Connections Between Emotional Intelligence and Neurobiological and Autonomic Nervous System Changes Associated with a Non-Pharmacological Blue Light Therapy Intervention for PTSD
AuthorVanuk, John R.
AdvisorKillgore, William Scott
Allen, John J.B.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractExposure to adversity and life stress can be extremely detrimental to neurobiological processes and associated with numerous maladaptive physiological and cognitive outcomes. Individuals who report encountering chronic or severe stress report decreased emotion regulation skills, as well as decrements in the ability to perceive and understand their own, as well as others’ emotions (Chrousos, 2000). Furthermore, exposure to stress and adversity often results in blunted autonomic reactivity, especially when encountered during earlier periods of biological development, often manifesting in internalizing and externalizing psychopathologies (Porges, 2007). However, there is a high level of interindividual variability regarding resilience and the capacity to regulate emotions when individuals encounter adverse events.The extent to which emotion and cognition contribute to positive behavioral outcomes is thought to be a unique set of abilities, separate from general intelligence (IQ). Debates regarding the various facets of these unique capabilities have propelled the field to develop a unified construct describing specific abilities, known as Emotional Intelligence (EI) (Salovey and Mayer, 1990). The theoretical underpinnings of EI remain an active topic of debate, yet a consistent theme in the various conceptualizations is that EI should contribute to mitigating and managing the different life stressors an individual could encounter over the lifespan. When individuals are unable to manage or recover from stressful or traumatic experiences the persistent maladaptive symptoms experienced become conceptualized as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A hallmark symptom associated with PTSD is sleep disruption and/or nightmares (Germain, 2013). Numerous pharmacologic and non-invasive modalities have been utilized to decrease the suffering associated with PTSD, and interventions targeting sleep have been suggested as a means of facilitating decreases in symptom presentations (Nadorff, Lambdin and Germain, 2014). A relatively novel non-invasive method for intervening at the level of sleep dysfunction demonstrated to be efficacious in other clinical disorders that are associated with sleep disruption is blue light therapy (BLT) (Killgore et al., 2020). As such, a better understanding of stress and emotion-related processes as defined by the construct of EI, as well as the utility of BLT to facilitate increases in emotion regulation for individuals experiencing PTSD, may serve to improve treatment outcomes and help alleviate human suffering. In this dissertation, I present three studies that center on stress, emotion, and autonomic/neurobiological responses. I played a central role in the design, data collection, analysis, and write-up of all three studies, reflected in the associated first-author papers included in the appendices. Chapter 1 introduces the topic and discusses how emotional processes and the construct of EI relate to stress exposure, autonomic function, and PTSD. The utility of BLT as a clinical intervention targeting sleep disruption, as a means of alleviating emotional dysregulation, is also discussed. Chapter 2 summarizes associations between lifetime stress exposure and the construct of EI. Chapter 3 provides a framework for understanding the associated context of autonomic control and emotion, as defined under the construct of EI. Chapter 4 summarizes clinical and autonomic changes related to a novel BLT in individuals suffering from emotion dysregulation in the context of PTSD. Finally, chapter 5 presents a conclusion for the dissertation as well as future directions framed under a clinical trial incorporating training in EI, in conjunction with BLT, for individuals experiencing PTSD.
Degree ProgramGraduate College