Insufficient sleep and poor quality sleep are pervasive during adolescence and relate to impairments in cognitive control and increased risk taking. However, the neurobiology underlying the association between sleep and adolescent behavior remains elusive. In the current study, we examine how poor sleep quality relates to cognitive control and reward related brain function during risk taking. Forty-six adolescents participated in a functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) scan during which they completed a cognitive control and risk taking task. Behaviorally, adolescents who reported poorer sleep also exhibited greater risk-taking. This association was paralleled by less recruitment of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during cognitive control, greater insula activation during reward processing, and reduced functional coupling between the DLPFC and affective regions including the insula and ventral striatum during reward processing. Collectively, these results suggest that poor sleep may exaggerate the normative imbalance between affective and cognitive control systems, leading to greater risk-taking in adolescents.
Adolescence; Sleep; Risk taking; Cognitive control; fMRI
Emotion regulation is commonly characterized as involving conscious and intentional attempts to change felt emotions, such as, for example, through reappraisal whereby one intentionally decreases the intensity of one's emotional response to a particular stimulus or situation by reinterpreting it in a less threatening way. However, there is growing evidence and appreciation that some types of emotion regulation are unintentional or incidental, meaning that affective modulation is a consequence but not an explicit goal. For example, affect labeling involves simply verbally labeling the emotional content of an external stimulus or one's own affective responses without an intentional goal of altering emotional responses, yet has been associated with reduced affective responses at the neural and experiential levels. Although both intentional and incidental emotional regulation strategies have been associated with diminished limbic responses and self-reported distress, little previous research has directly compared their underlying neural mechanisms. In this study, we examined the extent to which incidental and intentional emotion regulation, namely, affect labeling and reappraisal, produced common and divergent neural and self-report responses to aversive images relative to an observe-only control condition in a sample of healthy older adults (N = 39). Affect labeling and reappraisal produced common activations in several prefrontal regulatory regions, with affect labeling producing stronger responses in direct comparisons. Affect labeling and reappraisal were also associated with similar decreases in amygdala activity. Finally, affect labeling and reappraisal were associated with correlated reductions in self-reported distress. Together these results point to common neurocognitive mechanisms involved in affect labeling and reappraisal, supporting the idea that intentional and incidental emotion regulation may utilize overlapping neural processes.
affect labeling; reappraisal; emotion regulation; fMRI; amygdala; prefrontal cortex
Discordant development of brain regions responsible for cognitive control and reward processing may render adolescents susceptible to risk taking. Identifying ways to reduce this neural imbalance during adolescence can have important implications for risk taking and associated health outcomes. Accordingly, we sought to examine how a key family relationship—family obligation—can reduce this vulnerability. Forty-eight adolescents underwent an fMRI scan during which they completed a risk-taking and cognitive control task. Results suggest that adolescents with greater family obligation values show decreased activation in the ventral striatum when receiving monetary rewards and increased dorsolateral PFC activation during behavioral inhibition. Reduced ventral striatum activation correlated with less real-life risk-taking behavior and enhanced dorsolateral PFC activation correlated with better decision-making skills. Thus, family obligation may decrease reward sensitivity and enhance cognitive control, thereby reducing risk-taking behaviors.
Can neural responses of a small group of individuals predict the behavior of large-scale populations? In this investigation, brain activations were recorded while smokers viewed three different television campaigns promoting the National Cancer Institute’s telephone hotline to help smokers quit (1-800-QUIT-NOW). The smokers also provided self-report predictions of the campaigns’ relative effectiveness. Population measures of the success of each campaign were computed by comparing call volume to 1-800-QUIT-NOW in the month before and the month after the launch of each campaign. This approach allowed us to directly compare the predictive value of self-reports with neural predictors of message effectiveness. Neural activity in a medial prefrontal region of interest, previously associated with individual behavior change, predicted the population response, whereas self-report judgments did not. This finding suggests a novel way of connecting neural signals to population responses that has not been previously demonstrated and provides information that may be difficult to obtain otherwise.
mass media; neuroimaging; health; cognitive neuroscience; neuromarketing; health communication; smoking
The consequences of risky sexual behavior are of public concern. Adolescents contribute disproportionately to negative consequences of risky sexual behavior. However, no research has examined the neural correlates of impulse control and real-world engagement in risky sexual behavior in this population. The aim of the present study was to examine this question. Twenty sexually active adolescents performed an impulse control task during a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan and risky sexual behaviors were assessed through self-report. Sexual riskiness ratings were negatively associated with activation in the prefrontal cortex during response inhibition. These results suggest that diminished engagement of impulse control circuitry may contribute to sexual riskiness in adolescents.
Adolescence; Brain development; Impulse control; Risky sexual behavior
The current research explored the neural mechanisms linking social status to perceptions of the social world. Two fMRI studies provide converging evidence that individuals lower in social status are more likely to engage neural circuitry often involved in ‘mentalizing’ or thinking about others' thoughts and feelings. Study 1 found that college students' perception of their social status in the university community was related to neural activity in the mentalizing network (e.g., DMPFC, MPFC, precuneus/PCC) while encoding social information, with lower social status predicting greater neural activity in this network. Study 2 demonstrated that socioeconomic status, an objective indicator of global standing, predicted adolescents' neural activity during the processing of threatening faces, with individuals lower in social status displaying greater activity in the DMPFC, previously associated with mentalizing, and the amygdala, previously associated with emotion/salience processing. These studies demonstrate that social status is fundamentally and neurocognitively linked to how people process and navigate their social worlds.
Social status; SES; Mentalizing; fMRI
The symptoms of bipolar disorder suggest dysfunction of emotion regulatory networks. In healthy control populations, down-regulation of emotional responses activates the ventral lateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) and dampens amygdala activation. This study investigated frontal and limbic function and connectivity during emotion down-regulation in euthymic subjects with bipolar I disorder (BPI) and healthy control subjects.
30 BPI and 26 control subjects underwent fMRI scanning while performing an emotion processing task with passive viewing and emotion down-regulation conditions. Contrasts were made for each group comparing the down-regulation and passive viewing conditions and these were entered into a between-group random effects analysis to assess group differences in activation. Psychophysiological Interaction (PPI) analyses were conducted to test for significant group differences in functional connectivity between the amygdala and inhibitory frontal regions (i.e., vlPFC).
Control subjects showed the expected robust bilateral activation of frontal and limbic regions during passive viewing and emotion down-regulation tasks. Between-group analyses revealed similar activation of BP and control subjects during passive viewing but significantly decreased activation in bilateral vlPFC, bilateral anterior and posterior cingulate, medial frontal gyrus and bilateral dlPFC during emotion down-regulation in subjects with BP. Connectivity analysis demonstrated that control subjects had significantly greater negative functional connectivity between the left amygdala and bilateral vlPFC compared to subjects with BP.
This study provides evidence that dysfunction in the neural networks responsible for emotion regulation, including the prefrontal cortex, cingulate and subcortical structures, are present in BPI subjects even in euthymia.
amygdala; vlPFC; functional connectivity; functional neuroimaging; bipolar disorder; emotion regulation
Mindfulness meditation—the practice of attending to present moment experience and allowing emotions and thoughts to pass without judgment—has shown to be beneficial in clinical populations across diverse outcomes. However, the basic neural mechanisms by which mindfulness operates and relates to everyday outcomes in novices remain unexplored. Focused attention is a common mindfulness induction where practitioners focus on specific physical sensations, typically the breath. The present study explores the neural mechanisms of this common mindfulness induction among novice practitioners. Healthy novice participants completed a brief task with both mindful attention [focused breathing (FB)] and control (unfocused attention) conditions during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Relative to the control condition, FB recruited an attention network including parietal and prefrontal structures and trait-level mindfulness during this comparison also correlated with parietal activation. Results suggest that the neural mechanisms of a brief mindfulness induction are related to attention processes in novices and that trait mindfulness positively moderates this activation.
Self-evaluations undergo significant transformation during early adolescence, developing in parallel with the heightened complexity of teenagers’ social worlds. Intuitive theories of adolescent development, based in part on animal work, suggest that puberty is associated with neural-level changes that facilitate a “social reorientation” (Nelson, Leibenluft, McClure, and Pine, 2005). However, direct tests of this hypothesis using neuroimaging are limited in humans. This longitudinal fMRI study examined neurodevelopmental trajectories associated with puberty, self-evaluations, and the presumed social reorientation during the transition from childhood to adolescence. Participants (N = 27, M age = 10.1 and 13.1 years at timepoints one and two, respectively) engaged in trait evaluations of two targets (the self and a familiar fictional other), across two domains of competence (social and academic). Responses in ventromedial PFC increased with both age and pubertal development during self-evaluations in the social domain, but not in the academic domain. These results suggest changes in social self-evaluations are intimately connected with biology, not just peer contexts, and provide important empirical support for the relationship between neurodevelopment, puberty, and social functioning.
Lonely older adults have increased expression of pro-inflammatory genes as well as increased risk for morbidity and mortality. Previous behavioral treatments have attempted to reduce loneliness and its concomitant health risks, but have had limited success. The present study tested whether the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program (compared to a Wait-List control group) reduces loneliness and downregulates loneliness-related pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults (N=40). Consistent with study predictions, mixed effect linear models indicated that the MBSR program reduced loneliness, compared to small increases in loneliness in the control group (treatment condition × time interaction: F(1,35)=7.86, p=.008). Moreover, at baseline, there was an association between reported loneliness and upregulated pro-inflammatory NF-κB-related gene expression in circulating leukocytes, and MBSR downregulated this NF-κB-associated gene expression profile at post-treatment. Finally, there was a trend for MBSR to reduce C Reactive Protein (treatment condition × time interaction: (F(1,33)=3.39, p=.075). This work provides an initial indication that MBSR may be a novel treatment approach for reducing loneliness and related pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults.
meditation; mindfulness; older adults; aging; loneliness; genetics; gene expression; stress
Behavioral research on emotion regulation thus far has focused on conscious and deliberative strategies such as reappraisal. Neuroscience investigations into emotion regulation have followed suit. However, neuroimaging tools now open the door to investigate more automatic forms of emotion regulation that take place incidentally and potentially outside of participant awareness that have previously been difficult to examine. The present paper reviews studies on the neuroscience of intentional/deliberate emotion regulation and identifies opportunities for future directions that have not yet been addressed. The authors suggest a broad framework for emotion regulation that includes both deliberative and incidental forms. This framework allows insights from incidental emotion regulation to address open questions about existing work, and vice versa. Several studies relevant to incidental emotion regulation are reviewed with the goal of providing an empirical and methodological groundwork for future research. Finally, several theoretical issues for incidental and intentional emotion regulation are discussed.
People rationalize the choices they make when confronted with difficult decisions by claiming they never wanted the option they did not choose. Behavioral studies on cognitive dissonance provide evidence for decision-induced attitude change, but these studies cannot fully uncover the mechanisms driving the attitude change because only pre- and post-decision attitudes are measured, rather than the process of change itself. In the first fMRI study to examine the decision phase in a decision-based cognitive dissonance paradigm, we observed that increased activity in right-inferior frontal gyrus, medial fronto-parietal regions and ventral striatum, and decreased activity in anterior insula were associated with subsequent decision-related attitude change. These findings suggest the characteristic rationalization processes that are associated with decision-making may be engaged very quickly at the moment of the decision, without extended deliberation and may involve reappraisal-like emotion regulation processes.
cognitive dissonance; rationalization; attitudes; decisions; neuroimaging; right inferior frontal gyrus; insula
We used the five weeks leading up to the 2008 presidential election as a backdrop to examine the ways that the brain processes attitudes and beliefs under different circumstances. We examined individual differences in personal issue importance and trait perspective-taking, as well as the temporal context in which attitude representation took place (i.e. number of days until the election). Finally, we examined the extent to which similar or dissimilar processes were recruited when considering the attitudes of political ingroup and outgroup candidates. Brain regions involved in social cognition and theory of mind, and to a lesser extent the limbic system, were modulated by these factors. Higher issue importance led to greater recruitment of neural regions involved in social cognition, across target perspectives. Higher trait perspective-taking was also associated with greater recruitment of several regions involved in social cognition, but differed depending on target perspective; greater activity was observed in prefrontal regions associated with social cognition when considering the perspective of one's own candidate compared with the opponent, and this effect was amplified closer to the election. Taken together, these results highlight ways in which ability and motivational relevance modulate socio-affective processing of the attitudes of others.
functional magnetic resonance imaging; perspective-taking; political; attitudes; ingroup; outgroup
Although persuasive messages often alter people’s self-reported attitudes and intentions to perform behaviors, these self-reports do not necessarily predict behavior change. We demonstrate that neural responses to persuasive messages can predict variability in behavior change in the subsequent week. Specifically, an a priori region of interest (ROI) in medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) was reliably associated with behavior change (r = 0.49, p < 0.05). Additionally, an iterative cross-validation approach using activity in this MPFC ROI predicted an average 23% of the variance in behavior change beyond the variance predicted by self-reported attitudes and intentions. Thus, neural signals can predict behavioral changes that are not predicted from self-reported attitudes and intentions alone. Additionally, this is the first functional magnetic resonance imaging study to demonstrate that a neural signal can predict complex real world behavior days in advance.
Functional neuroimaging studies have implicated the involvement of the amygdala and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) in the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder. Hyperactivity in the amygdala and hypoactivity in the vlPFC have been reported in manic bipolar patients scanned during the performance of an affective faces task. Whether this pattern of dysfunction persists during euthymia is unclear. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), 24 euthymic bipolar and 26 demographically matched healthy control subjects were scanned while performing an affective task paradigm involving the matching and labeling of emotional facial expressions. Neuroimaging results showed that, while amygdala activation did not differ significantly between groups, euthymic patients showed a significant decrease in activation of the right vlPFC (BA47) compared to healthy controls during emotion labeling. Additionally, significant decreases in activation of the right insula, putamen, thalamus and lingual gyrus were observed in euthymic bipolar relative to healthy control subjects during the emotion labeling condition. These data, taken in context with prior studies of bipolar mania using the same emotion recognition task, could suggest that amygdala dysfunction may be a state-related abnormality in bipolar disorder, whereas vlPFC dysfunction may represent a trait-related abnormality of the illness. Characterizing these patterns of activation is likely to help in understanding the neural changes related to the different mood states in bipolar disorder, as well as changes that represent more sustained abnormalities. Future studies that assess mood-state related changes in brain activation in longitudinal bipolar samples would be of interest.
bipolar disorder; amygdala; prefrontal cortex; fmri; emotion
Emotion processing deficits are prominent in schizophrenia and exist prior to the onset of overt psychosis. However, developmental trajectories of neural circuitry subserving emotion regulation and the role that they may play in illness onset have not yet been examined in patients at risk for psychosis. The present study employed a cross-sectional analysis to examine age-related functional activation in amygdala and prefrontal cortex, as well as functional connectivity between these regions, in adolescents at clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis relative to typically developing adolescents. Participants (n=34) performed an emotion processing fMRI task, including emotion labeling, emotion matching, and non-emotional control conditions. Regression analyses were used to predict activation in the amygdala and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) based on age, group, sex, and the interaction of age by group. CHR adolescents exhibited altered age-related variation in amygdala and vlPFC activation, relative to controls. Controls displayed decreased amygdala and increased vlPFC activation with age, while patients exhibited the opposite pattern (increased amygdala and decreased vlPFC activation), suggesting a failure of prefrontal cortex to regulate amygdala reactivity. Moreover, a psychophysiological interaction analysis revealed decreased amygdala-prefrontal functional connectivity among CHR adolescents, consistent with disrupted brain connectivity as a vulnerability factor in schizophrenia. These results suggest that the at-risk syndrome is marked by abnormal development and functional connectivity of neural systems subserving emotion regulation. Longitudinal data are needed to confirm aberrant developmental trajectories intra-individually and to examine whether these abnormalities are predictive of conversion to psychosis, and of later deficits in socioemotional functioning.
psychosis; brain development; emotion; amygdala; prefrontal cortex; fMRI
Involvement with friends carries many advantages for adolescents, including protection from the detrimental effects of being rejected by peers. However, little is known about the mechanisms through which friendships may serve their protective role at this age, or the potential benefit of these friendships as adolescents transition to adulthood. As such, this investigation tested whether friend involvement during adolescence related to less neural sensitivity to social threats during young adulthood. Twenty-one adolescents reported the amount of time they spent with friends outside of school using a daily diary. Two years later they underwent an fMRI scan, during which they were ostensibly excluded from an online ball-tossing game by two same-age peers. Findings from region of interest and whole brain analyses revealed that spending more time with friends during adolescence related to less activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula—regions previously linked with negative affect and pain processing—during an experience of peer rejection 2 years later. These findings are consistent with the notion that positive relationships during adolescence may relate to individuals being less sensitive to negative social experiences later on.
adolescence; friendship; peer rejection; functional magnetic resonance imaging
Navigating the social world requires the ability to maintain and manipulate information about people’s beliefs, traits, and mental states. We characterize this capacity as social working memory (SWM). To date, very little research has explored this phenomenon, in part because of the assumption that general working memory systems would support working memory for social information. Various lines of research, however, suggest that social cognitive processing relies on a neurocognitive network (i.e., the “mentalizing network”) that is functionally distinct from, and considered antagonistic with, the canonical working memory network. Here, we review evidence suggesting that demanding social cognition requires SWM and that both the mentalizing and canonical working memory neurocognitive networks support SWM. The neural data run counter to the common finding of parametric decreases in mentalizing regions as a function of working memory demand and suggest that the mentalizing network can support demanding cognition, when it is demanding social cognition. Implications for individual differences in social cognition and pathologies of social cognition are discussed.
mentalizing; working memory; default mode network; social neuroscience; social cognitive affective neuroscience
Methamphetamine abuse is associated with high rates of aggression, but few studies have addressed the contributing neurobiological factors.
To quantify aggression, investigate function of the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, and assess relationships between brain function and behavior in methamphetamine-dependent individuals.
In a case-control study, aggression and brain activation were compared between methamphetamine-dependent and control participants.
Participants were recruited from the general community to an academic research center.
Thirty-nine methamphetamine-dependent volunteers (16 women) who were abstinent for 7 to 10 days and 37 drug-free control volunteers (18 women) participated in the study; subsets completed self-report and behavioral measures. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was performed on 25 methamphetamine-dependent and 23 control participants.
Main outcome measures
We measured self-reported and perpetrated aggression, and self-reported alexithymia. Brain activation was assessed using fMRI during visual processing of facial affect (affect matching), and symbolic processing (affect labeling), the latter representing an incidental form of emotion regulation.
Methamphetamine-dependent participants self-reported more aggression and alexithymia than control participants and escalated perpetrated aggression more following provocation. Alexithymia scores correlated with measures of aggression. During affect matching, fMRI showed no differences between groups in amygdala activation, but found lower activation in methamphetamine-dependent than control participants in bilateral ventral inferior frontal gyrus. During affect labeling, participants recruited dorsal inferior frontal gyrus and exhibited decreased amygdala activity, consistent with successful emotion regulation; there was no group difference in this effect. The magnitude of decrease in amygdala activity during affect labeling correlated inversely with self-reported aggression in control participants, and perpetrated aggression in all participants. Ventral inferior frontal gyrus activation correlated inversely with alexithymia in control participants.
Contrary to the hypotheses, methamphetamine-dependent individuals may successfully regulate emotions through incidental means (affect labeling). Instead, low ventral inferior frontal gyrus activity may contribute to heightened aggression by limiting emotional insight.
Previous neuroimaging research with adults suggests that the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and the medial posterior parietal cortex (MPPC) are engaged during self-knowledge retrieval processes. However, this has yet to be assessed in a developmental sample. Twelve children and 12 adults (average age = 10.2 and 26.1 years, respectively) reported whether short phrases described themselves or a highly familiar other (Harry Potter) while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. In both children and adults, the MPFC was relatively more active during self- than social knowledge retrieval, and the MPPC was relatively more active during social than self-knowledge retrieval. Direct comparisons between children and adults indicated that children activated the MPFC during self-knowledge retrieval to a much greater extent than adults. The particular regions of the MPPC involved varied between the two groups, with the posterior precuneus engaged by adults, but the anterior precuneus and posterior cingulate engaged by children. Only children activated the MPFC significantly above baseline during self-knowledge retrieval. Implications for social cognitive development and the processing functions performed by the MPFC are discussed.
Goal attainment relies in part on one’s ability to maintain a cognitive representation of the desired goal (goal maintenance), monitor the current state vis-à-vis the targeted end state and remain vigilant for lapses in progress (performance monitoring), and inhibit counter-goal behaviors (response inhibition). Because neurocognitive studies have typically examined these three processes in isolation from one another, little is known regarding if and how they interact during goal pursuit. However, these processes frequently co-occur during online, real-world goal pursuit. The present study employed a novel task to investigate how goal maintenance, performance monitoring, and response inhibition interact with one another. We identified functional activations distinct to each of the processes that correspond to results of prior investigations. In addition, we report interactive effects between response inhibition and goal maintenance in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and between performance monitoring and goal maintenance in the superior frontal gyrus and supramarginal gyrus. Implications for studying the neural systems of in situ goals include the need for both experimental designs that distinguish between process, but also more complex, realistic tasks to begin to map interactions among these neurocognitive processes and how they are altered by the presence or absence of one another.
Prosocial decisions can be difficult because they often involve personal sacrifices that do not generate any direct, immediate benefits to the self. The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to understand how individuals decide to provide support to others. Twenty-five participants were scanned as they completed a task in which they made costly decisions to contribute money to their family and noncostly decisions to accept personal monetary rewards. Decisions to contribute to the family recruited brain regions involved in self-control and mentalizing, especially for individuals with stronger family obligation preferences. Psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analyses revealed that individuals with stronger family obligation preferences showed greater functional coupling between regions involved in self-control and mentalizing with the ventral striatum, a region involved in reward processing. These findings suggest that prosocial behavior may require both social cognition and deliberate effort, and the application of these processes may result in greater positive reinforcement during prosocial behavior.
Kievit et al.’s target paper exemplifies a trend in recent years in psychology and neuroscience to focus on internal mental and neural processes without integrating actual behavior. We discuss the theoretical status of behavior in the context of their model, and present an extension of the model that explicitly includes behavior. Several theoretical and methodological issues relevant to integrating behavior into the model are considered, particularly the distinction between behavior as measured in the laboratory along with neural and psychological processes (proximal behavior) and behavior as measured in situ as part of ongoing daily experience (distal behavior). We conclude by describing several studies that integrate neural, psychological, and behavioral indicators and discuss how these kinds of studies can facilitate a better understanding of behavior and contribute to theory development.
The human reward system is sensitive to both social (e.g., validation) and non-social rewards (e.g., money) and is likely integral for relationship development and reputation building. However, data is sparse on the question of whether implicit social reward processing meaningfully contributes to explicit social representations such as trust and attachment security in pre-existing relationships. This event-related fMRI experiment examined reward system prediction-error activity in response to a potent social reward—social validation—and this activity's relation to both attachment security and trust in the context of real romantic relationships. During the experiment, participants' expectations for their romantic partners' positive regard of them were confirmed (validated) or violated, in either positive or negative directions. Primary analyses were conducted using predefined regions of interest, the locations of which were taken from previously published research. Results indicate that activity for mid-brain and striatal reward system regions of interest was modulated by social reward expectation violation in ways consistent with prior research on reward prediction-error. Additionally, activity in the striatum during viewing of disconfirmatory information was associated with both increases in post-scan reports of attachment anxiety and decreases in post-scan trust, a finding that follows directly from representational models of attachment and trust.
reward system; prediction-error; social reward; attachment; love; striatum; trust; fMRI