This study explored how the effectiveness of specific emotion regulation strategies might be influenced by aging and by time of day, given that in older age the circadian peak in cognitive performance is earlier in the day. We compared the benefit gained by 40 older (60–78 years; 20 women) and 40 younger (18–30 years; 20 women) adults during either on-peak or off-peak circadian times on 2 specific types of cognitive emotion regulation strategies: distraction and reappraisal. Participants rated their negative emotional responses to negative and neutral images under 3 conditions: a baseline nonregulation condition, a distraction condition involving a working memory task, and a reappraisal condition that involved reinterpreting the situation displayed using specific preselected strategies. First, as hypothesized, there was a crossover interaction such that participants in each age group reported more negative reactivity at their off-peak time of day. Second, a double dissociation was observed as circadian rhythms affected only negative reactivity—with reactivity highest at off-peak times—and aging diminished reappraisal but not distraction ability or reactivity. These findings add to growing evidence that understanding the effects of aging on emotion and emotion regulation depends on taking both time of day and type of regulatory strategy into account.
emotional reactivity; emotion regulation; cognitive reappraisal; aging; circadian rhythms
The ability to use cognitive reappraisal to regulate emotions is an adaptive skill in adulthood, but little is known about its development. Because reappraisal is thought to be supported by linearly developing prefrontal regions, one prediction is that reappraisal ability develops linearly. However, recent investigations into socio-emotional development suggest that there are non-linear patterns that uniquely affect adolescents. We compared older children (10–13), adolescents (14–17) and young adults (18–22) on a task that distinguishes negative emotional reactivity from reappraisal ability. Behaviorally, we observed no age differences in self-reported emotional reactivity, but linear and quadratic relationships between reappraisal ability and age. Neurally, we observed linear age-related increases in activation in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, previously identified in adult reappraisal. We observed a quadratic pattern of activation with age in regions associated with social cognitive processes like mental state attribution (medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, anterior temporal cortex). In these regions, we observed relatively lower reactivity-related activation in adolescents, but higher reappraisal-related activation. This suggests that (i) engagement of the cognitive control components of reappraisal increases linearly with age and (ii) adolescents may not normally recruit regions associated with mental state attribution, but (iii) this can be reversed with reappraisal instructions.
reappraisal; emotion regulation; development; social; cognitive
To examine whether reappraisal modifies responses to subsequent encounters with stimuli, participants viewed neutral and unpleasant pictures that were preceded by negative or neutral descriptions which served as reappraisal frames. A half an hour later, the same pictures were presented, without preceding frames; EEG was recorded and participants rated each picture on arousal and valence. In line with previous work, unpleasant compared to neutral pictures elicited more positive early- (359 ms), mid- (1074 ms) and late-latency (2436 ms) centrally-distributed ERP components. Pictures previously preceded by negative compared to neutral reappraisal frames were rated as more unpleasant and more emotionally arousing; these pictures elicited a larger mid-latency (1074 ms) occipital positivity. Together, the data suggest that reappraisal exerts an enduring effect on both subjective and neural responses to stimuli.
ERPs; reappraisal; IAPS; late positive potential; emotion regulation; PCA
Self-referential processing (i.e. linking internal and external stimuli to one’s own self) has received scant attention thus far in schizophrenia. This type of processing is a key component of social cognition and thought to be important for adaptive social functioning. Memory studies in healthy subjects have shown that stimuli processed with reference to the self are better remembered than stimuli processed in other semantic forms. It is not known whether schizophrenia patients benefit from such a memory boost for self-referenced information.
Twenty-five schizophrenia patients and 22 controls were assessed with a self-referential recognition memory paradigm. During an encoding phase, participants rated personality adjectives in each of three conditions: (1) structural features (uppercase or lowercase letters?); (2) social desirability (is adjective socially desirable or not?); or (3) self-referential (does adjective describe me or not?). Recognition memory for these personality adjectives was then tested during an unexpected yes-no recognition test.
Patients and controls were comparable in memory performance for the structural (p = 0.12) and social desirability (p = 0.30) conditions. In contrast, patients showed significantly reduced recognition sensitivity compared to controls for the self-referential condition (p = 0.03).
Compared to healthy controls, patients with schizophrenia did not benefit from a memory boost for self-referenced information. Such impaired self-referential memory may be associated with abnormal function of the medial prefrontal cortex. The inability to enhance memory for personally relevant information may partly explain poor social functioning in schizophrenia patients.
self-referential processing; recognition memory; social cognition; schizophrenia
Social cognition is fundamentally interpersonal: individuals' behavior and dispositions critically affect their interaction partners' information processing. However, cognitive neuroscience studies, partially because of methodological constraints, have remained largely “perceiver-centric”: focusing on the abilities, motivations, and goals of social perceivers while largely ignoring interpersonal effects. Here, we address this knowledge gap by examining the neural bases of perceiving emotionally expressive and inexpressive social “targets.” Sixteen perceivers were scanned using fMRI while they watched targets discussing emotional autobiographical events. Perceivers continuously rated each target's emotional state or eye-gaze direction. The effects of targets' emotional expressivity on perceiver's brain activity depended on task set: when perceivers explicitly attended to targets' emotions, expressivity predicted activity in neural structures—including medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortex—associated with drawing inferences about mental states. When perceivers instead attended to targets' eye-gaze, target expressivity predicted activity in regions—including somatosensory cortex, fusiform gyrus, and motor cortex—associated with monitoring sensorimotor states and biological motion. These findings suggest that expressive targets affect information processing in manner that depends on perceivers' goals. More broadly, these data provide an early step toward understanding the neural bases of interpersonal social cognition.
emotional expressivity; empathy; fMRI; medial prefrontal cortex; social cognition
Belief in one’s ability to exert control over the environment and to produce desired results is essential for an individual’s well being. It has been repeatedly argued that the perception of control is not only desirable, but it is likely a psychological and biological necessity. In this article, we review the literature supporting this claim and present evidence for a biological basis for the need for control and for choice — that is, the means by which we exercise control over the environment. Converging evidence from animal research, clinical studies, and neuroimaging work suggest that the need for control is a biological imperative for survival, and a corticostriatal network is implicated as the neural substrate of this adaptive behavior.
Although it was proposed over a century ago that feedback from facial expressions influence emotional experience, tests of this hypothesis have been equivocal. Here we directly tested this facial feedback hypothesis (FFH) by comparing the impact on self-reported emotional experience of BOTOX injections (which paralyze muscles of facial expression) and a control Restylane injection (which is a cosmetic filler that does not affect facial muscles). When examined alone, BOTOX participants showed no pre- to post-treatment changes in emotional responses to our most positive and negative video clips. Between-groups comparisons, however, showed that relative to controls, BOTOX participants exhibited an overall significant decrease in the strength of emotional experience. This result was attributable to a) a pre- vs. post decrease in responses to mildly positive clips in the BOTOX group and b) an unexpected increase in responses to negative clips in the Restylane control group. These data suggest that feedback from facial expressions is not necessary for emotional experience, but may influence emotional experience in some circumstances. These findings point to specific directions for future work clarifying the expression-experience relationship.
BOTOX; Emotional Experience; Facial Expression; Facial Feedback; Embodied Emotion
Cognitive reappraisal is a commonly used and highly adaptive strategy for emotion regulation that has been studied in healthy volunteers. Most studies to date have focused on forms of reappraisal that involve reinterpreting the meaning of stimuli and have intermixed social and non-social emotional stimuli. Here we examined the neural correlates of the regulation of negative emotion elicited by social situations using a less studied form of reappraisal known as distancing. Whole brain fMRI data were obtained as participants viewed aversive and neutral social scenes with instructions to either simply look at and respond naturally to the images or to downregulate their emotional responses by distancing. Three key findings were obtained accompanied with the reduced aversive response behaviorally. First, across both instruction types, aversive social images activated the amygdala. Second, across both image types, distancing activated the precuneus and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), intraparietal sulci (IPS), and middle/superior temporal gyrus (M/STG). Third, when distancing one’s self from aversive images, activity increased in dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC), medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), lateral prefrontal cortex, precuneus and PCC, IPS, and M/STG, meanwhile, and decreased in the amygdala. These findings demonstrate that distancing from aversive social cues modulates amygdala activity via engagement of networks implicated in social perception, perspective-taking, and attentional allocation.
Emotion; Cognitive Reappraisal; Social Cognitive Neuroscience; Emotional Distancing; Emotion Regulation; fMRI
Cigarette craving is an important contributor to cigarette smoking, and clinical approaches that focus on regulation of craving are effective in reducing rates of relapse. However, a laboratory model that targets the use of cognitive strategies to regulate craving is lacking. To develop such a model, twenty heavy cigarette smokers (>12/day), twenty-two tobacco “chippers” (<6/day), and twenty non-smoking controls completed this outpatient study, during which they were presented with photographs of cigarettes and foods that have been previously shown to induce craving. During each trial, participants were instructed to think of the stimulus in one of two ways: by focusing either on the short-term consequences associated with consuming the item (e.g., it will taste good) or on the long-term consequences associated with regular consumption (e.g., I may get lung cancer). Participants reported significantly reduced food cravings when focusing on the long-term consequences associated with eating. For cigarette-smoking participants, cigarette craving was significantly reduced when focusing on the long-term consequences associated with smoking. This latter finding confirms clinical data and extends it by highlighting the importance of cognition in the modulation of craving. Future studies using this laboratory model could test the efficacy of different cognitive strategies and develop targeted interventions for smoking cessation based on the regulation of craving.
Cigarette smokers; tobacco chippers; craving; cognitive strategies; emotion regulation
Cognitive control mechanisms allow individuals to behave adaptively in the face of complex and sometimes conflicting information. While the neural bases of these control mechanisms have been examined in many contexts, almost no attention has been paid to their role in resolving conflicts between competing social cues, which is surprising, given that cognitive conflicts are part of many social interactions. Evidence about the neural processing of social information suggests that two systems—the mirror neuron system (MNS) and mental state attribution system (MSAS)—are specialized for processing nonverbal and contextual social cues, respectively. This could support a model of social cognitive conflict resolution in which competition between social cues would recruit domain-general cognitive control mechanisms, which in turn would bias processing towards the MNS or MSAS. Such biasing could also alter social behaviors, such as inferences made about the internal states of others. We tested this model by scanning participants using fMRI while they drew inferences about social targets' emotional states based on congruent or incongruent nonverbal and contextual social cues. Conflicts between social cues recruited the anterior cingulate and lateral prefrontal cortex, brain areas associated with domain-general control processes. This activation was accompanied by biasing of neural activity towards areas in the MNS or MSAS, which tracked, respectively, with perceivers' behavioral reliance on nonverbal or contextual cues when drawing inferences about targets' emotions. Together, these data provide evidence about both domain general and domain specific mechanisms involved in resolving social cognitive conflicts.
Social cognition; fMRI; cognitive control; mirror neuron system; medial prefrontal cortex
Emotions are generally thought to arise through the interaction of bottom-up and top-down processes. However, prior work has not delineated their relative contributions. In a sample of 20 females, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare the neural correlates of negative emotions generated by the bottom-up perception of aversive images and by the top-down interpretation of neutral images as aversive. We found that (a) both types of responses activated the amygdala, although bottom-up responses did so more strongly; (b) bottom-up responses activated systems for attending to and encoding perceptual and affective stimulus properties, whereas top-down responses activated prefrontal regions that represent high-level cognitive interpretations; and (c) self-reported affect correlated with activity in the amygdala during bottom-up responding and with activity in the medial prefrontal cortex during top-down responding. These findings provide a neural foundation for emotion theories that posit multiple kinds of appraisal processes and help to clarify mechanisms underlying clinically relevant forms of emotion dysregulation.
Emotional instability is a defining feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD), yet little is understood about its underlying neural correlates. One possible contributing factor to emotional instability is a failure to adequately employ adaptive cognitive regulatory strategies such as psychological distancing.
To determine whether there are differences in neural dynamics underlying this control strategy, between BPD patients and healthy volunteers (HC’s), BOLD fMRI signals were acquired as 18 BPD and 16 HC subjects distanced from or simply looked at negative and neutral pictures depicting social interactions. Contrasts in signal between distance and look condition were compared between groups to identify commonalities and differences in regional activation.
BPD patients show a different pattern of activation compared to HC subjects when looking at negative vs. neutral pictures. When distancing vs. looking at negative pictures, both groups showed decreased negative affect in rating and increased activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, areas near/along the intraparietal sulcus (IPS), ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate/precuneus regions. However, the BPD group showed less BOLD signal change in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and IPS, less deactivation in the amygdala and greater activation in the superior temporal sulcus and superior frontal gyrus.
BPD and HC subjects display different neural dynamics while passively viewing social emotional stimuli. In addition, BPD patients do not engage the cognitive control regions to the extent that HC’s do when employing a distancing strategy to regulate emotional reactions, which may be a factor contributing to the affective instability of BPD.
Emotion; Cognitive Reappraisal; Social Cognitive Neuroscience; Psychological Distancing; Emotion Regulation; fMRI
Contracting muscles involved in facial expressions (e.g. smiling or frowning) can make emotions more intense, even when unaware one is modifying expression (e.g. Strack, Martin, & Stepper, 1988). However, it is unresolved whether and how inhibiting facial expressions might weaken emotional experience. In the present study, 142 participants watched positive and negative video clips while either inhibiting their facial expressions or not. When hypothesis awareness and effects of distraction were experimentally controlled, inhibiting facial expressions weakened some emotional experiences. These findings provide new insight into ways that inhibition of facial expression can affect emotional experience: the link is not dependent on experimental demand, lay theories about connections between expression and experience, or the distraction involved in inhibiting one’s expressions.
Affect; Emotion; Emotional Experience; Facial Expression; Facial Feedback; Embodied Emotion; Embodied Cognition; Non-verbal Communication; Expressive Inhibition; Expressive Suppression
More than 3,000 individuals from seven US cities reported on their memories of learning of the terrorist attacks of September 11, as well as details about the attack, one week, 11 months, and/or 35 months after the assault. Some studies of flashbulb memories examining long-term retention show slowing in the rate of forgetting after a year, whereas others demonstrate accelerated forgetting. The present paper indicates that (1) the rate of forgetting for flashbulb memories and event memory (memory for details about the event itself) slows after a year, (2) the strong emotional reactions elicited by flashbulb events are remembered poorly, worse than non-emotional features such as where and from whom one learned of the attack, and (3) the content of flashbulb and event memories stabilizes after a year. The results are discussed in terms of community memory practices.
flashbulb memories; long-term retention; memory practices; event memory; emotional memory
Although individual differences in fear and anxiety modulate the pain response and may even cause more suffering than the initiating physical stimulus, little is known about the neural systems mediating this relationship. The present study provided the first examination of the neural correlates of individual differences in the tendency to (1) feel anxious about the potentially negative implications of physical sensations, as measured by the anxiety sensitivity index (ASI), and (2) fear various types of physical pain, as indexed by the fear of pain questionnaire (FPQ). In separate sessions, participants completed these questionnaires and experienced alternating blocks of noxious thermal stimulation (45–50 °C) and neutral thermal stimulation (38 °C) during the collection of whole-brain fMRI data. Regression analyses demonstrated that during the experience of pain, ASI scores predicted activation of a medial prefrontal region associated with self-focused attention, whereas FPQ scores predicted activation of a ventral lateral frontal region associated with response regulation and anterior and posterior cingulate regions associated with monitoring and evaluation of affective responses. These functional relationships cannot be wholly explained by generalized anxiety (indexed by STAI-T scores), which did not significantly correlate with activation of any regions. The present findings may help clarify both the impact of individual differences in emotion on the neural correlates of pain, and the roles in anxiety, fear, and pain processing played by medial and orbitofrontal systems.
Anxiety sensitivity; Fear of pain; Pain; Medial prefrontal cortex; Orbitofrontal cortex; Anxiety; Brain imaging; Fear; Pain behavior
The ability to empathize with the suffering of others is critical for maintaining relationships and engaging in prosocial behavior. Recently, a series of studies have demonstrated that while watching other people experience pain (other pain), participants engage the anterior insula (AI) and anterior cingulale cortex (ACC), brain regions involved in the direct experience of pain (self pain). Here we test the hypothesis that common activity in ACC and AI may reflect the operation of distinct but overlapping networks of regions that support perception of self or other pain. To address this possibility, we scanned participants using fMRI while they received noxious thermal stimulation (self pain) or watched short videos of other people sustaining painful injuries (other pain). We isolated overlapping regions for self and other pain in the ACC and AI and then used them as seed regions for two kinds of functional connectivity analyses. These analyses identified areas whose activity co-varied with ACC and AI activity during self or other pain either across time (intra-individual connectivity) or across participants (inter-individual connectivity). Both connectivity analyses identified clusters in the midbrain and periaqueductal gray with greater connectivity to the AI during self pain as opposed to other pain. The opposite pattern was found in the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, that showed greater connectivity to the ACC and AI during other pain than during self pain using both types of analysis. Intra-individual connectivity analyses also revealed regions in the superior temporal sulcus, posterior cingulate, and precuneus that became more connected to ACC during other pain as compared to self pain. Together, these data demonstrated that regions showing similar activity during self and other pain may nonetheless be part of distinct functional networks. These networks could not have been detected in prior work that examined overlap between self and other pain in terms of average activity, but not connectivity.
Understanding the minds of others is one of the great challenges humans face. Accordingly, much work in cognitive neuroscience has explored the brain systems engaged when perceivers share and make inferences about the internal states of social targets. These studies, however, typically use divergent and highly simplified stimuli and methods, and as a consequence have produced largely non-overlapping sets of results that have motivated artificially constrained theories about the processes involved in perceivers' abilities to understand targets. Here we suggest that these difficulties may stem from two main sources: the lack of meaningful behavioral data about the brain bases of perceivers' actual accuracy in inferring target states, and qualitative differences between the social stimuli used in neuroimaging paradigms and the social information perceivers encounter in the real world. We advocate more focus on studies of naturalistic social cognition, which could overcome these limitations and complement current approaches, and discuss work in our lab that has demonstrated the feasibility and utility of such paradigms. Finally, we discuss the relevance of naturalistic social cognition to diagnosing and treating autism spectrum disorder. Overall, using naturalistic paradigms in neuroimaging will be critical to modeling the way the brain actually understands other minds.
social cognition; empathy; mirror neurons; medial prefrontal cortex
This article describes the results and recommendations of the third Cognitive Neuroscience Treatment Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia meeting related to measuring treatment effects on social and affective processing. At the first meeting, it was recommended that measurement development focuses on the construct of emotion identification and responding. Five Tasks were nominated as candidate measures for this construct via the premeeting web-based survey. Two of the 5 tasks were recommended for immediate translation, the Penn Emotion Recognition Task and the Facial Affect Recognition and the Effects of Situational Context, which provides a measure of emotion identification and responding as well as a related, higher level construct, context-based modulation of emotional responding. This article summarizes the criteria-based, consensus building analysis of each nominated task that led to these 2 paradigms being recommended as priority tasks for development as measures of treatment effects on negative symptoms in schizophrenia.
social and emotional processing; schizophrenia; CNTRICS
Although prefrontal cortex has been implicated in the cognitive regulation of emotion, the cortical-subcortical interactions that mediate this ability remain poorly understood. To address this issue, we identified a right ventrolateral prefrontal region (vlPFC) whose activity correlated with reduced negative emotional experience during cognitive reappraisal of aversive images. We then applied a novel pathway-mapping analysis on subcortical regions to locate mediators of the association between vlPFC activity and reappraisal success (i.e. reductions in reported emotion). Results identified two separable pathways that together explained ~50% of the reported variance in self-reported emotion: 1) a path through nucleus accumbens that predicted greater reappraisal success, and 2) a path through ventral amygdala that predicted reduced reappraisal success (i.e., more negative emotion). These results provide direct evidence that vlPFC is involved in both the generation and regulation of emotion through different subcortical pathways, suggesting a general role for this region in appraisal processes.
Although the ability to adaptively reflect on negative autobiographical experiences without ruminating is critical to mental health, to our knowledge no research has directly examined the neural systems underlying this process.
Sixteen participants were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as they focused on negative autobiographical memories using cognitive strategies designed to facilitate (feel strategy) versus undermine (analyze and accept strategies) rumination.
Two key findings were obtained. First, consistent with prior emotion regulation research using image-based stimuli, left prefrontal activity was observed during the implementation of all three strategies. Second, activity in a network of regions involved in self-referential processing and emotion, including subgenual anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex, was highest in response to the feel strategy and lowest for the accept strategy. This pattern of activation mirrored participants’ self-reports of negative affect when engaging in each strategy.
These findings shed light on the brain regions that distinguish adaptive versus maladaptive forms of reflecting on negative autobiographical memories and offer a novel, ecologically valid route to exploring the neural bases of emotion regulation using fMRI.
Autobiographical memory; emotion regulation; fMRI; reappraisal; rumination; subgenual anterior cingulate cortex
Cognitive neuroscience approaches to translational research have made great strides towards understanding basic mechanisms of dysfunction and their relation to cognitive deficits, such as thought disorder in schizophrenia. The recent emergence of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience has paved the way for similar progress to be made in explaining the mechanisms underlying the social and emotional dysfunctions (i.e. negative symptoms) of schizophrenia and that characterize virtually all DSM Axis I and II disorders more broadly.
This paper aims to provide a roadmap for this work by 1) distilling from the emerging literature on the neural bases of social and emotional abilities a set of key constructs that 2) can be used to generate questions about the mechanisms of clinical dysfunction in general, and schizophrenia in particular.
To achieve these aims, the first part of this paper sketches a framework of five constructs that comprise a social-emotional processing stream. The second part considers how future basic research might flesh out this framework and translational work might relate it to schizophrenia and other clinical populations.
Although the review suggests there is more basic research needed for each construct, two in particular – one involving the bottom-up recognition of social and emotional cues, the second involving the use of top-down processes to draw mental state inferences – are most ready for translational work.
Humans possess a remarkable capacity to understand the suffering of others. Cognitive neuroscience theories of empathy suggest that this capacity is supported by ‘shared representations’ of self and other. Consistent with this notion, a number of studies have found that perceiving others in pain and experiencing pain oneself recruit overlapping neural systems. Perception of pain in each of these conditions, however, may also cause unique patterns of activation, that may reveal more about the processing steps involved in each type of pain. To address this issue, we examined neural activity while participants experienced heat pain and watched videos of other individuals experiencing injuries. Results demonstrated (i) that both tasks activated anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula, consistent with prior work; (ii) whereas self-pain activated anterior and mid insula regions implicated in interoception and nociception, other pain activated frontal, premotor, parietal and amygdala regions implicated in emotional learning and processing social cues; and (iii) that levels of trait anxiety correlated with activity in rostral lateral prefrontal cortex during perception of other pain but not during self-pain. Taken together, these data support the hypothesis that perception of pain in self and other, while sharing some neural commonalities, differ in their recruitment of systems specifically associated with decoding and learning about internal or external cues.
Empathy; pain; self; emotion; anterior cingulate; anterior insula
Experiences of emotion are content-rich events that emerge at the level of psychological description, but must be causally constituted by neurobiological processes. This chapter outlines an emerging scientific agenda for understanding what these experiences feel like and how they arise. We review the available answers to what is felt (i.e., the content that makes up an experience of emotion) and how neurobiological processes instantiate these properties of experience. These answers are then integrated into a broad framework that describes, in psychological terms, how the experience of emotion emerges from more basic processes. We then discuss the role of such experiences in the economy of the mind and behavior.
emotion; affect; consciousness