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Research at the Beach | CSULB Research Newsletter
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Improving Mental Health Outcomes in At-Risk Young Adults

Drs. Araceli Gonzalez and Guido Urizar are faculty in the Psychology department who are collaborating on a study that broadly examines how psychosocial and physiological factors influence mental health outcomes. Previous research demonstrates that individuals with anxiety and depressive disorders tend to have heightened physiological responses to stress, and that they tend to over-interpret information from their environment as threatening or dangerous. However, very little is known about how physiological and cognitive processes work together to influence mental health. Accordingly, this study, funded through the CSULB BUILD Initiative, will investigate how physiological responses (autonomic arousal and cortisol levels) to a laboratory-based stressor and cognitive biases (i.e., interpreting ambiguous stimuli as threatening rather than neutral) influence levels of anxiety and depression in young adults. In addition to identifying factors associated with mental health outcomes, this study will use new engineering technology (sensors developed by collaborators at Florida International University) that is designed to provide real-time salivary cortisol results. Further, a subset of individuals who show elevated anxiety symptoms will be invited in participate in a follow-up study that is evaluating the efficacy of a computerized intervention (developed by collaborators at UCLA) that aims to reduce interpretation bias, and in turn, anxiety symptoms. Drs. Gonzalez and Urizar will explore whether physiological stress responses predict the interventionís effect on reducing anxiety.

Results from this study will provide pilot data for larger grant applications focused on testing computerized interventions that improve anxiety (Gonzalez) and using engineering technology sensors that help provide immediate cortisol results to identify abnormal stress levels in at-risk populations (Urizar). This work will also fortify cross-university collaborations between the areas of clinical psychology, behavioral science, and engineering that will result in interdisciplinary research training for students and faculty.

Research @ the Beach | Faculty Research