Category: Cognitive Science / Cognitive Processes

Symposium

Cognitive Control, Stress Reactivity, and Emotion Regulation in Daily Life: Lessons Learned From Online Training Studies

Saturday, November 18
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom A, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Emotion Regulation | Technology / Mobile Health | Ecological Momentary Assessment
Presentation Type: Symposium

Cognitive control impairments have typically been linked to maladaptive emotion regulation and stress reactivity, placing individuals at risk for depression. Furthermore, it has been suggested that cognitive control impairments hinder deployment of adaptive emotion regulation strategies such as positive (re-)appraisal, which is crucial for psychological wellbeing. This has encouraged researchers to remediate cognitive control deficits using cognitive control training procedures. Recent experimental studies suggest that this technique holds potential in reducing rumination and depressive symptomatology. However, it is still unclear how these cognitive processes impact depression vulnerability in daily life, leaving the mechanisms underlying the preventative potential of cognitive control training untested.


We present two studies exploring the causal involvement of cognitive control in stress reactivity and emotion regulation in response to a lab stressor and naturalistic stressor in daily life. Participants were randomly allocated to a cognitive control or active control condition, consisting of 10 online training sessions. First, we explored whether cognitive control training can be used to reduce vulnerability for depression in high trait ruminators. For this purpose, working memory functioning was assessed preceding and following the training procedure and reactivity to a lab stressor was assessed directly following training. At four weeks follow-up, rumination was re-assessed in response to a naturalistic stressor. In a second study we explored effects of cognitive control training on the ability to reappraise a negative autobiographical memory in lab context, after which we explored effects on the dynamics of emotion regulation in daily life using experience sampling methodology.


Both studies provide evidence for the causal involvement of cognitive control in maladaptive emotion regulation. That is, cognitive control training showed beneficial effects on stress reactivity in response to a lab stressor and depressive rumination in response to a naturalistic stressor. Furthermore, compared to an active control condition, the cognitive control training group demonstrated a tendency to engage less in momentary rumination in daily life when in a low positive affective state. In contrast, we did not observe beneficial effects of cognitive control training on indicators of adaptive emotion regulation. Overall, these findings demonstrate the preventative potential of cognitive control training in the context of depression. Here, effects seem to be limited to reducing cognitive vulnerability for depression, rather than increasing adaptive emotion regulation processes as an indicator of resilience.

Kristof Hoorelbeke

PhD student
Ghent University

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