They were asked questions like how often they felt let down by their partner or how frequently their spouse criticized them. They were also evaluated for depression.
Roughly nine years later, the questionnaire and depression assessments were repeated.
In year 11, the participants were invited to the laboratory to undergo emotional response testing, a means of measuring their resilience. Resilience, from an emotional perspective, reflects how quickly a person can recover from a negative experience.
The participants were shown 90 images, a mix of negative, neutral and positive photographs such as a smiling mother-daughter pair. The electrical activity of the corrugator supercilii, also known as the frowning muscle, was measured to assess the intensity and duration of their response.
As the nickname suggests, the frowning muscle activates more strongly during a negative response. At rest, the muscle has a basal level of tension but during a positive emotional response, the muscle becomes more relaxed.
Measuring how activated or relaxed the muscle becomes and how long it takes to reach the basal level again is a reliable way to measure emotional response and the tool has been used before to assess depression.
"It's a nice way to get at what people are experiencing without asking people for their emotional response: 'How are you feeling?'" Lapate says.
Prior studies have shown that depressed individuals have a fleeting response following positive emotional triggers. Davidson was interested in not just how much a muscle relaxes or tenses when a person looks at an image but also in how long it takes the response to subside.
"If you measure at just one time point, you are losing valuable information," says Lapate.
Davidson and colleagues found the five to eight seconds foll
|Contact: Leo Dreyfuss|
University of Wisconsin-Madison