Affective impact and electrocortical correlates of a psychotherapeutic microintervention: An ERP study of cognitive restructuring

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Objective: Psychotherapy for depression emphasizes techniques that can help individuals regulate their moods. The present study investigated the affective impact and electrocortical correlates of cognitive restructuring, delivered as a 90-minute psychotherapeutic microintervention in a dysphoric sample. Method: Participants (N = 92) who reported either low or high levels of dysphoric symptoms were randomly assigned to the restructuring microintervention, a control intervention or a no-intervention condition. We obtained recordings of event-related potentials (ERPs) as well as mood self-ratings during an experimental session immediately after the psychotherapeutic microintervention and the control intervention in which a set of negatively valenced pictures (IAPS) was presented with different instructions. Results: Whereas the restructuring intervention group and the control intervention group reported both increases in positive and decreases in negative affect from pre- to post-intervention, the three groups differed significantly on ERP measures. Conclusions: Findings provide support for current models of mechanisms of action in cognitive therapies. © 2013 © 2013 Society for Psychotherapy Research.






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Zaunmüller, Luisa, Wolfgang Lutz and Timothy J Strauman (2014). Affective impact and electrocortical correlates of a psychotherapeutic microintervention: An ERP study of cognitive restructuring. Psychotherapy Research, 24(5). pp. 550–564. 10.1080/10503307.2013.847986 Retrieved from

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Timothy J. Strauman

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

FOR POTENTIAL STUDENTS (fall 2024 class): 

Dr. Timothy Strauman and Dr. Ann Brewster will be seeking to admit a student for Fall 2024 who will be an important member of their collaborative projects. Dr. Brewster is an intervention scientist and a faculty member in Duke’s Social Science Research Institute. The collaborative projects focus on creating, testing, and implementing school-based therapeutic and preventive interventions for adolescents at risk for negative academic and mental health outcomes. We are partnering with the Durham Public Schools as well as with other local school districts, and Dr. Brewster has extensive experience and expertise in developing the partnerships, working with community members, and the intervention process itself. We are especially interested in applicants with experience in community-based interventions, with interests in adolescence, and with knowledge and experience working with both behavioral and neuroimaging data.

Professor Strauman's research focuses on the psychological and neurobiological processes that enable self-regulation, conceptualized in terms of a cognitive/motivational perspective, as well as the relation between self-regulation and affect. Particular areas of emphasis include: (1) conceptualizing self-regulation in terms of brain/behavior motivational systems; (2) the role of self-regulatory cognitive processes in vulnerability to depression and other disorders; (3) the impact of treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy and medication, on self-regulatory function and dysfunction in depression; (4) how normative and non-normative socialization patterns influence the development of self-regulatory systems; (5) the contributory roles of self-regulation, affect, and psychopathology in determining immunologically-mediated susceptibility to illness; (6) development of novel multi-component treatments for depression targeting self-regulatory dysfunction; (7) utilization of brain imaging techniques to test hypotheses concerning self-regulation, including the nature and function of hypothetical regulatory systems and characterizing the breakdowns in self-regulation that lead to and accompany depression.

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