The HNS Mentoring committee grants a monetary award each year to graduate student members of HNS to aid in their research or educational efforts. Congratulations to Stephanie Brewer, M.A., for winning a $500 award for 2014 that will be used to support her dissertation study, “The Roles of Allostatic Load and Attentional Bias to Threat Development of Anxiety for Low-Income-Mexican Origin Children”.
Children who develop anxiety disorders tend to be vigilant for threats in their environment, attending to threatening stimuli significantly more than other types of stimuli as they process information (Wolters et al., 2012). This attentional bias to threat is a key component of the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders, yet it has rarely been examined in low-income and ethnic minority children who often face significant threats in their environment (Bar-Haim, Lamy, Pergamin, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & van IJzendoorn, 2007; Wolters et al., 2012). Increasing our understanding of the role of information processing biases in children’s development of anxiety will answer key questions regarding the etiology of anxiety disorders and can aid in the early identification of children in need of intervention (Bar-Haim, 2010; Wolters et al., 2012). It is crucial that this neurocognitive marker of anxiety disorders is studied among children of low-income Mexican-origin immigrants, because this population experiences an accumulation of multiple, chronic stressors such as poverty, discrimination, legal problems, and family separation (Cervantes, Goldbach, & Padilla, 2012). This exposure to stress contributes to increased “allostatic load,” or the wear and tear on the brain and body caused by repeated stress over time (McEwen & Tucker, 2011). There is a large body of evidence indicating that allostatic load is a mechanism through which chronic stress causes mental illness, and this may explain the disproportionately high rates of anxiety disorders among this population (Cervantes, Padilla, Napper, & Goldbach, 2013; Essex et al., 2011; Gunnar & Quevedo, 2007; McEwen & Tucker, 2011; Varela, Vernberg, Sanchez-Sosa, Mitchell, & Mashunkashey, 2004). The present research focuses on both allostatic load and attentional bias to threat in order to explain why some Mexican-origin children develop anxiety in the context of accumulated immigration-related stress and allostatic load and some do not.
Bar-Haim, Y. (2010). Research review: Attention bias modification (ABM): A novel treatment for anxiety disorders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(8), 859-870.
Bar-Haim, Y., Lamy, D., Pergamin, L., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & van IJzendoorn, M. H. (2007). Threat-related attentional bias in anxious and nonanxious individuals: A meta-analytic study. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 1-24.
Cervantes, R. C., Goldbach, J. T., & Padilla, A. M. (2012). Using qualitative methods for revising items in the Hispanic Stress Inventory. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 34, 208-231.
Cervantes, R. C., Padilla, A. M., Napper, L. E., & Goldbach, J. T. (2013). Acculturation-related stress and mental health outcomes among three generations of Hispanic adolescents. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 35(4), 451-468.
Essex, M. J., Shirtcliff, E. A., Burk, L. R., Ruttle, P. L., Klein, M. H., Slattery, M. J., Kalin, N. H., & Armstrong, J. M. (2011). Influence of early life stress on later hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis functioning and its covariation with mental health symptoms: A study of the allostatic process from childhood into adolescence. Development and Psychopathology, 23(4), 1039-1058.
Gunnar, M., & Quevedo, K. (2007). The neurobiology of stress and development. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 145-173.
McEwen, B. S., & Tucker, P. (2011). Critical biological pathways for chronic psychosocial stress and research opportunities to advance the consideration of stress in chemical risk assessment. American Journal of Public Health, 101(S1), 131-139.
Russell, E., Koren, G., Rieder, M., & Van Uum, S. (2012). Hair cortisol as a biological marker of chronic stress: Current status, future directions and unanswered questions. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(5), 589-601.
Shechner, T., Britton, J. C., Pérez-Edgar, K., Bar-Haim, Y., Ernst, M., Fox, N. A., Leibenluft, E., & Pine, D. S. (2012). Attention biases, anxiety, and development: Toward or away from threats or rewards? Depression and Anxiety, 29(4), 282-294.
Varela, R. E., Vernberg, E. M., Sanchez-Sosa, J. J., Mitchell, M., & Mashunkashey, J. (2004). Anxiety reporting and culturally associated interpretation biases and cognitive schemas: A comparison of Mexican, Mexican American, and European American families. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 33(2), 237-247.
Wolters, L. H., De Haan, E., Vervoort, L., Hogendoorn, S. M., Boer, F., & Prins, P. J. (2012). The time-course of threat processing in children: A temporal dissociation between selective attention and behavioral interference. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 25(3), 259-273.https://hnps.org/hns-student-award-winner/skb-photo-2/