Socio-emotional functioning plays a central role throughout the life-span and is a major factor in successful aging. Whereas losses are seen in many psychological and physical domains in old age, emotion appears to be an area of functioning that is relatively spared. In research supported by the parent grant for this competitive revision, we are studying socio-emotional functioning in different age groups using both cross-sectional and longitudinal designs. In the competitive revision, we propose to expand the scope of this work to consider sources of individual differences within age groups in four aspects of socio-emotional functioning: (a) emotional reactivity, (b) emotion regulation, (c) emotional understanding, and (d) emotion in long-term marriage. We will examine genetic contributions to these variations by studying relationships between objective, precisely measured behavioral and physiological markers of these aspects of socio-emotional functioning and well-characterized polymorphisms of genes involved in the regulation of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides that are highly relevant to socio-emotional functioning: (a) the catechol-o-methyl transferase (COMT) gene, b) the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene, (c) the vasopressin receptor 1a gene (AVPR1A), and (d) the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR). The proposed research expands the scope of the parent grant by exploring individual differences within age groups in socio-emotional functioning and by studying these gene-behavior relationships.

Public Health Relevance

This research project examines emotional functioning and social functioning, both of which are intimately connected to physical and mental health. Emotional and social functioning are studied in older adults, who are at heightened risk for physical health problems.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award (R37)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-A (95))
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Nielsen, Lisbeth
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University of California Berkeley
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Otero, Marcela C; Levenson, Robert W (2017) Lower Visual Avoidance in Dementia Patients Is Associated with Greater Psychological Distress in Caregivers. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 43:247-258
Haase, Claudia M; Holley, Sarah R; Bloch, Lian et al. (2016) Interpersonal emotional behaviors and physical health: A 20-year longitudinal study of long-term married couples. Emotion 16:965-77
Goodkind, Madeleine S; Sturm, Virginia E; Ascher, Elizabeth A et al. (2015) Emotion recognition in frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer's disease: A new film-based assessment. Emotion 15:416-27
Haase, Claudia M; Beermann, Ursula; Saslow, Laura R et al. (2015) Short alleles, bigger smiles? The effect of 5-HTTLPR on positive emotional expressions. Emotion 15:438-48
Sturm, Virginia E; Yokoyama, Jennifer S; Eckart, Janet A et al. (2015) Damage to left frontal regulatory circuits produces greater positive emotional reactivity in frontotemporal dementia. Cortex 64:55-67
Levenson, Robert W; Sturm, Virginia E; Haase, Claudia M (2014) Emotional and behavioral symptoms in neurodegenerative disease: a model for studying the neural bases of psychopathology. Annu Rev Clin Psychol 10:581-606
Gyurak, Anett; Haase, Claudia M; Sze, Jocelyn et al. (2013) The effect of the serotonin transporter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) on empathic and self-conscious emotional reactivity. Emotion 13:25-35
Holley, Sarah R; Haase, Claudia M; Levenson, Robert W (2013) Age-Related Changes in Demand-Withdraw Communication Behaviors. J Marriage Fam 75:822-836
Sturm, Virginia E; Sollberger, Marc; Seeley, William W et al. (2013) Role of right pregenual anterior cingulate cortex in self-conscious emotional reactivity. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 8:468-74
Haase, Claudia M; Saslow, Laura R; Bloch, Lian et al. (2013) The 5-HTTLPR polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene moderates the association between emotional behavior and changes in marital satisfaction over time. Emotion 13:1068-79

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