Pilot Studies

In 2015 and 2016 we sent out a call for pilot study proposals related to improving stress measurement, and development new stress measures. We funded 13 projects, which are described below.

Title: Development of a Standard Protocol for the Assessment of Stress-Related Vocal Responding

Drs. Brian Baucom, Paula Williams, and Panos Georgiou were funded to examine the association between acoustic characteristics of speech and stress measures in order to develop a standard voice analysis protocol for stress measurement.

Summary report: FileBaucom Williams_SMN pilot grant_report.docx

Title: The EASE (Effortless Assessment of Stressful Environments) Study: Assessing stress with mobile passive sensing data

Dr. Michelle Bryne's study aimed to validate objective behavioral indicators from passive mobile sensing in terms of their relationship to known correlates of stress such as perceived stress, mental health symptoms, and biological markers. Read more about the tool they developed and validated here.

Summary report: FileByrne_Pilot studies_reporting on results.docx

Title: Developing an Automated Scoring System for the LEAP

Drs. Tom Kamarck and Barbara Anderson were funded to complete the programming that will permit automated scoring for the Life Events Assessment Profile (LEAP). LEAP is a computer-assisted interview designed to quantify degree of recent exposure to adverse life circumstances. With automated scoring, the LEAP will output a full set of life event exposure indices immediately after each interview is completed.

Summary report coming soon

Title: Stress Activation of Neurocircuits, Hippocampal Metabolites, and Cognitive Function: A Combined fMRI, MRS and HPA-Axis Function Study

Juliet Kroll (advanced grad student) and Dr. Thomas Ritz funded to conduct a study using fMRI and MR spectroscopy (MRS) to identify how an individual’s neural circuits respond acutely to a stressful stimulus and capture the concentration of CNS metabolites as potential biomarkers of chronic exposure to stress. This allows studying mechanisms through which these stress factors impact cognitive function, neuronal integrity, acute disease exacerbation (using asthma as a paradigm), and further progression of chronic disease.

Manuscript under review

Title: Cumulative stress across the lifespan as a mechanism for SES-related health disparities

Dr. Stacey Scott and colleagues were funded we propose to validate a novel measure of childhood and lifetime stress exposure (Stress and Adversity Inventory [STRAIN]) against a set of traditional stress measures to empirically justify the use of high-resolution stress measurement in health disparity research. Participants will be recruited from the Effects of Stress on Cognitive Aging, Physiology, and Emotion (ESCAPE) study, which is a longitudinal study of 320 adults that are economically and racially diverse.

Summary report coming soon

Title: Cardiovascular and Hemodynamic Reactivity to Stress: Validity and Reliability of New Wearable Device for Assessing Stress Reactivity

Dr. Kira Birditt was funded to examine the effectiveness of a novel wearable device to capture continuous indices of cardiovascular indices during an acute stress paradigm and throughout the day, which the ultimate goal of validating the tool to use in longitudinal studies of stress, health, and aging.

Summary report: FileBirditt_Pilot studies_reporting on results_10 28 17.docx

Title: EmoTrak: Development of an app to track daily experiences of emotion

Dr. Eve Ekman was funded to complete the development of an enhanced EMA app, EmoTrak, to capture rich daily data to examine how the subjective experience of emotion relates to daily and chronic stress and burnout. She is conducting this study in high stress medical residents at UCSF.

Summary report: FileEkman_Pilot study report_EmoTrak.docx

Title: Feasibility of Using App-based Technology in High Stress Older Adult Caregivers

Dr. Alexandra Crosswell was funded to evaluate the utility of a new measurement battery that assesses stress and burden in family caregivers, and to examine the feasibility of using app-based technology in older adult primary caregivers of individuals with neurodegenerative diseases.

Summary report: FileCrosswell_Pilot Study Report_July 2017.docx

Title: Stress and Stress Buffers in MIDUS

Dr. Joshua Wiley was funded to 1) systematically examine the effects on health (outcomes are mortality, sleep outcomes, and cognitive function) of cumulative and individual measures of stress in the MIDUS data, and 2) factor analyze the psychological and social resource measures available in MIDUS to develop a short form, composite measure of psychosocial resources. A manuscript with results from Aim 1 is under review.

Summary report: FileWiley_ Pilot studies_reporting on results_8 1 17.docx

FileWiley_ Pilot studies_reporting on results_8 1 17.docx

Title: A data-driven approach to understand the influence of sociodemographic, psychosocial and behavioral factors on the big question: Why we die.

Dr. Eli Puterman was funded to understand the relative importance of demographic, psychological, social and behavioral factors that may hasten or delay mortality using the Health and Retirement Study data, and to compare the relative importance of each of these factors.

Manuscript to be submitted April 2018

Title: Neural Correlates of Individual Differences in Perceived Life Stress: A Resting-State and Machine Learning Study of Midlife Adults (N = 268)

Drs. Pete Gianaros and Tor Wagner were funded to test the association between individual differences in perceived life stress and intrinsic (task-independent, resting-state) network-level brain activity in a large sample of adults using machine learning and cross-validation procedures.

Summary report: FileGianaros_pilot_report_2017.docx

Title: The stress of food insecurity in adults: Developing a novel measure to fill the gap

Dr. Cindy Leung as funded to develop a measure to capture the psychological stress of food insecurity. This measure will draw from existing, validated measures of psychological stress and qualitative interviews with food-insecure adults.

Summary report coming soon

Title: Development of an Implicit Association Test to Measure Chronic Stress

Drs. Christopher Crew and Wendy Mendes were funded to develop, test, refine, and launch the Chronic Stress-Implicit Associations Test (CS-IAT). They proposed a series of pilot studies aimed at developing an implicit measure of chronic stress that would be used in parallel with explicit measures to more precisely capture individual levels of perceived chronic stress.

This project is ongoing and currently led by Dr. Wendy Mendes.

Title: Can we improve the Perceived Stress Scale? Development of the Subjective Stress in Context (SSiC) measure

Dr. George Slavich was funded to develop a new self-report measure of perceived stress that takes in to account the context in which the individual lives and the experiences of stress are happening.

This project is ongoing and currently led by Dr. Wendy Mendes.

Title: Examination of the Subjective Stress in Context (SSiC) Measure in a highly stressed sample: Qualitative interviews with individuals in the federal justice system

Alyssa Mooney, MPH, was funded to complete qualitative interviews within a high stress sample to understand how they interpret the questions and arrived at their answers for items on the newly developed SSiC measure.

Results from this project were presented to the Stress Measurement Network via oral presentation. 

Presentation of Results

Conference Presentations from Pilot Funded Projects

Ekman E. (October, 2017). EmoTrak: Tracking Daily Emotion of Residents. International Conference to Promote Resilience, Empathy and Well-being in Health Care Professions. Washington, DC.

Kroll JL, Steele AM, Pinkham AE, Choi C, Khan DA, Chen J, Patel S, Brown ES, Ritz T. (September, 2017). Hippocampal NAA reduced in asthma: implications for disease control, management and cognition. International Society for the Advancement of Respiratory Psychophysiology (ISARP) Meeting. Lille, France.

Leung CW, Epel ES. (2017). Understanding psychological distress in food-insecure children: a qualitative study. Society for Research in Child Development, Austin, TX.

Mayer SE, Epel ES, Slavich GM, Mendes WB. (October, 2017). Psychometric validation of the Stress in Context (SIC) questionnaire: Links with psychological and physiological measures of stress and health. Poster presented at the Annual Mid-Year Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society, Berkeley, CA.

Ritz T, Kroll JL, Patel SV, Chen JR, Khan DA, Pinkham AE, Rosenfield D, Brown SE. (September, 2017). Neural signatures of affect in asthma: associations with asthma control, airway inflammation, and emotion-induced bronchoconstriction. International Society for the Advancement of Respiratory Psychophysiology (ISARP) Meeting. Lille, France.

Wackerly A, Guvva E, Crosswell AD. (May, 2017). Effects of Daily Attentional Training App on Distress in Older Adult Caregivers. California Cognitive Science Conference, Berkeley, CA.

Jati A, Williams P, Baucom B, and Georgiou P. (April, 2018). Towards predicting physiology from speech during stressful conversations: Heart rate and respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Proceedings of IEEE International Conference on Audio, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP), Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Williams, P.G., Baucom, B., Jati, A., & Georgiou, P. (March, 2018). Physiological and affective responses to stress are encoded in vocal acoustic properties. Paper presented at the 76th annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society, Louisville, KY.

Mayer SE, Epel ES, Slavich GM, Mendes WB. (October, 2017). Psychometric validation of the Stress in Context (SIC) questionnaire: Links with psychological and physiological measures of stress and health. Poster presented at the Annual Mid-Year Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society, Berkeley, CA.

Weiss J, Rehkopf D, Karasek D, Gemmill A, Berry-Mendes WB, Epel ES, E Puterman (2017). Predictors of telomere length: A random forest analysis. Oral presentation at the Population Association of America, Chicago, IL.

Weiss J. (2017). Cumulative and differential effects of life course exposures on cognitive function and decline. Oral presentation at the Society for Epidemiological Research, Seattle, WA.

Weiss J, Puterman E, Prather A, Rehkopf D. (2018). Machine-driven classification of cognitive impairment. Invited for an oral presentation to the Penn Memory Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadlephia, PA.

Wiley, J. F. (2017). A matter of life and death: Psychosocial stress predicts all-cause mortality over 20 years. Oral presentation at the American Psychosomatic Society.

Wiley, J. F. (2016). Stress and sleep: Are all stressors equal? Oral presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Wiley, J. F. (2017). Stress & Health in MIDUS. Invited presentation at the MIDUS Meeting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.