What’s in a correlation matrix?

One of the projects I am working on aims to characterize how women adjust psychologically to genetic testing results. The outcomes are fairly standard for health psychology and research with cancer patients, examples include depressive symptoms, positive affect (are you a happy person?), negative affect (are you a moody person?), and intrusive thoughts (are you bothered by thoughts or concerns about cancer?).

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Research & Reporting Practices in Psychology

I struggle often with the way research is conducted and reported in psychology. Many times, I find that I am disappointed with psychology as a field. It is the exception that I finish a paper and feel the authors actually gave me a complete picture of their study and results. Usually I just think that aspects that did not turn out to be of interest or statistically significant or were too messy were simply omitted.

[N. B. This is a someone scattered post. I will revise and clarify over time, but for now it is a rough log of my thoughts and various resources on the topic.]

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Coping and Adjustment to Illness

Folkman and Moskowitz define coping as the “thoughts and behaviors used to manage the internal and external demands of situations that are appraised as stressful”. Research on coping largely grew out of and as a result of research on stress (see my post on Stress Processes, Personality and Disease Etiology). Differences in coping is one way to explain the great variability in responses to potentially stressful events as well as results of experiencing a stressor (for example adjustment to a serious illness such as cancer). The majority of the coping literature has focused on coping as something reactive (but see a small literature on proactive coping), which comes as no surprise considering that coping and stress research have been closely linked. At the broadest level, the timeline of typical models is:
\[
stressor \implies coping \implies outcomes
\]
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Stress Processes, Personality and Disease Etiology

This is a short post on stress from the view of health psychology (obviously with my own bias).  I wrote it to summarize a number of readings on this topic for comprehensive exams.  The physiological consequents of stress are left out because they are not the focus of this exam (but I am very interested in them and may edit this post to include later).
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PNIRS 2012: Friday

Leukocyte Trafficking and Migration

For the immune system to work properly, leukocytes need to be able to detect pathogens and move to appropriate locations. This session discussed work about how regulators and consequences of the movement of immune cells. The first presentation (Stress-induced Redistribution of Immune Cells: From Barracks, to Boulevards, to Battlefields) by Firdaus Dhabhar laid out the movement of immune cells in response to stress.
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PNIRS 2012: Thursday

NCI Keynote Address by David Spiegel

Dr. Spiegel presented on Circadian Cortisol Rhythms, Depression and Cancer Survival: Timing is Everything. One issue discussed is that because symptoms of cancer and cancer treatment overlap with depression, depression may be under-diagnosed (and consequently under treated) in patients with cancer. Depression is a concern both because of diminished quality of life, but also because there is data suggesting that depressed cancer patients are at increased risk for mortality, or conversely have lower survival times.
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PNIRS 2012 (thoughts from)

This was the first time that I attended the Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) Research Society’s annual meeting. For more details, see their website https://www.pnirs.org/. I have been fascinated by PNI for about a year now, but it is not (yet) a primary part of my research. I am a (research) health psychologist by training, so I am more familiar with the psychological aspect of PNI more than I am with the neuroscience or basic immunology and biology.
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Comprehensive Exams

Most doctoral programs seem to have some form of qualifying or comprehensive exams, although the structure, length, and difficulty seem to vary considerably.  The Health Psychology area at UCLA does too, and I am taking mine this summer.  There are around 160 assigned readings (mostly journal articles) grouped into broad categories from across health psychology.  I think it will be useful preparation for me and hopefully interesting to others to write summaries of the topics.  I am sure the quality will vary, but I am targeting summaries that would make sense even without a background in psychology.  Who knows how many I will get done. Here are the topics:

  • Introduction to Health Psychology (a.k.a. what is health psychology?)
  • Stress Processes, Personality and Disease Etiology
  • Coping and Adjustment to Illness
  • Social Relationships, Social Support, and Health
  • Resources and Resilience
  • Socioeconomic Status and Health
  • Family Processes and Early Adversity
  • Personality and Health
  • Health Behavior: Eating, smoking and fitness
  • Health Behavior Prevention and Change: HIV and Lifestyle Change
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Psychosocial Interventions
  • Pain and Pain Management
  • Placebo Effects
  • Health Care Services and Patient/Provider Issues