Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Clinical Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Newton, Tamara

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Fernandez-Botran, Rafael

Committee Member

Fernandez-Botran, Rafael

Committee Member

Lewine, Rich

Committee Member

Sephton, Sandra

Committee Member

Depue, Brendan

Author's Keywords

cytokines; cumulative trauma; emotion reactivity; affect; anti-inflammatory


This study furthers understanding of how trauma exposure may be connected to the development and maintenance of poor health by focusing on cytokines, tightly regulated proteins of the immune system. Cytokine responses to acute stress have been associated with the onset of poorer mental health in physically healthy women. The present study examined how two factors recently associated with cytokine reactivity –cumulative trauma and emotion reactivity– are associated with salivary cytokine reactivity among healthy women. Seventy-one women, screened to be physically and mentally healthy, completed a laboratory acute stress paradigm and self-report measures of state emotion and trauma exposure. Participants were primarily White/European-American, with a mean age of 23. The majority of participants reported experiencing at least one potentially traumatic event, with a mean of five. Saliva samples were taken 10 min before (i.e., baseline) and 35 min after the onset of a 10-min stressor, a modified version of the Trier Social Stress Test. State negative and positive emotion were measured at baseline and after the stressor. Cumulative trauma was not associated with changes in IL-1β, IL-10 or IL1β/IL10 or changes in emotion. Declines in positive emotion correlated with increases in IL-1β. Changes in both negative and positive emotion together were not related to cytokine responses. Given that this sample was healthy, despite high levels of trauma exposure, this may represent a resilient sample. Recommendations for future research are discussed, including measurement of trauma and of emotion. This study adds to the small but growing literature examining how trauma may connect to cytokines, and ultimately, the development and maintenance of poor health.