Friday, June 2, 2017

URSP Student Jessica Green Researches Cognitive Control and Heart Rate Variability as Predictors to Responses to Stress/Trauma

My name is Jessica Green. I am a double major in Psychology and Neuroscience.  For my OSCAR project, I will be focusing on cognitive control and heart rate variability (HRV) as possible predictors to responses to stress/trauma. My research deals with measuring HRV and cognitive control before and after watching a distressing film clip. The film clip serves to mimic a stressful experience. My interest in trauma began in high school when I noticed changes in my father’s health due to serving overseas. I have always known that I wanted to do study in the psychology field and when I got to George Mason, I first decided to major in Psychology and involve myself in innovative research related to trauma. I joined Dr. Renshaw’s lab as an undergraduate research assistant where I was encouraged to propose a research question of my own. For my long-term goal, I hope to be able to use the skills and experiences I gain from this OSCAR project as a way to distinguish myself when I start applying to medical schools next year. On a weekly basis, I read literature on the psychophysiological relationship between cognitive control and HRV. I communicated my proposal and revisions with the Institutional Review Board (IRB), and after receiving approval was able to run mock trials for data. In addition, I was trained on how to use an electrocardiogram (ECG). One thing I discovered thus far is that not everyone finds the same thing the same film clip to be distressing, suggesting that people can react differently to same stressful experience. The most difficult part was receiving approval from IRB.