Ongoing Research Projects
Diet, Affect, Social Environment and Health (DASH) : In this research we are examining the relationship between dietary intake, social experiences and subclinical markers of cardiovascular disease risk in college students. Specifically, we measure levels of immune system inflammation and the thickness of the intima-media layer of the carotid artery using ultrasound technology.
BASE Study: Here we are interested in how early life family environments inform physiological reactivity to a stressful task and attentional bias to threat. We also consider how reactivity to a stressful task associates with daily life patterns of physical activity and sleep (measured with actigraphy) and daily life experiences as measured with ecological momentary assessment software.
Social status and susceptibility to the influenza virus: Here, in collaboration with Dr. Rynda-Apple (Immunology), we are examining the associations between social status and response to the influenza vaccine in college students and in mice.
METRICS: This is a longitudinal study focused on college freshmen. We started with a cohort at the beginning of their freshman year. In the middle of their first year, participants completed a 3-day daily life monitoring period. We collected markers of immune system inflammation before the 3-days and at the end of 3-days so we can examine how daily life experiences associated with changes in inflammation. We also collected measures of ambulatory blood pressure, sleep and physical activity. We followed up with the freshmen at the end of their first year to measure change over their first year of college. We will be following up with the same cohort in their second year of college.
Stress, social interactions and substance use: We are interested in the relationships between socioeconomic status, daily experiences, stress, and substance use in college students. We are using ecological momentary assessment to capture these daily life experiences as they unfold in real-time.
Pregnancy: A day in the life: In this study, we are interested in how socioeconomic status and early life experiences inform the experience of pregnancy. Pregnant mothers in their second trimester come into the lab and we collect several physiological measures and measure various psychosocial factors using established instruments. The participants then complete a 3-day daily life monitoring period, where we collect cortisol over the course of the day, ambulatory blood pressure, and patterns of experience and stress across the day. We follow up with the participants with a survey in their third trimester. Finally, participants return to the lab when their baby is between 3-6 months old. They will complete a second daily life monitoring period where we examine daily psychological stress, experience and affect (using EMA), and sleep and physical activity (using actigraphy). It is our hope that the data from this research will provide knowledge about how social experiences and psychosocial factors affect the health and well-being of mothers during pregnancy and after their baby is born.
Sleep and Belonging in Native American college students. In this research project we are considering relationships between sleep and belonging to the college community and to one's Tribal community, Native American students answer several questionnaires focused on belonging and connection to their community at home and the larger community at Montana State. After their in-lab visit they wear an actigraphy device for a period of three days to capture sleep-wake patterns and physical activity. We are interested in identifying factors that associate with healthy sleep patterns in this student population.
Reactivity in Native American college students. A large body of research explores individual differences in physiological reactivity to stress. This outcome has been associated with health-relevant outcomes. There is evidence that race and ethnicity associate with different patterns of reactivity and recovery from a stressor. However the pattern of reactivity in Native American students has not been investigated. Here, we measure reactivity (heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol, and psychological) in response to a psychological stress. We also measure circulating markers of immune system inflammation, We hope to identify factors that associate with desirable patterns of reactivity, with a special interest in how belonging and connection to one's Tribal community and its practices may shape these outcomes.