Based on Fredrickson's ((1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300–319.; (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218–226) broaden-and-build theory and Aron and Aron's ((1986). Love as expansion of the self: Understanding attraction and satisfaction. New York: Hemisphere) self-expansion theory, it was hypothesized that positive emotions broaden people's feelings of self–other overlap in the beginning of a new relationship. In a prospective study of first-year college students, we found that, after 1 week in college, positive emotions predicted increased self–other overlap with new roommates, which in turn predicted a more complex understanding of the roommate. In addition, participants who experienced a high ratio of positive to negative emotions throughout the first month of college reported a greater increase in self–other overlap and complex understanding than participants with a low positivity ratio. Implications for the role of positive emotions in the formation of new relationships are discussed.
Positive emotions; relationships; self–other overlap; broaden-and-build
Anticipating a stressor elicits robust cardiovascular and affective responses. Despite the possibility that recovery from these responses may have implications for physical and mental well-being, little research has examined this issue. In this study, participants either gave a public speech or anticipated giving a speech. Compared with speech-givers, participants who anticipated giving a speech, on average, exhibited similar cardiovascular recovery (decreased heart rate [HR] and increased respiratory sinus arrhythmia [RSA]), and reported lower negative affect during recovery. Only in the anticipation condition, however, were cardiovascular recovery and affective recovery associated: poor affective recovery predicted incomplete HR recovery and decreased RSA. These are the first data to compare explicitly recovery from anticipation of a stressor with recovery from the stressor itself. These findings suggest that failing to recover from anticipation has unique physiological costs that, in turn, may contribute to mental and physical illness.
anticipation; recovery; stress; affect; cardiovascular; HR; RSA
Despite the fact that emotions involve multiple time-varying components, little is known about the underlying neural basis of these temporal dynamics. In this paper, we assess these temporal dynamics by using time-varying hemodynamic response functions (HRF) to model BOLD responses to emotional stimuli. We show that these time-varying HRFs lead to a better fit to the BOLD data and yield larger areas of significant activation than do conventional gamma-based canonical HRFs. We also report for the first time that intensity of emotional experience is associated with both magnitude and duration of brain activation. Specifically, greater negative emotional intensity was associated with greater magnitude of activation in the occipital cortex and with longer duration of activation in regions along the cortical midline associated with self-referent processing: the anterior medial prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex. These data significantly advance our understanding of how the brain processes emotion and suggest that the intensity of a negative emotional experience is due in part to elaborative self-referent processing that is captured by the duration of neural activity in cortical midline structures. These data also underscore the importance of using modeling techniques that will help elucidate the chronometry of both normal and psychopathological emotional processes.
affective chronometry; emotion; fMRI; HRF
The broaden hypothesis, part of Fredrickson’s (1998, 2001) broaden-and-build theory, proposes that positive emotions lead to broadened cognitive states. Here, we present evidence that cognitive broadening can be produced by frequent facial expressions of positive emotion. Additionally, we present a novel method of using facial electromyography (EMG) to discriminate between Duchenne (genuine) and non-Duchenne (non-genuine) smiles. Across experiments, Duchenne smiles occurred more frequently during positive emotion inductions than neutral or negative inductions. Across experiments, Duchenne smiles correlated with self-reports of specific positive emotions. In Experiment 1, high frequencies of Duchenne smiles predicted increased attentional breadth on a global–local visual processing task. In Experiment 2, high frequencies of Duchenne smiles predicted increased attentional flexibility on a covert attentional orienting task. These data underscore the value of using multiple methods to measure emotional experience in studies of emotion and cognition.
Broaden-and-build theory; Positive emotion; Duchenne smile; Attentional orienting; Global local; Holistic perception
Field studies and laboratory experiments have documented that a key component of resilience is emotional flexibility – the ability to respond flexibly to changing emotional circumstances. In the present study we tested the hypotheses that resilient people exhibit emotional flexibility: a) in response to frequently changing emotional stimuli; and b) across multiple modalities of emotional responding. As participants viewed a series of emotional pictures, we assessed their self-reported affect, facial muscle activity, and startle reflexes. Higher trait resilience predicted more divergent affective and facial responses (corrugator and zygomatic) to positive versus negative pictures. Thus, compared with their low resilient counterparts, resilient people appear to be able to more flexibly match their emotional responses to the frequently changing emotional stimuli. Moreover, whereas high trait resilient participants exhibited divergent startle responses to positive versus negative pictures regardless of the valence of the preceding trial, low trait resilient participants did not exhibit divergent startle responses when the preceding picture was negative. High trait resilient individuals, therefore, appear to be better able than are their low-resilient counterparts to either switch or maintain their emotional responses depending on whether the emotional context changes. The present findings broaden our understanding of the mechanisms underlying resilience by demonstrating that resilient people are able to flexibly change their affective and physiological responses to match the demands of frequently changing environmental circumstances.
resilience; emotional flexibility; affect; EMG; startle reflex
Despite advances in neurobiological research on Major Depressive Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder, little is known about the neural functioning of individuals with comorbid depression/social anxiety. We examined the timing of neural responses to social stress in individuals with major depression and/or social anxiety. We hypothesized that having social anxiety would be associated with earlier responses to stress, having major depression would be associated with sustained responses to stress, and that comorbid participants would exhibit both of these response patterns.
Participants were females diagnosed with pure depression (n = 12), pure social anxiety (n = 16), comorbid depression/social anxiety (n = 17), or as never having had any Axis-I disorder (control; n = 17). Blood oxygenation-level dependent activity (BOLD) was assessed with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). To induce social stress, participants prepared a speech that was ostensibly to be evaluated by a third party.
Whereas being diagnosed with depression was associated with a resurgence of activation in the medial frontal cortex late in the stressor, having social anxiety was associated with a vigilance-avoidance activation pattern in the occipital cortex and insula. Comorbid participants exhibited activation patterns that generally overlapped with the non-comorbid groups, with the exception of an intermediate level of activation, between the level of activation of the pure depression and social anxiety groups, in the middle and posterior cingulate cortex.
These findings advance our understanding of the neural underpinnings of major depression and social anxiety, and of their comorbidity. Future research should elucidate more precisely the behavioral correlates of these patterns of brain activation.
Depression; Anxiety; Comorbidity; FMRI; Stress; MPFC
Anhedonia, the lack of interest or pleasure in response to hedonic stimuli or experiences, is a cardinal symptom of depression. This deficit in hedonic processing has been posited to influence depressed individuals’ motivation to engage in potentially rewarding experiences. Accumulating evidence indicates that hedonic processing is not a unitary construct but rather consists of an anticipatory and a consummatory phase. We examined how these components of hedonic processing influence motivation to obtain reward in participants diagnosed with major depression and in never-disordered controls. Thirty-eight currently depressed and 30 never-disordered control participants rated their liking of humorous and nonhumorous cartoons and then made a series of choices between viewing a cartoon from either group. Each choice was associated with a specified amount of effort participants would have to exert before viewing the chosen cartoon. Although depressed and control participants did not differ in their consummatory liking of the rewards, levels of reward liking predicted motivation to expend effort for the rewards only in the control participants; in the depressed participants, liking and motivation were dissociated. In the depressed group, levels of anticipatory anhedonia predicted motivation to exert effort for the rewards. These findings support the formulation that anhedonia is not a unitary construct and suggest that, for depressed individuals, deficits in motivation for reward are driven primarily by low anticipatory pleasure and not by decreased consummatory liking.
anhedonia; motivation; depression; reward; effort
Social threat is a key component of mental “stress” and a potent generator of negative emotions and physiological responses in the body. How the human brain processes social context and drives peripheral physiology, however, is relatively poorly understood. Human neuroimaging and animal studies implicate the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), though this heterogeneous region is likely to contain multiple sub-regions with diverse relationships with physiological reactivity and regulation. We used fMRI combined with a novel multi-level path analysis approach to identify brain mediators of the effects of a public speech preparation task (social evaluative threat, SET) on heart rate (HR). This model provides tests of functional pathways linking experimentally manipulated threat, regional fMRI activity, and physiological output, both across time (within person) and across individuals (between persons). It thus integrates time series connectivity and individual difference analyses in the same path model. The results provide evidence for two dissociable, inversely coupled sub-regions of MPFC that independently mediated HR responses. SET caused activity increases in a more dorsal pregenual cingulate region, whose activity was coupled with HR increases. Conversely, SET caused activity decreases in a right ventromedial/medial orbital region, which were coupled with HR increases. Individual differences in coupling strength in each pathway independently predicted individual differences in HR reactivity. These results underscore both the importance and heterogeneity of MPFC in generating physiological responses to threat.
The nonapeptide oxytocin and its receptor have been implicated in the regulation of mammalian social behavior and stress physiology. Evidence is accumulating that the quality of the parental environment is associated with oxytocin biology in children. The present study was designed to examine the interaction of the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs2254298 within the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene and quality of parental environment in predicting children's psychosocial functioning. More specifically, in a sample of 92 Caucasian adolescent girls (9- to 14-years old), we examined whether adverse parental environment, operationalized as mothers' history of recurrent major depressive disorder, interacts with the rs2254298 SNP on the OXTR gene to predict daughters' symptoms of depression and anxiety. Caucasian girls who both were heterozygous for the OXTR rs2254298 polymorphism and had high early adversity reported the highest levels of symptoms of depression, physical anxiety, and social anxiety. These findings highlight the potential importance of this OXTR gene polymorphism in the etiology of depression and anxiety disorders.
oxytocin receptor gene; rs2254298; maternal depression; anxiety; adolescents
Diffusion tensor imaging is widely used to evaluate the development of white matter. Information about how alterations in major neurotransmitter systems, such as the dopamine (DA) system, influence this development in healthy children, however, is lacking. Catechol-O-metyltransferase (COMT) is the major enzyme responsible for DA degradation in prefrontal brain structures, for which there is a corresponding genetic polymorphism (val158met) that confers either a more or less efficient version of this enzyme. The result of this common genetic variation is that children may have more or less available synaptic DA in prefrontal brain regions. In the present study we examined the relation between diffusion properties of frontal white matter structures and the COMT val158met polymorphism in 40 children ages 9–15. We found that the val allele was associated with significantly elevated fractional anisotropy values and reduced axial and radial diffusivities. These results indicate that the development of white matter in healthy children is related to COMT genotype and that alterations in white matter may be related to the differential availability of prefrontal DA. This investigation paves the way for further studies of how common functional variants in the genome might influence the development of brain white matter.
COMT; children; diffusion tensor imaging; DTI; white matter; genotype; tractography; fractional anisotrophy
Levels of extra-synaptic dopamine in the brain vary as a function of polymorphisms at the Val158Met locus of the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene. In vivo studies of this polymorphism in the human brain have typically measured patterns of neural activation during dopamine-mediated tasks in adults. This study is the first to investigate the effects of COMT on brain physiology during rest and in children. We used flow-sensitive arterial spin labeling (ASL) magnetic resonance imaging to examine brain blood flow (CBF) in 42 children. Compared with val-allele carriers, met-allele homozygotes exhibited greater CBF in mesolimbic, mesocortical, and nigrostriatal dopamine (DA) pathways. Higher CBF in DA-rich brain structures reflects COMT-related baseline differences that (1) underlie the selective behavioral advantages associated with each genotype; (2) affect interpretations of previously reported genotype differences in BOLD signal changes; and (3) serve as a foundation for future studies on the effects of COMT on brain development.
Low perceived social acceptance is a significant risk factor for emotional difficulties in children. No studies, however, have examined genetic factors that may underlie individual differences in perceived social acceptance. In the present study we examined the relation between polymorphisms on the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met and serotonin transporter promoter (5-HTTLPR) genes and perceived social acceptance in 103 adolescent girls. Only the COMT polymorphism was related to perceived social acceptance: Val-allele carriers reported greater perceived social acceptance than did homozygous Met-allele carriers. In a subsample of these participants, homozygous Val-allele carriers reported greater maintenance of positive emotions during stress. This, in turn, predicted social acceptance, suggesting that COMT exerts its effects on social functioning through emotion regulation. These data are the first to show an association between COMT and social functioning in children. Future research might profitably examine emotion regulation as a mediator between COMT and social acceptance.
Testosterone moderates behavioral and physiological responses to the emotion anger. However, little is known about the effects of testosterone in the human brain in the context of the perception of anger. We used fMRI to measure BOLD responses to anger faces in the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) as a function of endogenous testosterone levels in 24 participants (10 men). In one task, participants passively viewed anger faces and neutral faces and in another task, participants engaged in an oddball task while viewing anger and neutral faces. Men’s, but not women’s, amygdala BOLD response to anger faces was negatively correlated with their endogenous testosterone levels in both tasks. Men’s, but not women’s, vmPFC BOLD response to anger faces was positively correlated with their endogenous testosterone levels in the passive viewing task. In men, amygdala and vmPFC BOLD responses to anger faces were negatively associated. Our results extend past research by documenting associations between endogenous testosterone levels and BOLD responses to anger faces in the amygdala and vmPFC in men, and our results also support research that documents negative associations between amygdala and vmPFC activity.
Testosterone; Amygdala; Prefrontal Cortex; fMRI; Anger; Emotion; Aggression; Dominance; Hormones; Neuroendocrine; Steroid
A facet of emotional resilience critical for adapting to adversity is flexible use of emotional resources. We hypothesized that in threatening situations, this emotional flexibility enables resilient people to use emotional resources during appropriately emotional events, and conserve emotional resources during innocuous events. We tested this hypothesis using functional magnetic resonance imaging in a repeated recovery from threat task with low- and high-trait resilient individuals (LowR and HighR, respectively, as measured by ER89). In an event-related design, 13 HighR and 13 LowR participants viewed ‘threat’ cues, which signaled either an aversive or neutral picture with equal probabilities, or ‘nonthreat’ cues, which signaled a neutral picture. Results show that when under threat, LowR individuals exhibited prolonged activation in the anterior insula to both the aversive and neutral pictures, whereas HighR individuals exhibited insula activation only to the aversive pictures. These data provide neural evidence that in threatening situations, resilient people flexibly and appropriately adjust the level of emotional resources needed to meet the demands of the situation.
resilience; anticipation; recovery; emotion regulation; neuroimaging; threat
This study tested the hypothesis that implicit power motivation (nPower), in interaction with power incentives, influences activation of brain systems mediating motivation. Twelve individuals low (lowest quartile) and 12 individuals high (highest quartile) in nPower, as assessed per content coding of picture stories, were selected from a larger initial participant pool and participated in a functional magnetic resonance imaging study during which they viewed high-dominance (angry faces), low-dominance (surprised faces) and control stimuli (neutral faces, gray squares) under oddball-task conditions. Consistent with hypotheses, high-power participants showed stronger activation in response to emotional faces in brain structures involved in emotion and motivation (insula, dorsal striatum, orbitofrontal cortex) than low-power participants.
implicit motives; facial expressions of emotion; motivation; power; dominance; personality; brain; fMRI
Extrapolating from B. L. Fredrickson's (1998, 2001) broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, the authors hypothesized that positive emotions are active ingredients within trait resilience. U.S. college students (18 men and 28 women) were tested in early 2001 and again in the weeks following the September 11th terrorist attacks. Mediational analyses showed that positive emotions experienced in the wake of the attacks— gratitude, interest, love, and so forth—fully accounted for the relations between (a) precrisis resilience and later development of depressive symptoms and (b) precrisis resilience and postcrisis growth in psychological resources. Findings suggest that positive emotions in the aftermath of crises buffer resilient people against depression and fuel thriving, consistent with the broaden-and-build theory. Discussion touches on implications for coping.
Following highly negative events, people are deemed resilient if they maintain psychological stability and experience fewer mental health problems. The current research investigated how trait resilience (Block & Kremen, 1996, ER89) influences recovery from anticipated threats. Participants viewed cues (‘aversive’, ‘threat’, ‘safety’) that signified the likelihood of an upcoming picture (100% aversive, 50/50 aversive/neutral, or 100% neutral; respectively), and provided continuous affective ratings during the cue, picture, and after picture offset (recovery period). Participants high in trait resilience (HighR) exhibited more complete affective recovery (compared to LowR) after viewing a neutral picture that could have been aversive. Although other personality traits previously associated with resilience (i.e., optimism, extraversion, neuroticism) predicted affective responses during various portions of the task, none mediated the influence of trait resilience on affective recovery.
resilience; emotion regulation; recovery; relief; anticipation