Master Thesis & Projects


Bruk, L. (2012). Leisure activities and depression in people with and without fibromyalgia. Department of Psychology.


The objective of the present study was to analyze the association between the symptoms of fibromyalgia (FM, chronic pain symptoms in particular) leisure activities (as measured by a Social/Leisure Activity questionnaire), and depressive symptoms (as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory II). The current study used both cross-sectional and longitudinal data from two waves of a parent study (Jones, Rutledge, & Aquino, 2010; Rutledge, Cherry, Rose, Rakovski, & Jones, 2010). Secondary analyses of data were performed using a sample of 70 participants with FM (93% female, mean age 60 years) and 76 participants without FM (67% female, mean age 68 years). To get a longitudinal perspective, we used data from participants with FM who participated in both the first and second waves of data collection (N = 78). Participants diagnosed with FM had higher levels of depression and participated less in leisure activities than those without FM. An association was found between leisure activities (specifically, overall and active leisure) and depressive symptoms. However, logistic regression analyses displayed no significant association between participation in leisure activities in Wave 1 (overall, active, or passive) and later depressive symptoms in Wave 2. The present findings encourage the integration of active leisure activities in the daily routines of individuals with FM.


Mbiam, M. (2012). Differences in medication use between older adults aged 50+ with and without fibromyalgia. [MPH Project]. Department of Health Science.

Follick, B. (2012). Patterns of performance within fibromyalgia: Identifying subgroups. ISBN: 9781267348869Opens in new window


Fibromyalgia (FM) is a multisystem disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and a host of other symptoms. Although FM was originally conceptualized as a musculoskeletal disorder consisting primarily of physical symptoms, it is now understood that individuals with FM experience a host of concordant symptoms including a decline in cognitive functioning, and difficulty with psychological health (Bennett, Jones, Turk, Russell, & Matallana, 2007). This study sought to investigate the possible existence of subgroups within an FM sample based on performance data gathered through the administration of physical and cognitive performance measures, as well as self report psychological measures. Participants (n=57) were recruited from the general community and were required to provide documentation of having met the criteria for diagnosis of FM. Analysis was completed using Ward's method of hierarchical cluster analysis (Ward, 1963). A four cluster solution was chosen for its level of interpretability. Cluster I participants exhibited high physical and cognitive performance and low psychological symptoms. Cluster II participants exhibited low physical and cognitive performance and high psychological symptoms. Cluster III participants exhibited moderate physical and cognitive performance and low psychological symptoms. Cluster IV participants exhibited moderate physical and cognitive performance and high psychological symptoms. The results of this study support the existence of subgroups amongst the fibromyalgia population based on psychological symptoms and levels of cognitive and physical performance. These results provide a better understanding of the variability of symptoms experienced by individuals with fibromyalgia.

Mc, L. H. (2012). The effects of fibromyalgia on social support: A group interview analysis. ISBN: 9781267586445Opens in new window


This study explored the experience of social support in a small group of individuals with fibromyalgia (FM). Ten females over age 50 and diagnosed with FM were recruited for participation in a group interview on the topic of social support. This study utilized qualitative methodology inspired by the empirical phenomenological model to analyze data obtained from the group interview.

Three central themes related to social support emerged from participants' experiences: barriers and gateways to support, responses to adequate and inadequate support, and characteristics of support networks. The first theme described circumstances that prevented participants from or enabled them in getting high quality support. The second theme described participants' responses to getting adequate and inadequate support from social network members. The third theme described who and under what circumstances network members were sought for support, and network member behaviors experienced by participants as either supportive or unsupportive.

Results demonstrate how aspects of having FM can interfere with the mental and physical benefits of social support. Social network factors contributing most appear to be rooted in lack of disease acceptance and failure to provide flexible support to persons with FM. Individual factors interfering with social support include shutting down communication, downplaying symptom severity, and not communicating needs to others.

Levine, B. J. (2012). A case sudy examining coping strategies, family environment, functioning, and quality of life in adolescents with juvenile primary fibromyalgia syndrome. ISBN: 9781267512130Opens in new window


Juvenile primary fibromyalgia syndrome (JPFMS) is characterized by widespread persistent musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, cognitive impairment, stiffness, and sleep disturbance. Adolescence is a crucial developmental stage when children make decisions about their future and prepare for adulthood, such as educational and career goals, social roles, and relationships. Living with constant pain and fatigue can have a significant impact on a child's development and future. The focus of this study was on coping strategies and family environment, and how these important factors in an adolescents' life may be associated with multiple areas of functioning and well-being.

Two female adolescents and their mothers completed questionnaires assessing quality of life, functioning, coping, pain, fatigue, and family environment. Results are reported in a case study format. Both adolescents reported very poor physical functioning, substantial problems with fatigue, keeping up with teens their own age, cognitive functioning, and school functioning. Each adolescent had a very different coping profile and family environment profile.

Taulbee, C. M. (2011). The association between fibromyalgia symptoms and irritable bowel syndrome subtypes. ISBN: 9781267113894Opens in new window


The objective of the thesis is to evaluate the differences in FM symptom intensity levels by IBS subtypes, and increase knowledge of medication discontinuation for common FM and IBS medication types. A 2011, internet survey sponsored by the National Fibromyalgia Association in which data on 620 persons with FM and IBS was analyzed. Kruskal-Wallis tests and follow-up comparison of means were employed for analysis of FM symptom differences. Chi-Square analyses and descriptive statistics were employed for analysis of medication discontinuation.

The results of this sample of women who had been diagnosed with IBS and FM for one year or more represented mainly Caucasian, middle-aged, married adults from all 50 states in the U.S. IBS-A was the most prevalent subtype. Three symptoms that significantly differed among IBS subtypes were: not feeling rested after sleep , depression , and dizziness/fear of falling. Medication discontinuation was not significantly associated with IBS subtypes. Analysis of SSRIs and tricyclics, both medications used to treat depression, show higher frequencies of discontinued use than other common FM and IBS medications; reasons for discontinued were negative side effects. Study results demonstrate that persons with IRS-A experience depression and non-restorative sleep symptoms more severely than persons with IBS-D or IBS-C. Further research for symptom management among persons with FM and IBS should focus on depression and non-restorative sleep and acknowledge the higher prevalence of IBS-A.

Vuchetich, L. (2012). Change in physical performance as a predictor of cognitive changes in fibromyalgia. ISBN:   9781267617491Opens in new window


Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic pain condition affecting primarily females (90%). The present study is one of the first to explore change in physical and cognitive performance in individuals with FM over time. In particular, how change in physical performance predicts change in cognitive performance over time. Secondary analyses were conducted using data collected in 2008 and 2010. Change scores, correlations and hierarchical regressions were used. Physical measures in the analyses include: Fullerton Advanced Balance Scale, Senior Fitness Test 6-Minute Walk (aerobic endurance), and the 30-Foot Walk (fast walk velocity). Cognitive measures include: Digit Span Forward/Backward, Trail Making Test, Stroop Color-Word Test (attention/executive function) and Digit Symbol Substitution Test (processing speed). The present study found that change in physical performance was not predictive of change in cognitive performance over time. In fact, most of the predictability of change in cognition came from age; not from FM status, physical activity level, or change in physical performance on measures of balance, endurance, or fast walk velocity.



Bateham, A. (2011). Functional social support and well-being in adults with and without fibromyalgia. ISBN:
9781124698137Opens in new window


Fibromyalgia syndrome (FM) is a chronic pain condition that has been found to impact a person's emotional, cognitive, and perceived physical functioning. Social support has been linked to improved functioning for a variety of health conditions. This study investigated whether specific types of social support (emotional, tangible, affectionate, and positive social interaction) had a relationship with depression, executive functioning, and perceived physical functioning in a sample of 70 people with FM (age M = 67.9, SD = 8.74) and 76 people without FM (age M = 59.6, SD = 7.58). Demographic information was collected and participants were assessed on multiple measures including the MOS-SSS, BDI-II, a verbal fluency task, and the CPF. Controlling for demographic covariates, multiple regression analysis revealed overall social support and emotional social support were significant moderators of depression for the FM group. Tangible social support was not found to be a moderator of any of the outcome measures. Affectionate social support was found to he a marginally significant moderator ( p = .091) of perceived physical functioning. Positive social interaction was found to be a significant moderator of executive functioning and a marginally significant moderator of perceived physical functioning (p = .067). The results of this study suggest that having a variety of types of social support may he more beneficial for people with FM than having abundance of any single type of support.

Medication and cognition among persons with FM,
Erika Callahan, Master of Arts in Psychology

Fox, C. (2011). Impact of fibromyalgia and hypertension status on cognitive decline in people aged 50+. ISBN: 
9781124635637Opens in new window


Fibromyalgia (FM) is a syndrome characterized by widespread pain that has also been associated with concentration and accelerated cognitive decline. Many patients suffering from FM also have co-morbid conditions such as hypertension which has been shown to have an effect on the normal process of cognitive decline associated with aging. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether or not there is an interaction effect in the cognitive decline in adults aged fifty and older with both conditions. The volunteers in this study were from a larger study that measured cognitive function in adults aged 50 and older to evaluate improvement with regular physical activity in groups with and without FM. The dependent variables were cognitive measures of executive function (Stroop Color Word Test; Trials A/B; Digit Span F/B) and processing speed (Stroop C; Digit Span Digit Symbol Substitution Test). There were three hypotheses: (a) hypothesis 1--Participants with hypertension will have lower executive function and processing speed than participants without hypertension; (b) hypothesis 2--Participants with FM will have lower executive function and processing speed than participants without FM; and (c) hypothesis 3--the combination of FM and hypertension will have an interactive effect on executive function and processing speed. The first and third hypotheses were not supported by this study. The second hypothesis, however, was supported and after adjusting for age, FM participants, scores reported lower executive function and processing speed on TRAILS A and the digit symbol substitution test.

Cognitive impairments in persons with fibromyalgia
, M. Fuimara, Master of Arts in Psychology

Marsh, K. (2011). Reliability of the sensory organization test(RTM) as a measure of sensory reception in older adults with fibromyalgia. ISBN: 9781124895406Opens in new window


Although balance problems have been widely reported among individuals with fibromyalgia (FM) (Bennett et al., 2007), no test has presently been established as a reliable tool to identify impairments in central sensory reception and integration as a possible source of the perceived imbalance. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to establish test-retest reliability of the Sensory Organization Test ® (SOT) as a measure of central sensory impairment in a sample of 35 adults (33 women and 2 men) with a confirmed diagnosis of FM ranging in age from 28 to 73 years. The mean intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) for the mean SOT equilibrium composite score demonstrated good reliability (ICC = .85). However, the ICC values for mean equilibrium scores in each of the six conditions ranged from poor (ICC = .42 in condition 1) to good agreement (ICC = .86 in condition four). The presence of FM-related symptoms may have influenced the magnitude of reliability, suggesting the need of additional study to isolate whether the presence of fatigue, stiffness, pain, and stress varies significantly between the first test and the second test of the SOT®. Comparisons made between participant data and age-matched control groups of individuals without FM suggested that the overall sensory reception and integration abilities of both groups were comparable in the younger age classification (28 to 59 years). However, significant group differences in mean equilibrium scores were found for conditions three and six, as well as the mean equilibrium composite score in the older age classification (61 to 69 years).



Relationships among depression, BMI, pain, and quality of life in overweight Hispanics with chronic pain, Katelyn Reynolds, Master of Science in Nursing

Use of conscious and unconscious distraction as a means of self-management in women with FM, Fernando Serrano, Master of Science in Nursing