Mood and Emotion Regulation Laboratory (MER Lab)

Research

Overview

Think about the last time that something "got under your skin". Maybe it was a piece of bad news, an argument with a friend or loved one, or an upcoming challenge that you did not feel prepared to take on. These events are common, and it is normal to feel nervous, upset, frustrated, or sad when they happen. Our emotions serve important functions in our lives: they inform our decisions, guide our behaviors, and at times direct us like a compass towards our goals. Negative emotions, ones that we generally find unpleasant, are just as important as pleasant emotions to successfully navigate our lives. Therefore, it is generally not our experience of negative emotions, but what we do in response to them that make us stumble in our goals, and brings suffering to our lives.

The ability to reduce sadness and dysphoria is a key component of Emotion Regulation (ER) that enables us to manage stress, and to maintain our well-being. Although ER as a whole can involve increasing, maintaining, or decreasing the intensity and duration of any emotion, difficulty in reducing distress and maintaining such gains in the service of goal-directed behavior appears to be particularly linked to internalizing disorder (depression and anxiety), and to some personality disorders (e.g., Borderline Personality Disorder). 

While people try to regulate their emotions in many ways, we generally think of responses that reduce negative emotions in the short- and long-term as adaptive, and ineffective responses that maintain or worsen negative emotions as maladaptive. Both adaptive and maladaptive ER responses take many forms, and can include where we deploy attention, in what activities we choose to engage, how we think about stressors and our emotions, and how we involve others in our lives during times of distress. The outcomes of such responses are not set in stone; just as a hammer may not be the best tool for every job, so too may a given ER response not work for every situation. Likewise, as our strength to use that hammer, and the skill with which we use it, changes over time, so too may our use and the effectiveness of a given ER response be influenced by our developmental,  intra/interpersonal, and environmental contexts. Indeed, how we develop ER skills is set in a context of biological, familial, social, and cultural factors that also serve as a backdrop when we deploy ER responses. 

Therefore, the work that we do in the Mood and Emotion Regulation lab generally revolves around answering three questions:

  1. In what way is ER linked to emotional problems and functional impairment across the span of human development?
  2. What are the key intrapersonal processes that influence the use of ER responses, and their immediate and sustained outcomes?
  3. How do interpersonal, environmental, and socio-cultural contexts influence how ER is deployed, and whether it is effective?

We work with volunteer participants from the university and the Cleveland community, as well as those receiving treatment through outpatient and inpatient services to address these questions in our laboratory via behavioral and psychophysiological methods, and in our participants' daily lives through experience sampling methods. Please see our active projects below "Research" on the menu to the left for information on how to participate as a research volunteer.   

Although Dr. Yaroslavsky's primary research interests focus on risk for depressive disorders and their transmission within families, students working in the Mood and Emotion Regulation Lab address the three questions noted above with respect to Social and Generalized Anxiety Disorders, as well as to Borderline Personality and Substance Use Disorders. We invite you to view their work under "Conferences" on the menu to the left.

 


Behavioral Methods


Speech Content Analysis

Speech Acoustic Features

Eye tracking


Psychophysiological Methods


Electrocardiography

Impedance Cardiography

Electrodermal Activity


Experience Sampling Methods


Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA)

Electonically Activated Recording (EAR)

Ambulatory Psychophysiology Monitoring


Research Collaborations

As articulated by others, science is a team sport. Here at the Mood and Emotion Regulation Lab, we work closely with other teams on cutting edge research to understand the mechanisms that support emotion regulation and influence risk for psychopathology.

We have two active collaborations with the St. Vincent's Charity Medical Center (SVCMC) in which students are involved.

  • The Mood, Emotion, and Emotion Regulation Study  is conducted with patients on SVCMC's inpatient units. The primary aims of this study are to (1) elucidate the relationship between social system, attention system, and autonomic nervous system deficits in the use and effectiveness of emotion regulation among those diagnosed with Borderline Personality, depressive , or anxiety disorders (Specific Aim 1), and (2) explicate the role of the autonomic nervous system in relation to attention and social system processes as they contribute to emotion regulation deficits and the risk for personality and internalizing disorders (Specific Aim 2).
  • The Dynamic Risk in Opioid Use and Cravings Study  is conducted with patients who in treatment for a primary Opioid Use Disorder in SVCMC's outpatient treatment programs. The primary aims of this study are to: (1) evaluate perceived utility of Experience Samling Methods (EMS) for opioid treatment from treatment providers and treatment recipients, and to determine tolerability of ESM (Specific Aim 1), (2) to employ ESM and pattern detection algorithms to identify person-specific risk factor patterns via mood, stress, and motivation and emotion regulation (ER) in the risk for increased opioid cravings and sobriety lapses among opioid use treatment outpatients (Specific Aim 2), and (3) to employ targeted Ecological Momentary Interventions based on person-specific risk factor patterns to increase ER use and effectiveness and/or motivation to maintain sobriety to reduce intensity of opioid cravings and risk for sobriety lapses (Specific Aim 3).

We also work closely with the Aging, Cognition, and Emotion Laboratory (ACE Lab) to examine the role of autonomic nervous system and attention processes in the use and outcomes of emotion regulation efforts, and with the Neurocognitive Systems Laboratory to examine neural underpinnings of attention inflexibility in depression risk .