Emotional Plasticity Theory: Preliminary Evaluation of Changes in Stress-related Variables in Obese Adults

by Mellin, Laurel, Ph.D., NORTHCENTRAL UNIVERSITY, 2013, 296 pages; 3570245


Emotional Plasticity Theory (EPT) postulates that interventions aimed at reconsolidating maladaptive neuronal circuitry of self-regulation, thereby initiating changes in physiologic states, promote sustained improvements in stress-related physiological and psychological conditions. EPT has not been formally studied. The purpose of this sequential mixed methods study was to provide an initial evaluation of EPT mediators. In the first sequence, archival quantitative data from a wait list controlled crossover design study of obese adults (N=33) in Washington County, MD, were analyzed to assess the relationship between participation in an introductory application of a theory-based intervention, Emotional Brain Training (EBT) and stress-related variables. In the second sequence, primary qualitative data using an open-ended survey of intervention facilitators were analyzed to develop themes to confirm or not confirm the trends observed in the qualitative component of the study. Inferential statistical analyses showed that intervention participation caused significant improvements in perceived stress (p=.0005), depression (p=.0005), positive affect (p=.003), negative affect (p=.004), self-efficacy (p=.019) and food dependence (p=.012); changes in BMI approached significance (p=.082), but not blood pressure or self-regulation. Seven major and 17 minor themes that emerged from the analysis of the qualitative data confirmed adaptive changes in self-regulation and psychological variables, and suggested that the constructs of established measures of self-regulation differ from EPT-based constructs. Consistent with theory, trends toward improvement in stress-related variables were observed. Introductory applications of the intervention may have clinical utility; however, long-term effectiveness is not known. Recommendations for future research included qualitative inquiry of intervention graduates to elaborate and define constructs in developing an EPT-based scale of self-regulation, replication of this study with adults exhibiting a different stress-related problem, such as depression or PTSD, and a controlled clinical pilot study of obese adults to identify psychological mediators and biomarkers of EPT.

AdviserRobin Throne
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsBehavioral psychology; Clinical psychology
Publication Number3570245

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