Wheeling Jesuit University

Students Take their Research on the Road

50th Anniversary Conference of the Society for Psychophysiological Research in Portland, Oregon.

WHEELING, WV, Sept. 20, 2010 — Wheeling Jesuit University psychology students are taking their research on the road, as they attend the 50th Anniversary Conference of the Society for Psychophysiological Research.

The gathering of academics will be held in Portland, Ore. Sept. 29 - Oct. 3, 2010.

“This is a milestone year and our students will experience an important moment in research,” said psychology professor, Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, who is leading the group on the scholarly journey. Raudenbush is also Wheeling Jesuit’s director of undergraduate research, a post that he’s held for more than a dozen years.

WJU students attending the Oregon meeting include: sophomore psychology major August Capiola of Washington, Pa. and senior psychology major Mark Sappington of Morgantown, W.Va. (From left are Kolks, Capiola, Sappington and Raudenbush, seated is McCombs.)

Also attending is WJU adjunct instructor of psychology Kristin McCombs (2005 graduate) and Jonathan Kolks, who graduated from WJU last May and is now enrolled in WJU’s Master’s of Science in Organizational Leadership program.

McCombs, a resident of Bethesda, Ohio was also selected to receive a $500 travel grant from the conference to attend the research meeting and is currently a doctoral candidate at Kent State University.

Research topics, presenters and a brief description of the research is:

Effects of Video Game Play on Pain Distraction, Kolks, 2010 graduate Lexa Hamilton-Cotter of Wheeling, McCombs and Raudenbush. Previous WJU research has shown psychological and physical benefits can be gained by playing video games. Such benefits include distraction from pain, decrease of maladaptive behaviors, and facilitating social engagement. The current study examined whether the Nintendo Wii tennis video game can serve as a distraction from pain perception and increase pain tolerance. Thirty participants completed each of two conditions: a session in which Wii Tennis was played while immersing their non-dominant hand in a cold pressor tank and a session in which no game was played while the non-dominant hand was placed in the cold pressor. Video game play information, physiological measures (blood pressure and pulse), pain ratings, mood, and task load data were collected. Participants were able to tolerate the pain significantly longer in the play condition and participants thought they performed better in the play condition. Physiological measures showed increased arousal during the play condition. In addition, participants indicated the play condition was more physically and mentally demanding. Implications for such research include providing an adjunct to pharmaceuticals for pain management techniques.

Effects of Peppermint Scent Distraction on Cognitive Video Game Performance: A Physiological Explanation, McCombs, current senior Andrea Bova of Pittsburgh, Raudenbush and Sappington. Past WJU research has shown the positive effects of video game play while other research has shown the benefits of peppermint scent administration. In the present study assessed the combination of video game play and peppermint scent administration on physiology, mood, performance, and task load. Participants completed a baseline control condition and were then assigned to either repeat the control session or to an experimental condition in which peppermint scent was delivered via nasal cannula at 3LPM. They played 3 Nintendo Wii Fit Plus Games requiring cognitive and hand/eye reactions (Perfect 10, Snowball Fight, and Obstacle Course). Participants in the peppermint scent condition showed greater improvements, such as completing significantly more levels, more hits, and stars, and distance completed. Further, participants in the peppermint condition reported decreased mental demand, perceived effort and anxiety. In terms of physiological data, control group participants had a significantly lower pulse change and diastolic blood pressure change; whereas, participants in the peppermint scent condition experienced no significant difference in pulse, suggesting that the scent administration promoted greater physiological arousal, thus keeping them more engaged in the testing process. Implications include the combination of video games and a physiologically arousing scent (specifically, peppermint) to further promote cognitive performance.

Physiological Responses of Food Neophobics and Food Neophilics to Food and Non-Food Stimuli, Capiola and Raudenbush. Individual differences in human food neophobia (the reluctance to try novel foods) and food neophilia (the overt willingness to try novel foods) influence the evaluation of tastes and odors, as well as the sampling of such stimuli. Past research also notes an association of food neophobia to PTC (phenylthiocarbamide) sensitivity, body weight, and cephalic phase salivary response. The present study assessed physiological reactions of food neophobics and neophilics to pictures of food and non-food stimuli. Stimuli pictures were presented in random order on a computer screen for a period of 5 minutes. No significant differences were found between the groups in relation to non-food stimuli. However, pulse, GSR (galvanic skin response) and respirations were significantly increased in food neophobics when presented pictures of food stimuli. Thus, further evidence is provided to support a physiological component at least partially responsible for differences noted between neophobics and neophilics in sensitivity, psychophysical ratings, and willingness to try personality. Such a component may also lead to differences in weight, nutrition, and overall health.

Founded in 1960, the Society for Psychophysiological Research is an international scientific society with worldwide membership. Its purpose is to foster research on the interrelationships between the physiological and psychological aspects of behavior.

Wheeling Jesuit’s psychology department is very active in research and offers laboratory-based course of study. Well-equipped laboratories teach students to use equipment and software such as the driving simulator, sensory deprivation chamber, IMPACT cognitive system (for concussions), odor delivery system, sleep monitoring, and physiological measurement (EEG, EKG, EMG). Students are involved in projects that are socially meaningful as well as scientifically rigorous. In 2009 - 2010, 26 presentations and five publications with student co-authors originated in the WJU psychology department; students attended eight different conferences, including one international conference.

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