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Psychology Doctoral Dissertation Defense: Logan Cummings

This is a past event.

Tuesday, May 28 at 10:00am to 12:00pm

AHC4 - Academic Health Center 4, 401
11200 SW 8th ST, Academic Health Center 4, Miami, Florida 33199

Disruptions in Positive Valence Systems Associated with Depression and Related Symptomatology in Adolescence

Across three manuscripts, this dissertation presents and tests features of a theoretical model to describe how maturational changes in positive valence systems (reward sensitivity, reinforcement learning), and their interaction with negative valence systems (i.e., threat/pain, negative emotion) contribute to the onset of depression and related symptomatology in adolescence. The first manuscript synthesizes a diverse and multidisciplinary body of studies and proposes a theoretical model for the escalation of nonsuicidal self-injury in adolescence: 1) neural sensitivity to socioaffective pain increases risk for the onset of NSSI and 2) heightened sensitivity to reward strengthens negative reinforcement of NSSI, especially in social contexts, perpetuating self-harm. Hence, this model proposes social negative reinforcement learning (SNRL) may be a key mechanism leading to the onset and maintenance of NSSI. The second manuscript describes the development and validation of an SNRL task that is safe to use in adolescence; results not only supported task validity but also provided preliminary evidence in support of the model proposed in the first manuscript. The third manuscript characterizes temporal dynamics of positive emotion in association with anhedonia, a symptom that has been poorly characterized but is known to predict poor treatment response and self-harm in depressed youth. Anhedonia was associated with a blunted pleasure response that became more severe across successive experimental cues to activate a pleasure response, and when the cue to activate pleasure was preceded by a period of displeasure. Hence, difficulty switching from unpleasant to pleasant emotional states may characterize anhedonia in depressed youth. Overall, this research provides support for a developmental affective neuroscience model of NSSI, where heightened sensitivity to reward and to threat in adolescence contributes to the onset of NSSI and associated symptoms (i.e., anhedonia). However, it will be important for future studies to replicate the findings from the second manuscript in clinical youth samples and across multiple levels of analysis (e.g., neuroimaging studies). Moreover, longitudinal studies are needed to more rigorously examine whether heightened sensitivity to social negative reinforcement predicts NSSI in adolescence.

Major Professor: Dr. Dana McMakin

Co Major Professor: Dr. Aaron Mattfeld


Event Type

Academics, Lectures & conferences


Students, Faculty & Staff, General Public


Department of Psychology


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