Polyvagal Theory Part 1: The Wandering Nerve

Danny Rahal

Danny is a doctoral student in Developmental Psychology at UCLA. He received his B.S. in psychology and chemistry (biochemistry track) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Danny is interested in the social factors that influence adolescent health and stress responses, especially among minority and low-income youth.

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The polyvagal theory is a neurobiological theory relating social engagement, physiology, and developmental outcomes. When I was first learning the theory, I struggled to understand some of the theory’s basic terms and could not find a resource that simplified it. Therefore, this three–part series of articles is intended to serve as an introduction to the theory. In this article I will introduce the physiology behind stress. In the second I’ll discuss specific stress responses, and…

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Surrendering to Creativity: The Psychology of Remembering to Breathe (Part 3 of 3)

Brianna Goodale

Brianna Goodale

Doctoral Student at University of California, Los Angeles
Brianna is a third-year doctoral student at the University of California, Los Angeles and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.She currently studies how group norms can exacerbate or ameliorate stereotype threat among women in science, technology, engineering and math.An avid outdoor enthusiast, her interest in stereotypes of women in fields dominated by men was spurred by her own experiences in math classes and mountaineering.When not designing studies or analyzing data, Bri enjoys strong lattes and bouldering on the beach.
Brianna Goodale

Up until graduate school, I often indulged the myth that good writing was a sacred thing to be done under the most precise conditions.  Akin to knowing without a timer when the soufflee has finished (sorry, I have holidays sweets on the mind), the creativity dedicated to a well-written piece had to be carefully cultured and perfected.  My patterns were always the same, although the specific details evolved with time.  In high school I had…

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A Meditation On Meditation: Behavioral Flexibility and Success

As an undergraduate I worked for a man who was, if nothing else, compelling. Tall and trim, with a bushy handlebar mustache, slicked back hair, and a propensity for pulling out and smoking an e-cigarette in the middle of lab meetings, my adviser could often be heard shouting expletives at his computer from down the hall. I quite liked him. These, of course, were not his only defining character traits. Like many in academia, he…

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Weighing in on Weight Stigma: Obesity Stigma Symposium at UCLA

Laura Finch

Laura Finch

Laura is a second year graduate student in UCLA's Health Psychology program. She earned her M.A. in Psychology at UCLA, and received her B.S. in Human Development at Cornell University with concentrations in Social and Personality development and Nutrition and Health. Laura's research interests center on understanding the biopsychosocial causes and effects of eating behavior. Her most recent work focuses on comfort eating, including both the physiological underpinnings driving this behavior, and the psychological benefits it reaps via stress reduction. Outside the lab Laura, loves being outdoors, whether it's hiking, snowboarding or playing tennis.
Laura Finch

The prevalence of adult obesity in the United States has nearly doubled since 1980, and over two-thirds of American adults are currently overweight or obese. Weight bias (stereotyping or discrimination directed at an individual related to his/her weight) is prevalent in modern American society, and overweight individuals experience weight bias from a range of sources, including family members, classmates, educators, co-workers, employers, and health-care professionals. Findings presented last month at UCLA at a symposium titled,…

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Outreach Event: Mindfulness Meditation!

Jenna Cummings

Jenna is a doctoral student in the Health Psychology department at UCLA. Her program of research crosses work on eating and alcohol use while exploring topics like reward, reinforcement, genetics, social relationships, and stress.

If you were asked to do nothing for a minute, could you do it? What about being asked to smell a Hershey’s chocolate kiss but wait to eat it? Well, after this quarter’s Psychology in Action’s Outreach Program event children and teenagers from the LA community may just outshine you at mindfulness practices like these! Outreach coordinators Jenna Cummings and Nicco Reggente arranged for UCLA psychology graduate students to present to youth at an after-school program hosted by the…

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How does the brain support parent-child attachment?

Dylan

Dylan

Dylan is a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at UCLA. Originally from Pennsylvania, she majored in Psychological and Brain Sciences as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, where she became interested in affective neuroscience and the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the development of psychopathology. Her research focuses on the neural systems supporting social and emotional processing among typically developing children and adolescents and those at risk for serious mental illness, including schizophrenia. Dylan joined Psychology in Action because she is passionate about scientific research and sharing it with the broader community.
Dylan

Experiences early in life, when infants are highly dependent on their caregivers, can have profound effects on the brain. Research has shown that even young infants quickly learn the special relevance of their caregiver. For example, infants prefer their caregivers to strangers, learn to stay close to their caregivers, and are soothed by their caregivers (Ainsworth & Bell, 1970; Hofer, 1994). These processes are essential to forming a strong attachment between the parent and child.…

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Family Life for Working Parents: Is the home a haven or a source of stress?

Timothy Williamson

Timothy Williamson

Timothy is a PhD student in Clinical Health Psychology, studying how psychosocial factors help and hinder adjustment to chronic medical stressors. He received his BA in psychology from Pitzer College and his Master of Public Health degree from Claremont Graduate University. In his spare time, Timothy can be found hiking the canyons of Malibu and baking delicious treats for his classmates.
Timothy Williamson

Human beings are social by nature, and it is fascinating that the way we interact with each other has a profound impact on both psychological and physical health. Stephen Lepore & Tracey Revenson captured this sentiment well by stating that “social relationships are often a complicated brew of interactions that are at turns pleasant and supportive or aversive and hindering” (2011). In the context of a family, there are many positive and negative interactions that…

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Acute vs. Chronic Stress: Can it ever be both?

Timothy Williamson

Timothy Williamson

Timothy is a PhD student in Clinical Health Psychology, studying how psychosocial factors help and hinder adjustment to chronic medical stressors. He received his BA in psychology from Pitzer College and his Master of Public Health degree from Claremont Graduate University. In his spare time, Timothy can be found hiking the canyons of Malibu and baking delicious treats for his classmates.
Timothy Williamson

In the field of health psychology, there is still much debate as to what constitutes an acute stressor versus a chronic stressor. The importance of this clarification is crucial for researchers in this field, because stress is a key factor in many areas of research including coping processes, health behavior, disease progression, and psychoneuroimmunology among others. Many researchers have defined acute vs. chronic stress in the context of their own work, but these definitions varied…

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Solving the problem of adverse childhood stress

Tawny Tsang

Tawny Tsang

Tawny is a doctoral student in Developmental Psychology at UCLA. She received her B.A. in Psychology and Music at UC Berkeley (Go Bears!). Her research interests include understanding visual social attention and its relation to social and cognitive development in typically developing infants and those at-risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Tawny Tsang

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Recently an article in the New York Times caught my eye. It was about something called “toxic stress” and its effect on children. Exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACE), like abuse, neglect, and domestic violence, has long term impacts on a child’s psychological and physical well-being. These negative experiences can induce what researchers at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University call a “toxic stress response”. Before I go much further into what…

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Bossing stress away

Stephanie Vezich

Stephanie Vezich

Stephanie is a psychology doctoral student in the social area. Born and raised in southern California, she moved north to attend college at Stanford, where she earned her BA and MA in psychology. Currently she is working with Professor Matt Lieberman in the Social Cognitive Neuroscience (SCN) lab and Professor Noah Goldstein at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Her primary research interests lie in the neural correlates of persuasion, particularly with regard to pro-environmental persuasive messages, but she is interested in a variety of social psychological phenomena more broadly.
Stephanie Vezich

Imagining the stereotypical executive doesn’t exactly conjure up the image of a zen-like state. Instead, we tend to associate leadership roles with too many demands and not enough time to meet them—in essence, a pretty stressful lifestyle. After all, managers typically have to juggle more responsibilities and contend with more personalities than do their subordinates. However, research recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may paint a different picture of how…

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Stress Affects Risk Taking Differently for Men and Women

Kate Humphreys

Kate Humphreys received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from UCLA in 2014. She is a former President of Psychology in Action, and currently serves on the organization's Advisory Board. Her research and clinical interests include understanding the impact of stress and trauma on development. In particular, she is interested in how genes and environment lead to ADHD and other externalizing problems. She was inspired to join Psychology in Action because of all the interesting things she has come across in her classes and research thus far, and is motivated to share psychological knowledge to anyone who is interested!

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by Andrew Sanders and Kate Humphreys Making decisions can be a difficult task. How do we choose to get from point A to point B? Does our decision change whether we are running late for an important engagement? Does stress facilitate our decision making, and if so, does it matter whether we are trying to get to something we desire (e.g., catch the beginning of a film) versus avoid something negative (e.g., punishment from supervisor…

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Know When to Put on Rose-Colored Lenses: When Bias is Useful

Mariana A. Preciado

Mariana Preciado is a 4th year Ph.D. student in social psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She did her undergraduate degree at Yale University where she became interested in deconstructionism, the self, and the nature of “truth.” At UCLA, she does research on the aspects of our social environment that impact the way we interpret our experiences and think about ourselves. Currently, she is doing research on the factors other than actual sexual experience that impact the way people think about their sexuality. Mariana is writing for Psychology in Action because she loves science, and she wants everyone in the world to know how to appreciate and love science, too.
For more information about Mariana’s research go to http://ucla.academia.edu/MarianaPreciado

The idea of “positive illusions” is one that has been popular in social psychology since Taylor and Brown published their 1988 paper, “Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health.” Simply put, positive illusions are biased perceptions of reality that are thought to be good for mental health. For instance, studies have shown that people perceive themselves to be smarter, more attractive, and more virtuous than other people, and these overly optimistic perceptions…

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Does stress make you sick? What we know about stress and the immune system

Alexandra

Alexandra

Alexandra is interested in understanding how the mind effects the body. Her research primarily focuses on how psychological processes like stress influence the immune system in cancer patients and survivors. She started blogging for Psychology in Action because she is passionate about communicating exciting research to those outside of academia. Alexandra received her Ph.D. in Health Psychology from UCLA in 2014. She loves everything outdoors and reading novels.
Alexandra

How does stress impact your health? That question has been studied intensely by psychoneuroimmunology researchers for over 30 years. Download article as PDF

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How Does Early Life Stress Affect Health Across the Lifespan? — Professor Shelley Taylor, UCLA

UCLA Prof

This PIA account is used by UCLA professors to post articles. Individual authors can be identified via each article.

How does early life stress affect health across the lifespan? This question has intrigued our research team for many years. People who experience early life stress, in the form of poverty, exposure to violence, noise, and other stressors, or who experience a harsh early family environment in the form of conflict-ridden, cold non-nurturant parenting, or neglect, have an elevated risk for illnesses, not only in childhood but throughout the lifespan; their adverse early experiences lead…

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Childhood adversity and disease

Alexandra

Alexandra

Alexandra is interested in understanding how the mind effects the body. Her research primarily focuses on how psychological processes like stress influence the immune system in cancer patients and survivors. She started blogging for Psychology in Action because she is passionate about communicating exciting research to those outside of academia. Alexandra received her Ph.D. in Health Psychology from UCLA in 2014. She loves everything outdoors and reading novels.
Alexandra

Mounting evidence has demonstrated long-term negative physical and psychological health effects of stressors experienced in early childhood (Repetti, Taylor, & Seeman, 2002). But as health psychology researchers, what we’re interested in is why. How is it possible that something that happened in childhood could affect your health 50 or 60 years later? What are the mechanisms by which this would be possible? Download article as PDF

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Possible link between poverty and health

Alexandra

Alexandra

Alexandra is interested in understanding how the mind effects the body. Her research primarily focuses on how psychological processes like stress influence the immune system in cancer patients and survivors. She started blogging for Psychology in Action because she is passionate about communicating exciting research to those outside of academia. Alexandra received her Ph.D. in Health Psychology from UCLA in 2014. She loves everything outdoors and reading novels.
Alexandra

About a year ago I went on a field trip to the California Science Center to dissect cow eyes with a class of third graders. I am a mentor for a 3rd grade student through an organization called I Have a Dream (IHAD). I was awestruck by how smart, funny, adorable, and happy these children were. They live in Inglewood, and there is not one Caucasian student in their class. They are from very low…

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