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1.  Neural Basis of Emotional Decision Making in Trait Anxiety 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(47):18641-18653.
Although trait anxiety has been associated with risk decision making, whether it is related to risk per se or to the feeling of the risk, as well as the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms, remains unclear. Using a decision-making task with a manipulation of frame (i.e., written description of options as a potential gain or loss) and functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated the neurocognitive relationship between trait anxiety and decision making. The classic framing effect was observed: participants chose the safe option when it was described as a potential gain, but they avoided the same option when it was described as a potential loss. Most importantly, trait anxiety was positively correlated with this behavioral bias. Trait anxiety was also positively correlated with amygdala-based “emotional” system activation and its coupling with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) when decisions were consistent with the framing effect, but negatively correlated with the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC)-based “analytic” system activation and its connectivity to the vmPFC when decisions ran counter to the framing effect. Our findings suggest that trait anxiety is not associated with subjective risk preference but an evaluative bias of emotional information in decision making, underpinned by a hyperactive emotional system and a hypoactive analytic system in the brain.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1253-13.2013
PMCID: PMC3834062  PMID: 24259585
2.  Cognition–Emotion Integration in the Anterior Insular Cortex 
Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY)  2012;23(1):20-27.
Both cognitive and affective processes require mental resources. However, it remains unclear whether these 2 processes work in parallel or in an integrated fashion. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated their interaction using an empathy-for-pain paradigm, with simultaneous manipulation of cognitive demand of the tasks and emotional valence of the stimuli. Eighteen healthy adult participants viewed photographs showing other people's hands and feet in painful or nonpainful situations while performing tasks of low (body part judgment) and high (laterality judgment) cognitive demand. Behavioral data showed increased reaction times and error rates for painful compared with nonpainful stimuli under laterality judgment relative to body part judgment, indicating an interaction between cognitive demand and stimulus valence. Imaging analyses showed activity in bilateral anterior insula (AI) and primary somatosensory cortex (SI), but not posterior insula, for main effects of cognitive demand and stimulus valence. Importantly, cognitive demand and stimulus valence showed a significant interaction in AI, SI, and regions of the frontoparietal network. These results suggest that cognitive and emotional processes at least partially share common brain networks and that AI might serve as a key node in a brain network subserving cognition–emotion integration.
doi:10.1093/cercor/bhr367
PMCID: PMC3513949  PMID: 22275476
cognition; emotion; empathy; fMRI; insula
3.  Spontaneous brain activity relates to autonomic arousal 
Although possible sources and functions of the resting state networks (RSN) of the brain have been proposed, most evidence relies on circular logic and reverse inference. We propose that autonomic arousal provides an objective index of psychophysiological states during rest that may also function as a driving source of the activity and connectivity of RSN. Recording blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signal using functional magnetic resonance imaging and skin conductance simultaneously during rest in human subjects, we found that the spontaneous fluctuations of BOLD signals in key nodes of RSN are associated with changes in non-specific skin conductance response, a sensitive psychophysiological index of autonomic arousal. Our findings provide evidence of an important role for the autonomic nervous system to the spontaneous activity of the brain during ‘rest’.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1172-12.2012
PMCID: PMC3435430  PMID: 22895703
resting-state functional connectivity MRI; autonomic arousal; skin conductance response; interoception; consciousness
4.  Functional Neural Correlates of Attentional Deficits in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54035.
Although amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI; often considered a prodromal phase of Alzheimer’s disease, AD) is most recognized by its implications for decline in memory function, research suggests that deficits in attention are present early in aMCI and may be predictive of progression to AD. The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine differences in the brain during the attention network test between 8 individuals with aMCI and 8 neurologically healthy, demographically matched controls. While there were no significant behavioral differences between groups for the alerting and orienting functions, patients with aMCI showed more activity in neural regions typically associated with the networks subserving these functions (e.g., temporoparietal junction and posterior parietal regions, respectively). More importantly, there were both behavioral (i.e., greater conflict effect) and corresponding neural deficits in executive control (e.g., less activation in the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices). Although based on a small number of patients, our findings suggest that deficits of attention, especially the executive control of attention, may significantly contribute to the behavioral and cognitive deficits of aMCI.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054035
PMCID: PMC3543395  PMID: 23326568
5.  Functional deficits of the attentional networks in autism 
Brain and Behavior  2012;2(5):647-660.
Attentional dysfunction is among the most consistent observations of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, the neural nature of this deficit in ASD is still unclear. In this study, we aimed to identify the neurobehavioral correlates of attentional dysfunction in ASD. We used the Attention Network Test-Revised and functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine alerting, orienting, and executive control functions, as well as the neural substrates underlying these attentional functions in unmedicated, high-functioning adults with ASD (n = 12) and matched healthy controls (HC, n = 12). Compared with HC, individuals with ASD showed increased error rates in alerting and executive control, accompanied by lower activity in the mid-frontal gyrus and the caudate nucleus for alerting, and by the absence of significant functional activation in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) for executive control. In addition, greater behavioral deficiency in executive control in ASD was correlated with less functional activation of the ACC. These findings of behavioral and neural abnormalities in alerting and executive control of attention in ASD may suggest core attentional deficits, which require further investigation.
doi:10.1002/brb3.90
PMCID: PMC3489817  PMID: 23139910
Alerting; anterior cingulate cortex; attentional networks; autism; executive control

Results 1-5 (5)