Blunted and Discordant Affect Syndrome (BADA):
We propose to assess a syndrome of blunted and discordant affect in multiple-symptomatic pan-diagnostic individuals stratified on abuse history and diagnosis compared to healthy individuals. We will examine whether there are reliable affect-rating, physiological, and neuroimaging signatures reflecting a syndrome of blunted and discordant affect during conventional information processing tasks, as well as more ecological tasks which are closer to conditions in which functional deficits are observed. Our goal is to characterize the time course and neural mechanisms of this syndrome.
Specific mechanistic constructs associated with blunted and discordant affect in the literature which will be examined for convergence include "shutting down" which involves decreased neural and physiological responsivity, "avoidance" which is the manifestation of active and possibly volitional disengagement from emotional stimuli, "delayed reactions" which include behavioral and neurophysiological delays in indices representing processing of emotional cues and eventual "blow-ups" following multiple stimuli, and "failure to integrate" relevant sensory information with cortical elaboration.
See here for an article about BADA in The Wall Street Journal.
Physiological Signature of Trauma ("Big Physio"):
One of our largest ongoing projects aims to establish a physiological "signature" of complex trauma. It seems that individuals with histories of chronic trauma have unusual or unexpected physical reactions to a variety of stimuli. Participants complete a battery of questionnaires regarding the subject severity or various symptoms. They then complete a variety of attentional and cognitive tasks while we monitor their physiological arousal. Collecting this data will help researchers conduct future studies that are more inclusive of trauma survivors, and help clinicians to provide these individuals with more informed treatment.
Interoception is defined as one's ability to connect with their own bodily states, emotions, and sense of identity; most importantly, these modalities allows one to say their body is their own, essentially to identify that they are themselves and to claim body and self ownership. We integrate the literature on interoception with our work in trauma in assaying the deficits in interoceptive abilities on specific tasks (e.g.: Schandry's heart beat detection task, tapping paradigms, etc.). Our hypotheses revolve around the potential that interoceptive capabilities are severed due to trauma exposure, that a sense of a self [in whichever sensory modality] may have been partially eroded or lost whether by function of defense or compensation to the trauma itself.