James L. Abelson's research while affiliated with University of Michigan and other places

Publications (180)

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Background Schools increasingly provide mental health services to students, but often lack access to implementation strategies to support school-based (and school professional [SP]) delivery of evidence-based practices. Given substantial heterogeneity in implementation barriers across schools, development of adaptive implementation strategies that...
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Background: Exposure to trauma can result in various mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although psychotherapies and pharmacotherapies exist for the treatment of these disorders, many individuals fail to receive treatment and among those who do, many remain symptomatic. Therefore, it is...
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School professionals (SPs) are increasingly tasked with providing mental health treatment for students. Successful implementation of school-based mental health evidence-based practices (EBPs) can reduce students’ depression and anxiety, but requires identification of appropriate students to benefit from these interventions. We examined the ability...
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Glucocorticoids exert profound effects on the brain and behavior, but cortisol concentrations are rarely linked to subjectively reported emotional states in humans. This study examined whether the link between cortisol and subjective anxiety varied by childhood maltreatment history. To do this, 97 individuals (60.8% female) participated in a standa...
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Psychosocial stress in childhood and adolescence is linked to stress system dysregulation, although few studies have examined the relative impacts of parental harshness and parental disengagement. This study prospectively tested whether parental harshness and disengagement show differential associations with overall cortisol output in adolescence....
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Objective: The authors sought to examine whether brain activity is associated with treatment response to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in adolescents and adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and whether any associations are treatment specific relative to an active control psychotherapy (stress management therapy; SMT). Methods:...
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Background Much work has documented hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis abnormalities in major depressive disorder (MDD), but inconsistencies leave this system’s role in the illness unclear. Comparisons across studies are complicated by variation in co-morbidity (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder-PTSD, anxiety disorders), exposure to trauma, and...
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Introduction: It has been hypothesized that people diagnosed with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) exhibit behavioral aberrations when faced with the potential for negative outcomes, but the specific cognitive aspects of decision-making that may be altered have not been systematically studied in clinical populations. Here, we studied...
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Psychological stressors such as violence victimization are known contributors to obesity. However, moderators and mediators of this association have not been studied, although they might offer pathways for intervention or prevention. Using a sample of African American young adults, this study tested: (1) the moderating effect of sex on the effect o...
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Purpose Mood and anxiety disorders affect 20–30 percent of school-age children, contributing to academic failure, substance abuse, and adult psychopathology, with immense social and economic impact. These disorders are treatable, but only a fraction of students in need have access to evidence-based treatment practices (EBPs). Access could be substa...
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Study objectives While anxiety rates are alarmingly high in short sleeping insomniacs, the relationship between insomnia and anxiety symptoms has not been extensively studied, especially in comparison to the relationship between insomnia and depressive symptoms. Using physician training as a naturalistic stress exposure, we prospectively assessed...
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Background: Depressive and anxiety disorders affect 20-30% of school-age youth, most of whom do not receive adequate services, contributing to poor developmental and academic outcomes. Evidence-based practices (EBPs) such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can improve outcomes, but numerous barriers limit access among affected youth. Many youth...
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While biomarkers have been used to define pathophysiological types and to optimize treatment in many areas of medicine, in psychiatry such biomarkers remain elusive. Based on previously described abnormalities of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function in severe forms of depression, we hypothesized that the temporal trajectory of basal c...
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Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by exaggerated reactivity to social threat, often documented by biased attention to threatening information, and increased activation in brain regions involved in salience/threat processing. Attention training has been developed to ameliorate the attention bias documented in individuals with SAD, with...
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Many psychiatric disorders are associated with cognitive dysfunction that is ineffectively treated by existing pharmacotherapies and which may contribute to poor real-world functioning. D-cycloserine (DCS) is a partial N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) agonist that has attracted attention because of its cognitive enhancing properties, including in people...
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Chronic insomnia is highly prevalent and associated with significant morbidity (i.e., confers risk for multiple psychiatric and medical disorders, such as depression and hypertension). Therefore, it is essential to identify factors that perpetuate this disorder. One candidate factor in the neurobiology of chronic insomnia is hypothalamic-pituitary-...
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Objective: Interpersonal models of depression and anxiety have not examined the role of interpersonal goals in shaping relationships and symptoms. Striving to promote/protect desired self-images (self-image goals) may undermine relationships and increase symptoms, whereas striving to support others (compassionate goals) may be protective, but clin...
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Objectives: The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is thought to mediate the effects of stress on illness. Research has identified a limited number of psychological variables that modulate human HPA responses to stressors (e.g. perceived control and social support). Prosocial goals can reduce subjective stress, but have not been carefully e...
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In this chapter, the common and often comorbid illnesses of depression and anxiety in physicians throughout their professional trajectory are discussed, through a consolidated review of the literature and through a clinical lens. The epidemiology is discussed in detail, as physicians are known to have elevated rates of depression and anxiety as com...
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Childhood trauma (CT) is associated with long-lasting alterations of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and elevated risk for stress exposure in adulthood. Although HPA alterations are present in the early aftermath of trauma, it remains unclear how initial HPA activity is associated with subsequent stress exposure and whether CT exposur...
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Evidence suggests that sighs regulate stress and emotions, e.g. by facilitating relief. This study aimed to investigate sigh rates during relief. In addition, links between sighs, anxiety sensitivity and HPA-axis activity were explored. Healthy volunteers (N=29) were presented cues predicting the valence of subsequent stimuli. By sequencing cues th...
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The HPA axis plays a key role in mediating the effects of "stress" on health, but clarifying mechanisms requires an understanding of psycho-biological linkages. There has long been an implicit assumption that subjective emotional distress (e.g., fear) should activate the HPA axis. Although this assumption was challenged 25 years ago (Curtis, 1976),...
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Psychosocial well-being requires effective regulation of emotional responding in context of threat or stress. Neuroimaging studies have focused on instructed, volitional regulation (e.g., reappraisal or distancing), largely ignoring implicit regulation that does not involve purposeful effort to alter emotional experience. These implicit processes m...
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Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) typically exhibit altered hypothalamic–pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity. The goals of this study were to determine whether HPA and SNS alterations in the immediate aftermath of trauma predict subsequent PTSD symptom development and whether inconsiste...
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Progress in clinical and affective neuroscience is redefining psychiatric illness as symptomatic expression of cellular/molecular dysfunctions in specific brain circuits. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been an exemplar of this progress, with improved understanding of neurobiological systems subserving fear learning, salience detection, a...
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Objective: No simple way to augment fear extinction has been established. Cortisol has shown to enhance memory extinction and preliminary evidence suggest that extinction learning maybe more successful in the morning when cortisol is high. The aim was to determine whether exposure sessions conducted earlier in the day are associated with superior...
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Worry, social anxiety, and depressive symptoms are dimensions that have each been linked to heterogeneous problems in interpersonal functioning. However, the relationships between these symptoms and interpersonal difficulties remain unclear given that most studies have examined diagnostic categories, not accounted for symptoms’ shared variability d...
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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by excessive absorption with internally-generated distressing thoughts and urges, with difficulty incorporating external information running counter to their fears and concerns. In the present study, we experimentally probed this core feature of OCD through the use of a novel attention switching...
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Background: Little is known about trajectories of PTSD symptoms across the peripartum period in women with trauma histories, specifically those who met lifetime PTSD diagnoses prior to pregnancy. The present study seeks to identify factors that influence PTSD symptom load across pregnancy and early postpartum, and study its impact on postpartum ad...
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Objectives: Major life stressors, including major surgeries, are often followed by psychiatric symptoms and disorders. Prior retrospective work found abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair is followed by increased psychiatric morbidity, which may adversely influence physical and functional recovery. Identifying risk factors before surgery, such as...
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Efforts to identify biological correlates of internalizing symptoms in childhood have involved examinations of HPA-axis functioning, namely Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR). However, research has not assessed the relationship between CAR and internalizing problems among children younger than 8 years. Findings with older samples have been somewhat...
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This study characterized the longitudinal evolution of HPA axis functioning from 7 to 16 months of age and identified individual and environmental factors that shape changes in HPA axis functioning over time. Participants were 167 mother-infant dyads drawn from a larger longitudinal study, recruited based on maternal history of being maltreated dur...
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Background Understanding cognitive and biological mechanisms of PTSD treatment can help refine treatments and increase rates of response.Methods Thirty-six veterans with PTSD were randomly assigned to receive Prolonged exposure therapy (PE) or Present-Centered therapy (PCT). We examined symptoms, trauma-related cognitions, and two indices of HPA ax...
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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients display pervasive fear memories, expressed indiscriminately. Proposed mechanisms include enhanced fear learning and impaired extinction or extinction recall. Documented extinction recall deficits and failure to use safety signals could result from general failure to use contextual information, a hippoc...
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Social threat can have adverse effects on cognitive performance, but the brain mechanisms underlying its effects are poorly understood. We investigated the effects of social evaluative threat on working memory (WM), a core component of many important cognitive capabilities. Social threat impaired WM performance during an N-back task and produced wi...
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Trait and contextual factors can shape individual and group differences in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) response to stress; but the ways in which these factors may interact with each other to modulate stress activity has rarely been examined. Here, we investigated whether the association between a temperamental self-regulatory trait - Effor...
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Efficient, adaptive behavior relies on the ability to flexibly move between internally focused (IF) and externally focused (EF) attentional states. Despite evidence that IF cognitive processes such as event imagination compromise a significant amount of awake cognition, the consequences of internal absorption on the subsequent recruitment of brain...
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Background: The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a critical mediator linking stress to health. Understanding how to modulate its reactivity could potentially help reduce the detrimental health effects of HPA axis activation. Social evaluative threat is a potent activator of this system. Access to control and coping responses can reduce...
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Abstract In this report we present Growth Curve Modeling (GCM) with Landmark Registration as an alternative statistical approach for the analysis of time-series cortisol data. This approach addresses an often-ignored but critical source of variability in salivary cortisol analyses: individual and group differences in the time latency of post-stress...
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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is often associated with pathological uncertainty regarding whether an action has been performed correctly or whether a bad outcome will occur, leading to compulsive "evidence gathering" behaviors aimed at reducing uncertainty. The current study used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to investig...
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Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a neurosteroid with anxiolytic, antidepressant, and antiglucocorticoid properties. It is endogenously released in response to stress, and may reduce negative affect when administered exogenously. Although there have been multiple reports of DHEA's antidepressant and anxiolytic effects, no research to date has examin...
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This study examined bereaved children's HPA-axis functioning (cortisol awakening response; CAR) in relation to psychological distress, coping, and surviving parents' grief reactions. Participants included 38 children (20 girls) with recent parental loss (previous 6 months) and 28 of their surviving caregivers (23 women) who were assessed using self...
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Vlemincx, E., J. L. Abelson, P. M. Lehrer, P. W. Davenport, I. Van Diest and O. Van den Bergh. Respiratory variability and sighing: A psychophysiological model. Whereas respiratory psychophysiological research has mainly studied respiratory time and volume, variability in these parameters has been largely disregarded, even though it may provide imp...
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The glucocorticoid hormone cortisol is known to have wide-ranging effects on a variety of physiological systems, including the morphology and physiology of the amygdala and hippocampus. Disruptions of cortisol regulation and signaling are also linked with psychiatric disorders involving emotional disturbances. While there is much evidence to sugges...