•Comparison of two developed methods for model-based analysis of phasic skin conductance responses.•Four datasets are used to compare predictive validity.•SCRalyze shows higher predictive validity than Ledalab in 4 of 5 comparisons, and equal predictive validity in the fifth.•SCRalyze shows higher predictive validity than peak-scoring in all comparisons.
Model-based analysis of skin conductance responses (SCR) can furnish less noisy estimates of sympathetic arousal (SA) than operational peak scoring approaches, as shown in previous work. Here, I compare two model-based methods for analysis of evoked (stimulus-locked) SCR, implemented in two software packages, SCRalyze and Ledalab, with respect to their sensitivity in recovering SA. Four datasets are analysed to compare predictive validity, i.e. the sensitivity to distinguish pairs of SA states that are known to be different. SCRalyze was significantly better able than Ledalab to recover this known difference in four out of five tested contrasts and comparable in the remaining one. SCRalyze performed significantly better than conventional analysis in all contrasts. I conclude that the model-based method engendered in SCRalyze is currently the best available approach to provide robust and sensitive estimates of sympathetic arousal.
SCR; EDA; GSR; Model-based method; Biophysical model; Model inversion
•ERPs were recorded while performing number matching and arithmetic verification tasks.•Access to the arithmetic facts lexicon is modulated by task properties.•Arithmetic relatedness and distance effects are sensitive to task properties.•Matching tasks involve semantic processes.•Verification tasks involve semantic and detection of mismatch processes.
Event-related potential (ERP) studies have detected several characteristic consecutive amplitude modulations in both implicit and explicit mental arithmetic tasks. Implicit tasks typically focused on the arithmetic relatedness effect (in which performance is affected by semantic associations between numbers) while explicit tasks focused on the distance effect (in which performance is affected by the numerical difference of to-be-compared numbers). Both task types elicit morphologically similar ERP waves which were explained in functionally similar terms. However, to date, the relationship between these tasks has not been investigated explicitly and systematically. In order to fill this gap, here we examined whether ERP effects and their underlying cognitive processes in implicit and explicit mental arithmetic tasks differ from each other. The same group of participants performed both an implicit number-matching task (in which arithmetic knowledge is task-irrelevant) and an explicit arithmetic-verification task (in which arithmetic knowledge is task-relevant). 129-channel ERP data differed substantially between tasks. In the number-matching task, the arithmetic relatedness effect appeared as a negativity over left-frontal electrodes whereas the distance effect was more prominent over right centro-parietal electrodes. In the verification task, all probe types elicited similar N2b waves over right fronto-central electrodes and typical centro-parietal N400 effects over central electrodes. The distance effect appeared as an early-rising, long-lasting left parietal negativity. We suggest that ERP effects in the implicit task reflect access to semantic memory networks and to magnitude discrimination, respectively. In contrast, effects of expectation violation are more prominent in explicit tasks and may mask more delicate cognitive processes.
ERPs; Mental arithmetic; Arithmetic relatedness; Distance effect; Magnitude representation
•We compare EEG indicators of automatic change detection to numbers vs shape.•We apply stringent control of perceptual variables.•Shape change is detected early in the cognitive processing stream.•Number change is detected only later in the cognitive processing stream.•Nonsymbolic number is not a perceptual property extracted automatically.
Several studies assumed that the analysis of numerical information happens in a fast and automatic manner in the human brain. Utilizing the high temporal resolution of electroencephalography (EEG) in a passive oddball adaptation paradigm, we compared event-related brain potentials (ERPs) evoked by unattended shape changes and unattended numerosity changes. We controlled visual stimulus properties in a stringent manner. Unattended changes in shape elicited significant, gradual adaptation effects in the range of early visual components, indicating the fast and automatic processing of shapes. Changes in numerosity did not elicit significant changes in these early ERP components. The lack of early number-specific effects was qualified by a significant interaction between Shape and Number conditions. Number change elicited gradual ERP effects only on late ERP components. We conclude that numerosity is a higher-level property assembled from naturally correlating perceptual cues and hence, it is identified later in the cognitive processing stream.
EEG; Numerical cognition; Neural adaptation; Number sense; Number comparison
Studies that investigate the differences between high and low
psychopathic persons in brain activity during emotional facial expression
processing are rare and commonly focus on males. The current study assessed
whether previously reported behavioral differences would be reflected in
differential brain activity in a sample of female offenders.
The participants included 23 female forensic inpatients with high and low
scores on the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R). ERPs were recorded during
presentation of emotional facial expressions (i.e., fear, angry, and happy).
Results revealed no differences in N170, P3 and late positive potential
components between groups, but a significant difference in N2 only for angry and
fear facial expressions, with high psychopathic participants showing lower
reactivity. This N2 effect was found to be related to Factor 2 but not Factor 1
of the PCL-R. In time frequency analysis, theta activity underlying N2 best
reflected these differences.
Findings in this female sample are consistent with a cortical deficit in
processing facial expression of negative emotions in psychopathic men. In
addition, differences in processing seem to appear relatively early.
facial affect; psychopathy; female; time-frequency; event-related potentials
Evening chronotypes exhibit increased rates of affective dyregulation and sleep disturbances (e.g., insomnia and nightmares). Such symptoms are common to military veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); however, the influence of chronotype on this population remains unknown. We examined behavioral, psychological, and neural correlates of chronotype in 36 combat-exposed military veterans with varying degrees of posttraumatic stress symptomatology. We employed FDG-PET to assess neural activity across wakefulness and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. We used polysomnography and diaries to monitor sleep, and a self-report survey to measure chronotype. Eveningness was associated with greater lifetime PTSD symptoms, more disturbed sleep, and more frequent and intense nightmares. Eveningness was also associated with greater brain activity in posterior cingulate/precuneus and brainstem regions across wakefulness and REM sleep, overlapping with regions related to arousal and REM sleep generation. Chronotype may be an important correlate of neural activity in REM sleep-generating and/or arousal regulatory regions among combat-exposed veterans with PTSD symptoms. Further investigations of the role of chronotype in PTSD are warranted.
imaging; chronotype; sleep; PTSD; veterans; nightmares
The late positive potential (LPP) may be a useful measure of individual differences in emotional processing across development, but little is known about the stability of the LPP across time. We assessed the LPP and behavioral measures of emotional interference following pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral images in 8- to 13-year-old youth. Approximately two years later, the same participants completed the task again (N=34). Results indicated that the LPP is moderately-to-highly reliable across development. Stability was lower and more inconsistent for behavioral measures. In addition, consistent with previous cross-sectional analyses, a decrease in occipital activity was observed at the second assessment. Results indicate that the LPP appears to be a stable measure of emotional processing, even across a fairly large period of development.
Event-related potentials; late positive potential; emotion; reliability; development
Prominent posterior EEG alpha is associated with depression and clinical response to antidepressants. Given that religious belief was protective against depression in a longitudinal study of familial risk, we hypothesized that individuals who differed by strength of spiritual beliefs might also differ in EEG alpha. Clinical evaluations and self-reports of the importance of religion or spirituality (R/S) were obtained from 52 participants, and again at 10-y followup when EEG was measured. EEG alpha was quantified using frequency PCA of current source densities (CSD-fPCA). Participants who rated R/S as highly important at initial assessment showed greater alpha compared to those who did not. Those who rated R/S important in both sessions showed greater alpha than those who changed their ratings. EEG differences were particularly well-defined for participants with lifetime depression. Findings extend the view of alpha as a marker for affective processes, suggesting an association with the ontogenesis of spirituality.
EEG alpha; depression risk; religion; spirituality; current source density
The purpose of the study was to test the hypothesis that sound context modulates the magnitude of auditory distraction, indexed by behavioral and electrophysiological measures. Participants were asked to identify tone duration, while irrelevant changes occurred in tone frequency, tone intensity, and harmonic structure. Frequency deviants were randomly intermixed with standards (Uni-Condition), with intensity deviants (Bi-Condition), and with both intensity and complex deviants (Tri-Condition). Only in the Tri-Condition did the auditory distraction effect reflect the magnitude difference among the frequency and intensity deviants. The mixture of the different types of deviants in the Tri-Condition modulated the perceived level of distraction, demonstrating that the sound context can modulate the effect of deviance level on processing irrelevant acoustic changes in the environment. These findings thus indicate that perceptual contrast plays a role in change detection processes that leads to auditory distraction.
Auditory distraction; Magnitude effect; Deviance level; Mismatch negativity (MMN); P3a; Attention
We examined whether the combined indices of respiratory sinus arrhythmia at rest (resting RSA) and in response to a sad film (RSA reactivity) predict effective and ineffective responses to reduce sadness (adaptive vs. maladaptive mood repair) in women with histories of juvenile-onset depression (n = 74) and no history of major mental disorders (n = 75). Structural equation models were used to estimate latent resting RSA, depression, and adaptive and maladaptive mood repair and to test the study hypotheses. Results indicated that combinations of resting RSA+RSA reactivity (RSA patterns) predicted maladaptive mood repair, which in turn, mediated the effects of RSA pattern on depression. Further, RSA patterns moderated the depressogenic effects of maladaptive mood repair. RSA patterns were unrelated to adaptive mood repair. Our findings suggest that mood repair is one mechanism through which physiological vulnerabilities adversely affect mental health.
Trait anxiety, a stable personality trait associated with increased fear responses to threat, is regarded as a risk factor for the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders. Although the effect of trait anxiety has been examined with regard to explicit threat cues, little is known about the effect of trait anxiety on contextual threat learning. To assess this issue, extreme groups of low and high trait anxiety underwent a contextual fear conditioning protocol using virtual reality. Two virtual office rooms served as the conditioned contexts. One virtual office room (CXT+) was paired with unpredictable electrical stimuli. In the other virtual office room, no electrical stimuli were delivered (CXT−). High-anxious participants tended to show faster acquisition of startle potentiation in the CXT+ versus the CXT− than low-anxious participants. This enhanced contextual fear learning might function as a risk factor for anxiety disorders that are characterized by sustained anxiety.
Trait anxiety; Contextual fear conditioning; Startle reflex; Virtual reality
This study examined the effect of HIV on visceromotor (i.e., heart rate and heart rate variability) and somatomotor (i.e., auditory processing and affect recognition) components of a social engagement system defined by the Polyvagal Theory (Porges, 1995) that links vagal regulation of the heart with brainstem regulation of the striated muscles of the face and head. Relative to at risk HIV- seronegative women, HIV-seropositive women had less heart rate variability (i.e., respiratory sinus arrhythmia) and had poorer performance on auditory processing and affect recognition tasks. CD4 was negatively correlated with the accuracy to detect specific emotions. The observed indices of atypical autonomic and behavioral regulation may contribute to greater difficulties in social behavior and social communication between HIV- infected women and other individuals in their social network.
HIV; women; respiratory sinus arrhythmia; heart rate; heart rate variability; auditory processing; affect recognition; Polyvagal Theory
Cognitive control, which involves the ability to pay attention and suppress interference, is important for learning and achievement during childhood. The white matter tracts related to control during childhood are not well known. We examined the relationship between white matter microstructure and cognitive control in 61 children aged 7 to 9 years using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). This technique enables an in vivo characterization of microstructural properties of white matter based on properties of diffusion. Such properties include fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity, and radial diffusivity, measures thought to reflect specific biological properties of white matter integrity. Our results suggest that children with higher estimates of white matter integrity in the corona radiata, superior longitudinal fasciculus, posterior thalamic radiation, and cerebral peduncle, were more accurate during incongruent (>><>>, <<><<) and neutral (-->--, --<--) trials of a task of cognitive control. Importantly, less interference during the task (i.e., incongruent and neutral difference scores) was associated with greater white matter microstructure in the posterior thalamic radiation and cerebral peduncle. Fiber tracts in a frontal-parietal-striatal-motor circuit seem to play a role in cognitive control in children.
child; cognition; diffusion tensor imaging; flanker; MRI
Polyvagal theory has influenced research on the role of cardiac vagal control, indexed by respiratory sinus arrhythmia withdrawal (RSA-W) during challenging states, in children’s self-regulation. However, it remains unclear how well RSA-W predicts adaptive functioning (AF) outcomes and whether certain caveats of measuring RSA (e.g., respiration) significantly impact these associations. A meta-analysis of 44 studies (n = 4,996 children) revealed small effect sizes such that greater levels of RSA-W were related to fewer externalizing, internalizing, and cognitive/academic problems. In contrast, RSA-W was differentially related to children’s social problems according to sample type (community vs. clinical/at-risk). The relations between RSA-W and children’s AF outcomes were stronger among studies that co-varied baseline RSA and in Caucasian children (no effect was found for respiration). Children from clinical/at-risk samples displayed lower levels of baseline RSA and RSA-W compared to children from community samples. Theoretical/practical implications for the study of cardiac vagal control are discussed.
Cardiac vagal tone; RSA withdrawal; children; meta-analysis; adaptive functioning
Working memory scanning and motor response speeds were assessed in chronically sleep restricted participants using the Sternberg item recognition paradigm (SIRP). Twenty-two healthy volunteers (ages 21–30) living in a controlled hospital environment were allowed either 4 h of sleep opportunity (50% of habitual sleep) or 8 h of sleep opportunity (100% of habitual sleep) for 12 days. Working memory scanning efficiency (time taken to access an item in working memory) was tested for the first 9 days of sleep restriction and improved over time in participants permitted an 8 h sleep period, but did not change significantly in participants permitted a 4 h sleep period. Speed of motor response (reaction time independent of cognitive processing) did not change significantly in either group. These results indicate that the efficiency of working memory scanning can improve with repeated practice given sufficient sleep, and that prolonged sleep restriction to 50% of habitual sleep prevents this improvement.
Sleep restriction; Working memory; Short-term memory
This study examined the moderating effects of child temperament on the association between maternal socialization and 4–6-year-old children’s dynamic respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) change in response to anger-themed emotional materials (N = 180). We used latent growth curve modeling to explore adaptive patterns of dynamic RSA change in response to anger. Greater change in RSA during anger-induction, characterized by more initial RSA suppression and a subsequent return to baseline, was related to children’s better regulation of aggression. For anger-themed materials, low levels of authoritarian parenting predicted more RSA suppression and recovery for more anger-prone children, whereas more authoritative parenting predicted more RSA suppression and recovery for less anger-prone children. These findings suggest that children’s adaptive patterns of dynamic RSA change can be characterized by latent growth curve modeling, and that these patterns may be differentially shaped by parent socialization experiences as a function of child temperament.
Children; Respiratory sinus arrhythmia; Autonomic flexibility; Emotion regulation; Anger; Aggression; Differential susceptibility; Goodness-of-fit
Previous research has indicated that anxious individuals are more prone to evaluate ambiguous information as negative compared to non-anxious individuals. The feedback-related negativity (FRN) component of event-related brain potential (ERP) has been shown to be sensitive to outcome evaluation. The current ERP study aimed to test the hypothesis that the FRNs associated with ambiguous outcomes and negative outcomes are different between high trait-anxiety (HTA) and low trait-anxiety (LTA) individuals. The FRN was measured as a difference wave created across conditions. We found significantly different FRN responses between high-anxious and low-anxious participants in ambiguous outcome condition, as well as in negative outcome condition. Moreover, the HTA group’s FRN responses under the ambiguous outcome condition were larger than the negative outcome condition. Nevertheless, the FRN following neutral outcome did not show any difference between the two groups. The present results support the idea that there is link between individual differences in anxiety and ambiguous outcome evaluation, which possibly reflects the adaptive function of anxiety. Additionally, the results indicate that the mechanisms underlying the evaluation of neutral outcomes and ambiguous outcomes might be different from each other.
Anxiety; Decision-making; Outcome Evaluation; Feedback-Related Negativity (FRN); Ambiguous Outcome; Neutral Outcome; Guessing Activity
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with problems in intimate relationships, partly due to deficits in social cognition. In this study, the role of arginine vasopressin (AVP) in the link between PTSD and partner-specific social cognition was examined. Participants were 24 individuals from 12 heterosexual couples in which at least one partner exhibited clinically significant PTSD symptoms. Attention to partner expressions of anger was examined as an indicator of distress and need for affiliative behaviors to repair the relationship bond. AVP administration improved the speed of men’s attentional engagement with their partners’ expressions of anger and alleviated the negative impact of PTSD on this social cognitive process. Further, men’s morning urinary AVP levels were negatively correlated with their PTSD severity. No such effects were found among women or for attention to unfamiliar men’s or women’s anger expressions. Thus, the AVP system may function in the relationship problems associated with PTSD.
trauma; PTSD; social information processing; relationship satisfaction
Evidence suggests that respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) may be an important indicator of physiological flexibility. However, few studies have examined the relation between RSA and defensive habituation, a process contingent on physiological flexibility. In three independent samples, habituation was defined as the time course of 9 startle responses. In Sample one and two, startle was recorded (1) while shock electrodes were attached to participants’ and (2) before a threat-of-shock task. In Sample three, startle was recorded without these two components. In the first two samples, startle magnitude significantly decreased over time but in Sample three, startle only decreased at a trend level. Further, low RSA was associated with less of a reduction in startle magnitude over time within the first two samples, but was unrelated to startle reduction in the third. This suggests that low RSA is associated with less habituation to contextual anxiety, which may reflect difficulties regulating anxiety.
Respiratory sinus arrhythmia; Habituation; Startle
•Few studies have examined associations between laboratory and everyday cortisol.•Cortisol responses to laboratory stress were associated with cortisol AUCday.•This provides evidence of the ecological validity of laboratory stress testing.
Relationships between cortisol responses to laboratory stress and cortisol output over the day have not been studied extensively. We tested associations between cortisol responses to a set of laboratory challenges (colour/word interference and mirror tracing) and three aspects of cortisol output over the day, namely total area under the curve (AUCday), the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and the slope of cortisol decline over the day. Participants were 466 men and women aged 54–76 years. We found that cortisol responses to laboratory stress were positively associated with cortisol AUCday independently of sex, age, socioeconomic status, smoking, body mass index, and time of laboratory testing (B = 0.212, 95% C.I. 0.143–0.282, p < 0.001). No associations between laboratory responses and the CAR or cortisol slope were observed. The laboratory–field association was not moderated by demographic or psychosocial factors. The study provides evidence for the ecological validity of acute laboratory stress testing.
Stress reactivity; Laboratory–field; HPA axis; Cortisol
High cardiac vagal control (as measured by respiratory sinus arrhythmia; RSA) is associated with lower depression. Recent theories argue that people’s responsiveness to social resources is a key mechanism in this association. This argument implies two hypotheses: first, high RSA should be related to decreased depressive symptoms only when social resources (social support) are available; second, utilization of available social resources (social engagement) should serve as a mechanism for the positive effects of RSA. To test these hypotheses, we measured RSA in 131 adults. Participants reported their social support, social engagement, and depressive symptoms. Six months later, they again reported their depressive symptoms. Participants with higher RSA reported fewer depressive symptoms six months later, but only under conditions of high social support. The interaction between RSA and social support in predicting depressive symptoms was fully mediated by social engagement. These findings provide crucial support for the idea that cardiac vagal control contributes to decreased depressive symptoms via social processes. Implications for biological sensitivity to context and differential susceptibility theories as well as for the prevention and treatment of depression are discussed.
Heart rate variability; Major depressive disorder; Cardiac vagal control; Respiratory sinus arrhythmia; Social support; Social engagement; Person by environment interaction; Psychophysiology
We examined whether social drinkers whose drinking behavior poses a risk for harmful consequences exhibit altered psychobiological responses to stress following moderate alcohol intake. At risk (n = 17) and low risk drinkers (n = 27), as identified by the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, completed two laboratory stress sessions, one in which they consumed a drink with alcohol and one without alcohol. Subjective and physiological measures were obtained throughout the study. Reported stimulation following alcohol consumption and sedation post-stress on alcohol day were greater than the no alcohol day in at risk drinkers (ps < .05). Low risk drinkers exhibited stress dampening effects on cortisol levels (p < .05). This was not the case among the high risk drinkers. These results indicate that acute alcohol intake may be associated with enhanced subjective and altered hormonal responses to stress in individuals who are at risk for becoming problem drinkers.
alcohol; cortisol; stress; AUDIT; substance use
While the personality trait of extraversion has been linked to enhanced reward sensitivity and its putative neural correlates, little is known about whether extraverts’ neural circuits are particularly sensitive to social rewards, given their preference for social engagement and social interactions. Using event-related potentials (ERPs), this study examined the relationship between the variation on the extraversion spectrum and a feedback-related ERP component (the error-related negativity or ERN) known to be sensitive to the value placed on errors and reward. Participants completed a forced-choice task, in which either rewarding or punitive feedback regarding their performance was provided, through either social (facial expressions) or non-social (verbal written) mode. The ERNs elicited by error trials in the social – but not in non-social – blocks were found to be associated with the extent of one’s extraversion. However, the directionality of the effect was in contrast with the original prediction: namely, extraverts exhibited smaller ERNs than introverts during social blocks, whereas all participants produced similar ERNs in the non-social, verbal feedback condition. This finding suggests that extraverts exhibit diminished engagement in response monitoring – or find errors to be less salient – in the context of social feedback, perhaps because they find social contexts more predictable and thus more pleasant and less anxiety provoking.
extraversion; event-related potentials; error-related negativity (ERN); reward; social