Pushing Against The Pull: The Impact Of Emotions And Appetitive Cue On Self-Control And The Underlying Neural Circuitry

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The ability to withhold responses from appetitive and emotionally salient cues in the environment allows us to make decisions that favor positive long-term outcomes over immediate rewards. This capacity for self-control is an adaptive cognitive ability that requires regulation of motivational drives to action. An inability to exert self-control appropriately can relate to real-world consequences, such as poor health outcomes and undesired weight gain due to unregulated eating. Individuals vary in their ability to exhibit self-control, particularly under negative emotional influences. At the pathological extreme, total lapses in selfcontrol can underlie behaviors such as binge eating in bulimia nervosa, which may develop during adolescence as maladaptive coping mechanisms for negative emotions. This thesis investigates how self-control and the neural circuitry underlying it develop under emotional influences over the course of adolescence and into early adulthood. Chapter one provides a framework of the neural circuitry, development and psychopathology of self-control. Chapter two examines adolescent impulsivity toward emotionally salient cues of and related changes in regional brain function during that period. Adolescence is a peak time for the emergence of psychopathologies and maladaptive behaviors (Lee et al., 2014). Chapter three asses the development of self-control and neural circuitry in bulimia nervosa under changing emotional influences from late adolescence into early adulthood. A heightened sensitivity toward food cues may relate to binge eating in bulimia nervosa and problem eating in non-eating disordered individuals. Chapter four measures the influence of appetitive food cues under emotional influences on self-control in bulimia nervosa and across non-eating disordered individuals based on tendencies to eat when anxious. Together, these studies examine how emotional, appetitive, diagnostic and individual influences interact to influence self-control and the brain circuitry that underlies it. Chapter five synthesizes these findings and discusses implications for treatment, limitations and future directions of this work.

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Bulimia nervosa; Cognitive control; fMRI; Impulsivity; Neuroimaging; Self-control


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Doctor of Philosophy

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


dissertation or thesis

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