Loyola University Chicago

Department of Psychology

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Ian Kahrilas

Training Track: Clinical
Lab: Well-being and Emotion Lab at Loyola (WELL)  
Advisor: Rebecca Silton, Ph.D. 
Office: Coffey Hall LL06B

Interests

Neural correlates of positive emotion regulation and mindfulness-based interventions. 

Masters Thesis Title

The Neurobiological Correlates of Savoring

Masters Thesis Abstract

Personality traits pertaining to positive emotion may be a key factor in deriving vitality from our lives. Positive affectivity refers to one’s disposition to experience intense and frequent episodes of positive affect, while savoring capacity refer to one’s ability to regulate positive affect. Both traits have been positively associated with happiness, self-esteem, prosocial behaviors, improved health outcomes, as well as attenuated depressive symptomatology and neuroticism. The late positive potential (LPP) is an electroencephalography (EEG) component that is theorized to index a visual cortical/amygdala pathway that is involved in evaluating the affective salience of stimuli. LPP activity are sensitive to the emotional content of stimuli, as well as how these stimuli are appraised. Research examining the neural time course of affective processing has long utilized the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). The Open Affective Standardized Image Set (OASIS) is an up-to-date and open access stimulus set that may improve upon some shortcomings of the IAPS. Thus, the present study evaluated the following hypotheses: a) enhanced LPP activity evoked by positive and negative compared to neutral OASIS images, b) participants’ LPP activity evoked by passively watching positive images will vary based on levels of positive affectivity and c) participants’ LPP activity in response to increasing emotional intensity to positive images will vary based on levels of savoring capacity. As predicted, results showed enhanced LPP activity in response to positive and negative OASIS stimuli, indicating that the OASIS may be an advantageous replacement stimulus set for the IAPS in future psychophysiological research. However, in the present study, positive affectivity and savoring capacity did not moderate the relationship between passively viewing positive images/increasing emotional intensity in response to positive images and LPP activity. The present study brings much needed attention to positive emotion and its neurobiological correlates. This work is critical to developing neuroscience-informed clinical interventions for those with psychological and physiological disorders, as well as uncovering the biological implementations of well-being.

Masters Thesis Committee

Rebecca Silton, PhD; Fred Bryant, PhD