This proposed project plans to produce, document and archive a data repository that combines final research data from 5 prospective viral-challenge studies (9 different viruses) focused on examining the roles of psychosocial factors in susceptibility to the common cold. In these unique studies, hypothesized predictor and mediating variables were assessed in healthy adults aged 18-55 years, who were then experimentally exposed to a virus that causes the common cold and monitored for development of infection and signs and symptoms of illness. Clinical illness (found in 40% of volunteers) was defined as both being infected and expressing signs and symptoms of disease. This design allowed the determination of whether variables of interest in a given study (e.g., stress, personality) predicted who developed a clinical cold following viral exposure. Merging the data from these 5 studies provides the opportunity to replicate analyses across two or more of the studies or combine data from any or all of the studies, allowing adequate power for detection of small effects and sophisticated tests of mediation and moderation.
The first aim of this proposal is to use the combined data to address important questions about the role of social relationships in health. Both the quantity and quality of social relationships were assessed at baseline using both questionnaires and daily interviews over 6-14 days. Analysis of the aggregated dataset will be conducted to help identify (1) the types of social ties that matter most for health;(2) the unique mechanisms linking different types of social ties to health;(3) components of social relationships likely to be conducive to intervention;and (4) characteristics of individuals that make them more or less responsive to the influences of social ties. Second, in addition to these research aims, a major thrust of this application is to disseminate the combined data from these 5 studies to the broader scientific community. Although each study was designed to address a specific set of hypotheses, many variables were collected across the multiple studies in up to 1,400 participants. These included: standard control variables/covariates (e.g., age, sex, race, body mass, season, and specific antibody titer to the challenge virus);predictor and mediator variables such as measures of social relationships, stress, personality, affect, socioeconomic status, health practices, local cytokine response, and endocrine levels;and assessment of illness (colds) including viral-related biology and symptom/sign outcomes. Other outcomes common across studies included basal blood pressure, heart rate, and pulmonary function. Individual studies also included markers of biological aging and assessments of acute stress response. These unique and valuable data could be used to address numerous questions beyond those included in our research aims. Creating a centralized and publicly available online data repository will have the immediate effect of maximizing their worth to the scientific community. In the long term, findings derived from these data may provide insight into possible alternative targets for intervention that typically are not addressed using conventional medical techniques.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed project plans to combine, analyze and make publicly available data from 5 viral-challenge studies focused on examining the roles of psychological and social factors in susceptibility to the common cold. Our specific interest is in the role of social relationships in the development of signs and symptoms of disease. Because all 5 studies collected data on multiple psychosocial, behavioral, and biological variables, the public availability of these findings will provide investigators from various disciplines with the opportunity to examine associations of other psychosocial and behavioral factors with multiple measures of disease and disease risk, thus providing insight into possible alternative targets for intervention that typically are not addressed using conventional medical techniques.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Biobehavioral Mechanisms of Emotion, Stress and Health Study Section (MESH)
Program Officer
Weber, Wendy J
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Carnegie-Mellon University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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