Welcome to the Multimodal Approaches to Pathogenic Personality and Emotion Development or "MAPPED" lab at the University of Western Ontario Department of Psychology!
Our goal is to advance research focused on improving health outcomes for those vulnerable to self-inflicted injury (SII), borderline personality disorder (BPD), and suicide. These clinical problems are associated with profound emotional suffering and financial burden for affected individuals, their families, communities, and society. Individuals with BPD are highly stigmatized, and many clinicians are reluctant to accept acutely suicidal clients, resulting in significant barriers to treatment.
At the broadest level, we study how social contexts interact with biologically-mediated regulatory processes to eventuate in SII and BPD. We are particularly invested in (1) differentiating among indicators of SII, BPD, and suicide in order to aid in early identification and prevention and (2) facilitating effective treatment by evaluating how intervention mechanisms affect biological and behavioral markers of risk. We focus on how core transdiagnostic vulnerabilities to psychopathology (e.g., emotion dysregulation, sleep disruption, disinhibition, familial conflict) are shaped into specific diagnostic presentations. As with other psychiatric and physical disorders, understanding etiopathophysiological processes will almost certainly aid in diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.
MAPPED Lab Research Areas
Prospective identification of youth at risk for SII and BPD:
Historically, adult diagnostic criteria and phenotypes have been extended downward to youth, which overlooks important etiological and developmental precursors to these complex conditions.
Prospectively identifying vulnerable youth will almost certainly involve biological markers, as early behavioral indicators of maladjustment do not predict later SII or BPD with specificity.
Evidence has accumulated that vulnerabilities to SII, BPD, and suicide are partially heritable.
The parent-child relationship is one of the most important developmental contexts for shaping key self-regulatory and interpersonal processes implicated in SII and BPD pathogenesis (e.g., emotion regulation, behavioral inhibition, identity formation, conflict resolution).
We are especially concerned with interrupting intergenerational transmission of these conditions and supporting vulnerable families as youth navigate social, physiological, emotional, and identity development.
Thus, we focus on intervening at the parent/child level to interrupt coercive family cycles, provide alternative strategies, and promote affiliation and belongingness.
Multi-modal assessment paradigms
We apply an integrative, multiple-levels-of-analysis approach by measuring biological markers of vulnerability in combination with self- and informant-reports, and behavioral assessments.
In particular, we often examine cardiovascular reactivity, skin conductance, and electroencephalographic indices of self-regulation among at risk youth and their family members.
Future directions for this lab are to expand into sleep research. Disrupted sleep is closely linked to defining characteristics of BPD such as higher sensitivity/reactivity to stress, behavioral impulsivity, interpersonal dysfunction, and emotion dysregulation. We aim to explore transactional relations of sleep, interpersonal stressors, affect, and impulsive behaviors among parents with BPD and their children through experimental and ambulatory sleep studies in daily life (e.g., actigraphy, portable electroencephalography). Eventually, we hope to be able to evaluate the role of sleep disruption in predicting onset and maintenance of key BPD symptoms.
In depth examination of core intervention strategies.
Environmental risk factors for SII and BPD can be targeted with psychosocial interventions. However, we have limited understanding of how such interventions affect moment-to-moment biological and behavioral indices of risk, as well as longer-term outcomes in daily life.
We have previously collected data demonstrating that teaching interpersonal validation has immediate beneficial effects on family behavior among mother-daughter dyads with a self-injuring youth.
Future projects will examine outcomes associated with competing treatment mechanisms. Further, we plan to examine post-intervention changes in behavioral and physiological indicators of emotion regulation in daily life via ecological momentary assessment.
Measure construction and validation
We aim to improve efficient assessment of complex clinical phenomena.
Previous measures include the Self-Concept and Identity Measure (SCIM), and a short-form version of the widely used Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale. These instruments have been translated into several languages and validated with a number of populations internationally.
University of Western Ontario
Department of Psychology
361 Windermere Road
London, ON N6A 3K7