Electrophysiological markers of mental wellbeing and ways to promote it

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Copyright: Chilver, Miranda
Mental wellbeing, a state of positive subjective experience and psychological functioning, is a key component of mental health. Despite this, little is known about how mental wellbeing is manifested in the brain, or how such neural associations covary with depression and anxiety symptoms. Thus, the aim of this thesis was to explore potential electrophysiological markers of wellbeing using electroencephalography (EEG) and event-related potentials (ERPs). To facilitate further investigation into the association between electrophysiology and wellbeing, a positive psychology intervention was also developed. Following an introduction to the key topics, Chapter 2 examined the relationship between mental wellbeing and resting EEG power. This study identified a specific profile of resting EEG power that is associated with wellbeing, independent from depression and anxiety symptoms. Twin modelling clarified that this EEG profile shares a genetic correlation with mental wellbeing. Chapters 3 and 4 shift towards using ERPs to investigate how wellbeing and depression and anxiety symptoms are associated with emotional and cognitive processing. Chapter 3 reported that wellbeing was not significantly associated with emotion processing after accounting for depression and anxiety symptoms, which were significantly associated with alterations in emotion processing. In Chapter 4, no evidence was found for an association between wellbeing or depression and anxiety symptoms with cognitive ERPs, although associations with behavioural performance reported in previous studies were replicated. Finally, Chapter 5 reports on the effectiveness of an online positive psychology intervention which was found to significantly improve wellbeing, particularly subjective wellbeing. Although COVID-19 restrictions prevented the evaluation of causal links between wellbeing and EEG using this intervention, it is discussed for purposes of future research. Together, this thesis provides one of the first investigations into the electrophysiological correlates of mental wellbeing. Resting EEG power was identified as the most promising avenue for future research aiming to establish endophenotype markers of mental wellbeing, with the task-related measures assessed here were not associated with wellbeing. A short and effective online intervention was developed that could be used to facilitate future investigations into the use of resting EEG as a predictor and marker of mental wellbeing.
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PhD Doctorate
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