute self-concept (independent of external criteria) were associated with more efficient recovery.

Results: The findings suggest that a focus on one's own abilities (ie, internal performance standard) is linked to more adaptive patterns of responses to challenging situations, while the focus on social comparisons seems to hamper adaptive coping with academic stress.

Conclusion: These findings have consequences not only for learning and instruction but also for students' health and well-being.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S219784DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6844235PMC
November 2019

Functional coupling of brain networks during creative idea generation and elaboration in the figural domain.

Neuroimage 2020 02 23;207:116395. Epub 2019 Nov 23.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Austria.

The neuroscientific investigation of creative cognition has advanced by considering the functional connectivity between brain regions and its dynamic changes over time, which are consistent with stages in the ideation process. Surprisingly, although the communication between neuronal networks takes place in a time-scale of milliseconds, EEG studies investigating a time-course in cortico-cortical communication during creative ideation are rare and findings are typically restricted to the verbal domain. Therefore, this study examined functional coupling using EEG (task-related phase-locking in the upper-alpha range) during creative thinking in the figural domain. Using an innovative computerized experimental paradigm, we specifically investigated the stage of idea generation and the stage of idea elaboration in an adapted picture completion task. The findings confirmed a hypothesized increase of functional coupling from idea generation to elaboration, which was most pronounced in frontal-central as well as frontal-temporal networks. The connectivity in the frontal-parietal/occipital network already increased during idea generation and remained constant during elaboration. Importantly, more original participants generally showed higher functional connectivity in all brain networks. This elevated functional coupling with frontal brain regions might reflect increased executive processes related to internal attention, motor planning, and semantic selection processes supporting highly original thought in the figural domain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116395DOI Listing
February 2020

The propensity to perceive meaningful coincidences is associated with increased posterior alpha power during retention of information in a modified Sternberg paradigm.

Conscious Cogn 2019 11 14;76:102832. Epub 2019 Oct 14.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Austria.

There are ample inter-individual differences in the frequency with which people perceive meaningful coincidences. Previous research has identified increased proactive interference, that is a reduced working memory capacity, as one possible mechanism associated with this phenomenon. The present study aimed at extending this finding into the domain of neuroscience, (1) by assessing EEG alpha oscillations during the retention of information, (2) by replicating the behavioral link between meaningful coincidences and proactive interference. In a sample of 52 participants, the behavioral replication was successful. Furthermore, participants who perceived more meaningful coincidences showed higher alpha power increases at parietal-occipital sites, and at the same time, displayed lower alpha power increases at frontal areas, during retention of information. This neurophysiological activation pattern further underlines the assumption that participants who perceive more meaningful coincidences show lower working memory capacities, since increased alpha power at parietal areas reflects a higher load on working memory demands.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2019.102832DOI Listing
November 2019

Brain Structure Alterations in Poly-Drug Use: Reduced Cortical Thickness and White Matter Impairments in Regions Associated With Affective, Cognitive, and Motor Functions.

Front Psychiatry 2019 20;10:667. Epub 2019 Sep 20.

Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are defined by obsessive and uncontrolled consumption, which is related to neurobiological changes. Based on previous work, this study investigated potential alterations in brain structure in poly-drug use disordered (PUD) patients in comparison to controls from the normal population. This study involved a sample of 153 right-handed men aged between 18 and 41 years, comprising a clinical group of 78 PUD and a group of 75 healthy controls. Group differences in gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM), as well as cortical thickness (CT), were investigated by means of diffusion tensor imaging using automated fiber quantification (AFQ) and voxel-based morphometry. We observed significant WM impairments in PUD, especially in the bilateral corticospinal tracts and the inferior longitudinal fasciculi. Furthermore, we found reduced CT in the PUD group especially in the left insular and left lateral orbitofrontal cortex. There were no group differences in GM. In addition, PUD exhibited a higher amount of psychiatric symptoms (Brief Symptom Inventory) and impairments in cognitive functions (Wonderlic Personnel Test). In line with previous research, this study revealed substantial impairments in brain structure in the PUD group in areas linked with affective, cognitive, and motor functions. We therefore hypothesize a neurologically informed treatment approach for SUD. Future studies should consequently explore a potential positive neuroplasticity in relation to a better therapeutic outcome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00667DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6763614PMC
September 2019

Actigraphy for Assessing Light Effects on Sleep and Circadian Activity Rhythm in Alzheimer's Dementia: A Narrative Review.

Curr Alzheimer Res 2019 ;16(12):1084-1107

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Background: Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is often accompanied by severe sleep problems and circadian rhythm disturbances which may to some extent be attributed to a dysfunction in the biological clock. The 24-h light/dark cycle is the strongest Zeitgeber for the biological clock. People with AD, however, often live in environments with inappropriate photic Zeitgebers. Timed bright light exposure may help to consolidate sleep- and circadian rest/activity rhythm problems in AD, and may be a low-risk alternative to pharmacological treatment.

Objective & Methods: In the present review, experts from several research disciplines summarized the results of twenty-seven light intervention studies which used wrist actigraphy to measure sleep and circadian activity in AD patients.

Results: Taken together, the findings remain inconclusive with regard to beneficial light effects. However, the considered studies varied substantially with respect to the utilized light intervention, study design, and usage of actigraphy. The paper provides a comprehensive critical discussion of these issues.

Conclusion: Fusing knowledge across complementary research disciplines has the potential to critically advance our understanding of the biological input of light on health and may contribute to architectural lighting designs in hospitals, as well as our homes and work environments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2174/1567205016666191010124011DOI Listing
October 2020

Trait positive affect and students' prefrontal EEG alpha asymmetry responses during a simulated exam situation.

Biol Psychol 2019 11 5;148:107762. Epub 2019 Sep 5.

Section of Educational Psychology, Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Austria.

Affective dispositions may shape students' typical ways of coping when faced with demanding performance situations in their educational lives. We recorded frontal EEG alpha asymmetry responses in psychology students (n = 62) during the course of a scenario designed to simulate a real examination, which required oral explanation of statistical concepts. While students with lower levels of trait positive affect (PANAS) showed relative right hemispheric activation, sustained relative left hemispheric activation was observed in students with higher levels of trait positive affect. In line with relevant models of frontal brain asymmetry, the findings suggest that students' coping behaviors in the context of academic performance situations are in part instantaneously initiated, which is reflected in spontaneous activation of relative approach versus avoidance motivation. Independently of negative affect and momentary affective states, trait positive affectivity seems to be linked to recruitment of brain processes supporting a more adaptive response in that matter.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2019.107762DOI Listing
November 2019

Creative challenge: Regular exercising moderates the association between task-related heart rate variability changes and individual differences in originality.

PLoS One 2019 22;14(7):e0220205. Epub 2019 Jul 22.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Coping with mental challenges is vital to everyday functioning. In accordance with prominent theories, the adaptive and flexible adjustment of the organism to daily demands is well expressed in task-related changes of cardiac vagal control. While many mental challenges are associated with increased effort and associated decreased task-related heart rate variability (HRV), some cognitive challenges go along with HRV increases. Especially creativity represents a cognitive process, which not only results from mental effort but also from spontaneous modes of thinking. Critically, creativity and HRV are associated with regular exercising and fitness. Furthermore, the cross-stressor adaptation theory suggests that changes in cardiac reactions to physical challenges may generalize to mental challenges. In line with this idea the amount of regular exercising was hypothesized to moderate the association between HRV changes and creativity. A sample of 97 participants was investigated. They reported the amount of regular exercise and their ECG was measured at baseline and during a creativity task. An association between task-related HRV changes and originality as a function of participants' amount of regular exercise was found. Participants reporting more regular exercising produced more original ideas when they had higher HRV increases during the task, while more sedentary participants showed the opposite association. Results suggest that individuals with a higher amount of regular exercise achieve higher originality probably via the engagement in more spontaneous modes of thinking, while more sedentary people may primarily benefit from increased mental effort. This supports the conclusion that higher creativity can be achieved by different strategies.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0220205PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6645545PMC
February 2020

Disturbed Cardiorespiratory Adaptation in Preeclampsia: Return to Normal Stress Regulation Shortly after Delivery?

Int J Mol Sci 2019 Jun 27;20(13). Epub 2019 Jun 27.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Clinical Center, 9020 Klagenfurt, Austria.

Women with pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia appear to be at increased risk of metabolic and vascular diseases in later life. Previous research has also indicated disturbed cardiorespiratory adaptation during pregnancy. The aim of this study was to follow up on the physiological stress response in preeclampsia several weeks postpartum. A standardized laboratory test was used to illustrate potential deviations in the physiological stress responding to mildly stressful events of the kind and intensity in which they regularly occur in further everyday life after pregnancy. Fifteen to seventeen weeks postpartum, 35 women previously affected by preeclampsia (19 mild, 16 severe preeclampsia), 38 women after uncomplicated pregnancies, and 51 age-matched healthy controls were exposed to a self-relevant stressor in a standardized stress-reactivity protocol. Reactivity of blood pressure, heart rate, stroke index, and systemic vascular resistance index as well as baroreceptor sensitivity were analyzed. In addition, the mutual adjustment of blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration, partitioned for influences of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system, were quantified by determining their phase synchronization. Findings indicated moderately elevated blood pressure levels in the nonpathological range, reduced stroke volume, and elevated systemic vascular resistance in women previously affected by preeclampsia. Despite these moderate abnormalities, at the time of testing, women with previous preeclampsia did not differ from the other groups in their physiological response patterns to acute stress. Furthermore, no differences between early, preterm, and term preeclampsia or mild and severe preeclampsia were observed at the time of testing. The findings suggest that the overall cardiovascular responses to moderate stressors return to normal in women who experience a pregnancy with preeclampsia a few weeks after delivery, while the operating point of the arterial baroreflex is readjusted to a higher pressure. Yet, their regulation mechanisms may remain different.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms20133149DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6651868PMC
June 2019

Poor control of interference from negative content hampers the effectiveness of humour as a source of positive emotional experiences.

Sci Rep 2019 05 29;9(1):8023. Epub 2019 May 29.

Section of Biological Psychology, Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

The brain-based ability to direct attention away from interfering negative information may co-determine to which degree one may benefit from humour as a source of positive emotional experiences. This should be particularly relevant when it comes to humour that implicates a target the joke makes fun of, which inherently entails rivalry between positive and negative emotional representations. One hundred healthy individuals completed a pictorial negative affective priming task and a nonverbal humour processing task. In line with the notion that during the elaborative processing of malicious jokes, interference from negative emotional representations hampers the experience of amusement, participants took more time to judge their amusement evoked by malicious compared to benign jokes. Lesser ability to distract attention from interfering negative emotional representations was associated with slower judgements of amusement following the processing of malicious jokes, as well as with lower amusement ratings. The time it took participants to comprehend the punch-lines was not affected, neither was the immediate, short-lived pleasure after having comprehended the humour, measured by characteristic transient cardiac activation. The findings suggest that the effective use of humour as a source of positive emotional experiences requires the ability to overcome the dark side of typical humour.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44550-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6541656PMC
May 2019

Effects of an adjunctive, chronotype-based light therapy in hospitalized patients with severe burnout symptoms - a pilot study.

Chronobiol Int 2019 07 9;36(7):993-1004. Epub 2019 May 9.

c Department of Psychology , University of Graz , Graz , Austria.

Light therapy is a well-established treatment option for seasonal affective disorders and is effective in reducing sleep problems and daytime fatigue. Symptoms of severe burnout include feelings of exhaustion and impaired sleep and mood. Thus, light therapy seems promising for burnout treatment. So far, light therapy effects in burnout were investigated in outpatient settings only, with inconclusive results. The present study targeted light therapy effects in an inpatient setting. Participants with severe burnout were recruited in two psychosomatic clinics and randomly assigned to a control group with multimodal psychiatric treatment or an add-on light treatment group. Participants in the latter group were additionally exposed to morning bright light (illuminance: 4246 lux, irradiance: 1802.81 µW.cm) for 3 weeks, 30 minutes a day, timed to their chronotypes. Light effects on burnout symptoms, depression, well-being, daytime sleepiness, sleep quality, and attentional performance were measured twice (pre-/postintervention design). Adjunctive chronotype-based bright light therapy was well tolerated and improved burnout symptoms and well-being without additional effect on severity of depression. Furthermore, reduced daytime sleepiness, improved nighttime sleep quality, a sleep phase advance of 25 minutes, shortened sleep latency, less sleep disturbances and increased sleep duration were observed in the light treatment group. No group differences were found in attentional performance. Chronotype-based bright light therapy seems to be effective in improving burnout symptoms and sleep problems in patients with severe burnout symptoms. Further studies with larger sample sizes and objective measures of sleep are necessary to confirm these preliminary results before practical recommendations can be made.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07420528.2019.1604539DOI Listing
July 2019

Cognitive reappraisal capacity mediates the relationship between prefrontal recruitment during reappraisal of anger-eliciting events and paranoia-proneness.

Brain Cogn 2019 06 10;132:108-117. Epub 2019 Apr 10.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Austria. Electronic address: https://psychologie.uni-graz.at/en/biological-psychology/team/.

Difficulties in emotion regulation, particularly in using adaptive regulation strategies such as cognitive reappraisal, are a commonly observed correlate of paranoia. While it has been suggested that poor implementation of cognitive reappraisal in dealing with aversive events precedes the onset of subclinical paranoid thinking, there is little empirical research on neural activation patterns during cognitive reappraisal efforts that might indicate vulnerability towards paranoid thinking. Prefrontal EEG alpha asymmetry changes were recorded while n = 57 participants were generating alternative appraisals of anger-eliciting events, and were linked to a behavioral measure of basic cognitive reappraisal capacity and self-reported paranoia proneness (assessed by personality facets of hostility and suspiciousness; Personality Inventory for DSM-5). Mediation analysis revealed that less left-lateralized activation at ventrolateral prefrontal sites during reappraisal efforts predicted a higher degree of paranoia proneness. This relationship was mediated through poorer cognitive reappraisal capacity. Matching previous evidence, findings suggest that inappropriate brain activation during reappraisal efforts impairs individuals' capacity to come up with effective alternative interpretations for anger-evoking situations, which may accentuate personality features related to increased paranoid thinking. The findings add to our understanding of neurally underpinned impairments in the capacity to generate cognitive reappraisals and their link to maladaptive personality and behavior.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2019.04.001DOI Listing
June 2019

Gender Differences in Generating Cognitive Reappraisals for Threatening Situations: Reappraisal Capacity Shields Against Depressive Symptoms in Men, but Not Women.

Front Psychol 2019 15;10:553. Epub 2019 Mar 15.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Despite major research interest regarding gender differences in emotion regulation, it is still not clear whether men and women differ in their basic capacity to implement specific emotion regulation strategies, as opposed to indications of the habitual use of these strategies in self-reports. Similarly, little is known on how such basic capacities relate to indices of well-being in both sexes. This study took a novel approach by investigating gender differences in the capacity for generating cognitive reappraisals in adverse situations in a sample of 67 female and 59 male students, using a maximum performance test of the inventiveness in generating reappraisals. Participants' self-perceived efficacy in emotion regulation was additionally assessed. Analyses showed that men and women did not differ in their basic capacity to generate alternative appraisals for anxiety-eliciting scenarios, suggesting similar functional cognitive mechanisms in the implementation of this strategy. Yet, higher cognitive reappraisal capacity predicted fewer depressive daily-life experiences in men only. These findings suggest that in the case of cognitive reappraisal, benefits for well-being in women might depend on a more complex combination of basic ability, habits, and efficacy-beliefs, along with the use of other emotion regulation strategies. The results of this study may have useful implications for psychotherapy research and practice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00553DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6428936PMC
March 2019

Learning Unicycling Evokes Manifold Changes in Gray and White Matter Networks Related to Motor and Cognitive Functions.

Sci Rep 2019 03 13;9(1):4324. Epub 2019 Mar 13.

Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

A three-week unicycling training was associated with (1) reductions of gray matter volume in regions closely linked to visuospatial processes such as spatial awareness, (2) increases in fractional anisotropy primarily in the right corticospinal tract and in the right forceps major of the corpus callosum, and (3) a slowly evolving increase in cortical thickness in the left motor cortex. Intriguingly, five weeks later, during which participants were no longer regularly engaged in unicycling, a re-increase in gray matter was found in the very same region of the rSTG. These changes in gray and white matter morphology were paralleled by increases in unicycling performance, and by improvements in postural control, which diminished until the follow-up assessments. Learning to ride a unicycle results in reorganization of different types of brain tissue facilitating more automated postural control, clearly demonstrating that learning a complex balance task modulates brain structure in manifold and highly dynamic ways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-40533-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6416294PMC
March 2019

Creativity is associated with a characteristic U-shaped function of alpha power changes accompanied by an early increase in functional coupling.

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 2019 08;19(4):1012-1021

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Univ.-Platz 2, A-8010, Graz, Austria.

Although there exists increasing knowledge about brain correlates underlying creative ideation in general, the specific neurocognitive mechanisms implicated in different stages of the creative thinking process are still under-researched. Some recent EEG studies suggested that alpha power during creative ideation varies as a function of time, with the highest levels of alpha power after stimulus onset and at the end of the creative thinking process. The main aim of the present study was to replicate and extend this finding by applying an individual differences approach, and by investigating functional coupling between long distance cortical sites during the process of creative ideation. Eighty-six participants performed the Alternate Uses (AU) task during EEG assessment. Results revealed that more original people showed increased alpha power after stimulus onset and before finalizing the process of idea generation. This U-shaped alpha power pattern was accompanied by an early increase in functional communication between frontal and parietal-occipital sites during the creative thinking process, putatively indicating activation of top-down executive control processes. Participants with lower originality showed no significant time-related variation in alpha power and a delayed increase in long distance functional communication. These findings are in line with dual process models of creative ideation and support the idea that increased alpha power at the beginning of the creative ideation process may indicate more associative modes of thinking and memory processes, while the alpha increases at later stages may indicate executive control processes, associated with idea elaboration/evaluation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13415-019-00699-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6711878PMC
August 2019

Humorous cognitive reappraisal: More benign humour and less "dark" humour is affiliated with more adaptive cognitive reappraisal strategies.

PLoS One 2019 31;14(1):e0211618. Epub 2019 Jan 31.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

The capacity to find humorous perspectives in aversive situations may outline a helpful strategy in the context of cognitive reappraisal. Yet, research suggested that some people produce more adaptive humour than others. At the same time, not all forms of cognitive reinterpretation seem to be unequivocally beneficial. The present study aimed to investigate specific cognitive reappraisal strategies that individuals employ in humorous reappraisal of adverse events. In a sample of 95 participants, the use of cognitive reappraisal sub-strategies was assessed in a behavioural test in which participants were required to generate a series of humorous reappraisals of self-relevant, threatening events. These reappraisal sub-strategies (three positive reinterpretation strategies, three de-emphasising strategies) were then related to the habitual use of different kinds of humour as well as the broader DSM-5 personality trait domains and well-being in terms of depressive experiences, assessed by self-report questionnaires. While no robust relationships were found for reappraisal strategies based on de-emphasising, sub-strategies within the positive reinterpretation category showed specific and contrasting associations with the examined traits. Findings indicated that the ability to produce humour is only linked to a favourable pattern of reappraisal strategies when manifested in benign forms of humour. Specific relations also emerged for the broader personality traits. The study suggests that some characteristics that advance the use of benign humour also benefit adaptive emotion regulation. The opposite seems to be true for malicious, or "dark" humour. The introduced behavioural approach to the analysis of humorous cognitive reappraisal may prove useful also in future related research.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0211618PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6355006PMC
November 2019
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