The influence of alcohol on mood and cognition

Treatment of alcoholism is complicated by the fact that many alcoholics also suffer from depression. Ekin Blackwell wants to contribute to more effective prevention and treatment of alcoholism by studying alcohol’s mood-enhancing properties, and identifying individuals who are especially sensitive to these properties. In her Master’s research, Ekin focused on clinically defining the characteristics of these sensitive individuals to gain insights into factors that influence the development of problematic drinking. Results from her study showed that these individuals have a higher level of negative thoughts about themselves, more negative general mood states and a more restricted emotional range that is less responsive to change. Ekin plans to continue her research on depression and has changed her focus to the link between depression and the stress hormone cortisol. She is specifically interested in understanding how individuals at risk for depression react to stressful interpersonal encounters, and whether their thoughts and emotions in response to these stressors are related to their daily patterns of cortisol output. The results will contribute to better understanding of the pathways between psychological stress and physiological illness.