NRSA Fellowship for Gloger: The Effect of Cytomegalovirus Infection on Daily Stress Processes in Early Adulthood

Grants and Contracts Details


Stress is acutely beneficial for survival but can increase risk for chronic disease development across the lifespan. Understanding the biological mechanisms that increase vulnerability to experience more stressors, or react more negatively to them, can identify who is at risk for negative health outcomes associated with stress, and assist targeted prevention and mitigation efforts aimed at improving well-being, increasing years of healthy living, and decreasing healthcare burden through aging. A positive feedback loop, called the Immunologic Model of Self-Regulatory Failure (Shields et al., 2017), provides one potential model for studying biological and physiological vulnerabilities to daily stress: increased physiological activation leads to neurological dysfunction, which leads to subsequent self-regulatory deficits and increased experiences of future stressors, and the cycle repeats. This model suggests that increased immune activation, dysregulation, or neurological changes may increase vulnerability to stress by way of self-regulatory deficits. Cytomegalovirus (CMV), an asymptomatic, latent herpesvirus is one such factor that may increase vulnerability to stress and its effects. CMV is associated with faster immune system aging and heightened systemic inflammatory biomarkers in older age but may affect health, and increase vulnerability to stress, earlier in life. Importantly, neurological regions affected by CMV coordinate higher-order psychological abilities, such as planning, inhibiting, and regulating oneself, called self-regulation. In older adults, CMV seropositivity is associated with declines in self-regulation, assessed via self-report, but this has yet to be tested in younger adults (Segerstrom et al., 2022). Further, individuals with poor self-regulation may experience more stressors (e.g., relationship problems, debt, etc.) and be more reactive to them (e.g., report a more intense, negative mood following a stressor compared to someone with better self-regulation). Though studies on self-regulation and stress, the effects of CMV at older ages, and preliminary investigations on CMV and stress have been conducted, little is known about biological mechanisms linking CMV, self-regulation, and daily stress in younger populations who may still be able to prevent CMV-related interference on daily life and future health. The proposed project aims to fill this gap by evaluating the relationships between CMV infection, daily stress, and self-regulatory abilities. The research component of this proposal involves a single in-person laboratory visit for questionnaires and dried blood spot collection and a 14-day daily diary to test (a) how CMV is related to daily stress processes in early adulthood and (b) the mechanisms that may explain these associations. The training component of this proposal includes (1) training, collection, and analysis of biological specimen, (2) primary data collection from an undergraduate sample, (3) advanced training in statistical methodology and R programming, (4) advanced training and expertise building in psychoneuroimmunology, and (5) extensive professional development and ethics training in preparation of a competitive academic career.
Effective start/end date4/9/234/8/24


  • National Institute on Aging: $47,694.00


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