Behavioural findings have led to proposals that difficulties in attention and concentration in depression may have their roots in fundamental inhibitory impairments for irrelevant information. These impairments may be associated with reduced capacity to actively maintain relevant information to facilitate goal-directed behaviour. In light of mixed data from behavioural studies, the current study using direct neural measurement, examines whether dysphoric individuals show poor filtering of irrelevant information and reduced working memory (WM) capacity for relevant information. Consistent with previous research, a sustained event-related potential (ERP) asymmetry, termed contra-lateral delay activity (CDA), was observed to be sensitive to WM capacity and the efficient filtering of irrelevant information from visual WM. We found a strong positive correlation between the efficiency of filtering irrelevant items and visual WM capacity. Specifically, dysphoric participants were poor at filtering irrelevant information, and showed reduced WM capacity relative to high capacity non-dysphoric participants. Results support the hypothesis that impaired inhibition is a central feature of dysphoria and are discussed within the framework of cognitive and neurophysiological models of depression.
attentional control; depression; inhibition; working memory capacity; contra-lateral delay activity; filtering efficiency
Priming negative stereotypes of African Americans can bias perceptions toward novel Black targets, but less is known about how these perceptions ultimately arise. Examining how neural regions involved in arousal, inhibition and control covary when negative stereotypes are activated can provide insight into whether individuals attempt to downregulate biases. Using fMRI, White egalitarian-motivated participants were shown Black and White faces at fast (32 ms) or slow (525 ms) presentation speeds. To create a racially negative stereotypic context, participants listened to violent and misogynistic rap (VMR) in the background. No music (NM) and death metal (DM) were used as control conditions in separate blocks. Fast exposure of Black faces elicited amygdala activation in the NM and VMR conditions (but not DM), that also negatively covaried with activation in prefrontal regions. Only in VMR, however, did amygdala activation for Black faces persist during slow exposure and positively covary with activation in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex while negatively covarying with activation in orbitofrontal cortex. Findings suggest that contexts that prime negative racial stereotypes seem to hinder the downregulation of amygdala activation that typically occurs when egalitarian perceivers are exposed to Black faces.
stereotypes; stereotype inhibition; implicit and explicit processing; social neuroscience; amygdala; prefrontal cortex
Semantic knowledge refers to the information that people have about categories of objects and living things. Social psychologists have long debated whether the information that perceivers have about categories of people—i.e. stereotypes—may be a unique form of semantics. Here, we examine this question against well-established findings regarding the neural basis of semantics, which suggest that two brain regions—left inferior frontal gyrus and inferotemporal cortex—are critical for general semantic knowledge. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, participants answered questions about their knowledge of both non-social and social categories. We reasoned that if stereotypes are a typical form of semantic knowledge, then these same regions should subserve the activation and retrieval of stereotypes. Inconsistent with this possibility, left inferior frontal gyrus and inferotemporal cortex were activated only during non-social category judgments. Instead, judgments of social categories were associated with regions frequently linked to social cognition, including medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate, bilateral temporoparietal junction and anterior temporal cortex. Together, these results suggest that social stereotypes should be considered distinct from other forms of semantic knowledge, and may have more in common with representing mental states than retrieving semantic knowledge about objects and non-human living things.
semantic knowledge; social cognitive neuroscience; social knowledge; stereotypes; fMRI
Prior neuroimaging and electrophysiological evidence suggests that potentiated responses in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), particularly the rostral ACC, may contribute to abnormal responses to negative feedback in individuals with elevated negative affect and depressive symptoms. The feedback-related negativity (FRN) represents an electrophysiological index of ACC-related activation in response to performance feedback. The purpose of the present study was to examine the FRN and underlying ACC activation using low resolution electromagnetic tomography source estimation techniques in relation to negative emotionality (a composite index including negative affect and subclinical depressive symptoms). To this end, 29 healthy adults performed a monetary incentive delay task while 128-channel event-related potentials were recorded. We found that enhanced FRNs and increased rostral ACC activation in response to negative—but not positive—feedback was related to greater negative emotionality. These results indicate that individual differences in negative emotionality—a putative risk factor for emotional disorders—modulate ACC-related processes critically implicated in assessing the motivational impact and/or salience of environmental feedback.
feedback-related negativity; depression; negative affect; anterior cingulate cortex; negative feedback; reward
Imitation is an important component of human social learning throughout life. Theoretical models and empirical data from anthropology and psychology suggest that people tend to imitate self-similar individuals, and that such imitation biases increase the adaptive value (e.g., self-relevance) of learned information. It is unclear, however, what neural mechanisms underlie people's tendency to imitate those similar to themselves. We focused on the own-gender imitation bias, a pervasive bias thought to be important for gender identity development. While undergoing fMRI, participants imitated own- and other-gender actors performing novel, meaningless hand signs; as control conditions, they also simply observed such actions and viewed still portraits of the same actors. Only the ventral and dorsal striatum, orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala were more active when imitating own- compared to other-gender individuals. A Bayesian analysis of the BrainMap neuroimaging database demonstrated that the striatal region preferentially activated by own-gender imitation is selectively activated by classical reward tasks in the literature. Taken together, these findings reveal a neurobiological mechanism associated with the own-gender imitation bias and demonstrate a novel role of reward-processing neural structures in social behavior.
imitation; neuroimaging; reward; gender; cultural learning
Extraversion is considered one of the core traits of personality. Low extraversion has been associated with increased vulnerability to affective and anxiety disorders. Brain imaging studies have linked extraversion, approach behaviour and the production of positive emotional states to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and glutamatergic neurotransmission. However, the relationship between extraversion and glutamate in the DLPFC has not been investigated so far. In order to address this issue, absolute glutamate concentrations in the DLPFC and the visual cortex as a control region were measured by 3-Tesla proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) in 29 subjects with high and low extraversion. We found increased glutamate levels in the DLPFC of introverts as compared with extraverts. The increased glutamate concentration was specific for the DLPFC and negatively associated with state anxiety. Although preliminary, results indicate altered top-down control of DLPFC due to reduced glutamate concentration as a function of extraversion. Glutamate measurement with 1H-MRS may facilitate the understanding of biological underpinnings of personality traits and psychiatric diseases associated with dysfunctions in approach behaviour and the production of positive emotional states.
1H-MRS; glutamate; prefrontal cortex; personality; extraversion
It has long been argued that attitudes prepare the body to act. While early evidence suggested that evaluations (positive or negative) are rigidly linked to specific motor behaviors (approach or avoidant), recent behavioral evidence suggests that this linkage is context dependent. Here, we report that the neural circuitry mediating the relationship between evaluations and motor responses promotes flexibility in our embodiment of attitudes. In a behavioral study, stimulus–response relationships between evaluations and actions were rapidly conditioned. In a neuroimaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging) study, repetition suppression demonstrated that these relationships are formed in neural systems traditionally implicated in arbitrary sensorimotor mappings (i.e. the dorsal premotor cortex and posterior superior parietal lobule). These data provide the first neurophysiological evidence for attitude embodiment and demonstrate that relationships between evaluation and action are inherently malleable.
attitudes; embodiment; social cognition; social neuroscience; motor behavior; action
Caffeine, an adenosine A1 and A2A receptor antagonist, is the most popular psychostimulant drug in the world, but it is also anxiogenic. The neural correlates of caffeine-induced anxiety are currently unknown. This study investigated the effects of caffeine on brain regions implicated in social threat processing and anxiety. Participants were 14 healthy male non/infrequent caffeine consumers. In a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover design, they underwent blood oxygenation level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing an emotional face processing task 1 h after receiving caffeine (250 mg) or placebo in two fMRI sessions (counterbalanced, 1-week washout). They rated anxiety and mental alertness, and their blood pressure was measured, before and 2 h after treatment. Results showed that caffeine induced threat-related (angry/fearful faces > happy faces) midbrain-periaqueductal gray activation and abolished threat-related medial prefrontal cortex wall activation. Effects of caffeine on extent of threat-related amygdala activation correlated negatively with level of dietary caffeine intake. In concurrence with these changes in threat-related brain activation, caffeine increased self-rated anxiety and diastolic blood pressure. Caffeine did not affect primary visual cortex activation. These results are the first to demonstrate potential neural correlates of the anxiogenic effect of caffeine, and they implicate the amygdala as a key site for caffeine tolerance.
amygdala; anxiety; fMRI; medial prefrontal cortex; periaqueductal gray; social threat
The influence of personality on the neural correlates of emotional processing is still not well characterized. We investigated the relationship between extraversion and neuroticism and emotional perception using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in a group of 23 young, healthy women. Using a parametric modulation approach, we examined how the blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signal varied with the participants’ ratings of arousal and valence, and whether levels of extraversion and neuroticism were related to these modulations. In particular, we wished to test Eysenck's biological theory of personality, which links high extraversion to lower levels of reticulothalamic–cortical arousal, and neuroticism to increased reactivity of the limbic system and stronger reactions to emotional arousal. Individuals high in neuroticism demonstrated reduced sustained activation in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and attenuated valence processing in the right temporal lobe while viewing emotional images, but an increased BOLD response to emotional arousal in the right medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). These results support Eysenck's theory, as well as our hypothesis that high levels of neuroticism are associated with attenuated reward processing. Extraversion was inversely related to arousal processing in the right cerebellum, but positively associated with arousal processing in the right insula, indicating that the relationship between extraversion and arousal is not as simple as that proposed by Eysenck.
arousal; extraversion; fMRI; neuroticism; valence
Asymmetrical patterns of frontal cortical activity have been implicated in the development and expression of aggressive behavior. Along with individual motivational tendencies, the ability to restrain one's impulses might be a factor in aggressive behavior. Recently, a role for the inhibitory cortical beta rhythm was suggested. The present study investigated whether individual differences in resting state asymmetries in the beta frequency band were associated with trait aggression and behavioral inhibition. In addition, the selective contributions of the prefrontal and motor cortex areas to these associations were examined. Results showed that relative dominant right frontal beta frequency activity was associated with both heightened trait aggression, especially hostility, and reduced response inhibition. Moreover, asymmetries over the anterior electrode locations proved to be related most closely to trait aggression, while asymmetries over the central electrode locations were associated with response inhibition. Together these findings show that right-dominant frontal beta activity is positively associated with aggressive tendencies and reduced behavioral inhibition.
aggression; behavioral inhibition; beta oscillations; electroencephalography; frontal cortex; hostility; motor cortex
Most choices are complex and can be considered from a number of different perspectives. For example, someone choosing a snack may have taste, health, cost or any number of factors at the forefront of their mind. Although previous research has examined neural systems related to value and choice, very little is known about how mindset influences these systems. In the current study, participants were primed with Health or Taste while they made decisions about snack foods. Some neural regions showed consistent associations with value and choice across Health or Taste mindsets. Regardless of mindset, medial orbitofrontal cortex (MOFC) tracked value in terms of taste, regions in left lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) tracked value in terms of health, and MOFC and dorsal anterior cingulate were associated with choice. However, activity in other neural regions was modulated by the mindset manipulation. When primed with Taste, rostral anterior cingulate tracked value in terms of taste whereas left amygdala and left putamen were associated with choice. When primed with Health, right LPFC and posterior MOFC tracked value in terms of health. The findings contribute to the neural research on decision-making by demonstrating that changing perspectives can modulate value- and choice-related neural activity.
preference; evaluation; fMRI; ventromedial; prefrontal
In emotional learning tasks, sex differences, stress effects and an interaction of these two moderators have often been observed. The sex hormones estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4) vary over the menstrual cycle. We tested groups with different sex hormone status: 39 men, 30 women in the luteal phase (LU, high E2+P4) and 29 women taking oral contraceptives (OC, low E2+P4). They received either 30 mg cortisol or placebo prior to instructed differential fear conditioning consisting of neutral conditioned stimuli (CS) and an electrical stimulation (unconditioned stimulus; UCS). One figure (CS+) was paired with the UCS, the other figure (CS−) never. During extinction, no electrical stimulation was administered. Regarding fear acquisition, results showed higher skin conductance and higher brain responses to the CS+ compared to the CS− in several structures that were not modulated by cortisol or sex hormones. However, OC women exhibited higher CS+/CS− differentiations than men and LU women in the amygdala, thalamus, anterior cingulate and ventromedial prefrontal cortex during extinction. The suppression of endogenous sex hormones by OC seems to alter neuronal correlates of extinction. The observation that extinction is influenced by the current sex hormone availability is relevant for future studies and might also be clinically important.
amygdala; fMRI; instructed fear conditioning; menstrual cycle; oral contraceptives
Although it is well established that prior experience with faces determines their subsequent social–emotional evaluation, recent work shows that top-down inhibitory mechanisms, including response inhibition, can lead to social devaluation after even a single, brief exposure. These rapidly induced effects indicate interplay among perceptual, attentional, response-selection and social–emotional networks; yet, the brain mechanisms underlying this are not well understood. This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural mechanism mediating the relationship between inhibitory control and emotional devaluation. Participants performed two tasks: (i) a Go/No-Go task in response to faces and (ii) a trustworthiness rating task involving the previously seen faces. No-Go faces were rated as significantly less trustworthy than Go faces. By examining brain activations during Task 1, behavioral measures and brain activations obtained in Task 2 could be predicted. Specifically, activity in brain areas during Task 1 associated with (i) executive control and response suppression (i.e. lateral prefrontal cortex) and (ii) affective responses and value representation (i.e. orbitofrontal cortex), systematically covaried with behavioral ratings and amygdala activity obtained during Task 2. The present findings offer insights into the neural mechanisms linking inhibitory processes to affective responses.
cognitive control; emotion; fMRI; motor inhibition
Recent event-related brain potential studies revealed the selective processing of emotional and threatening pictures. Integrating the picture viewing and threat-of-shock paradigm, the present study examined the processing of emotional pictures while they were explicitly instructed to cue threat of real world danger (i.e. electric shocks). Toward this end, 60 pleasant, neutral and unpleasant IAPS-pictures were presented (1 s) as a continuous random stream while high-density EEG and self-reported threat were assessed. In three experimental runs, each picture category was used once as a threat-cue, whereas in the other conditions the same category served as safety-cue. An additional passive viewing run served as a no-threat condition, thus, establishing a threat–safety continuum (threat-cue–safety-cue–no-threat) for each picture category. Threat-of-shock modulated P1, P2 and parieto-occipital LPP amplitudes. While the P1 component differentiated among threat- and no-threat conditions, the P2 and LPP effects were specific to pictures signaling threat-of-shock. Thus, stimulus processing progressively gained more accurate information about environmental threat conditions. Interestingly, the finding of increased EPN and centro-parietal LPP amplitudes to emotional pictures was independent from threat-of-shock manipulation. Accordingly, the results indicate distinct effects associated with the intrinsic significance of emotional pictures and explicitly instructed threat contingencies.
ERP; emotion; attention; threat-of-shock
Research indicates that many people do not use condoms consistently but rather rely on illusory control strategies for avoiding an infection with HIV. Preliminary evidence suggests that people form impressions of a partner’s HIV risk based on his or her physical appearance. To examine the neural correlates of such appearance-based HIV risk impressions, event-related potentials were recorded while participants viewed portraits of unacquainted persons. Participants’ explicit HIV risk ratings for each of the presented unacquainted persons were used to form categories of low and high HIV risk persons. Results showed that risky, compared to safe persons elicited distinct event-related potential (ERP) modulations. Viewing risky persons was associated with an increased positivity over right frontal regions between 180 and 240 ms. This suggests that impressions related to HIV risk occur rapidly, presumably reflecting automatic person evaluations eluding introspection. In a time window between 450 and 600 ms, risky persons elicited an increased late positive potential. Consistent with previous findings reporting augmented late positive potentials (LPP) amplitudes to affectively significant stimuli, the results support the assumption that risky faces draw more attention resources. These findings are in accordance with the ‘risk as feeling’ notion.
risk perception; affect; intuition; ERP; P3; late positive potential
Previous research suggests that performance-monitoring processes are related to personality traits; relationships with affective states, however, remain unclear. The purpose of this study was to replicate and extend previous findings that induced state negative affect alters electrophysiological reflections of performance monitoring. High-density event-related potentials (ERPs) were obtained from 69 healthy individuals (41 female, 28 male) who completed an Eriksen flanker task and received either encouraging or derogatory feedback based on mean reaction times (RTs) for 30-trial sub-blocks. Affective state, behavioral measures (i.e. error rates, RTs) and ERP measures [i.e. error-related negativity (ERN), post-error positivity (Pe) and N2] were assessed. Reaction times did not differ between feedback groups. Participants who received derogatory feedback committed more errors over time. Despite changes in affect, no significant group differences were demonstrated for behavioral or ERP measures of performance monitoring. Increases in vigilance were associated with more negative N2 amplitudes; no other changes in affective state were associated with changes in ERP measures. Results are consistent with findings suggesting performance-monitoring processes are only slightly affected by changes in affective state and fail to replicate previous studies suggesting the ERN is related to state changes in affect—supporting the possibility of the ERN as an endophenotype.
performance monitoring; event-related potentials (ERPs); negative affect; error-related negativity (ERN); post-error positivity (Pe); N2
Klinefelter syndrome (KS) is a chromosomal condition (47, XXY) that may help us to unravel gene–brain behavior pathways to psychopathology. The phenotype includes social cognitive impairments and increased risk for autism traits. We used functional MRI to study neural mechanisms underlying social information processing. Eighteen nonclinical controls and thirteen men with XXY were scanned during judgments of faces with regard to trustworthiness and age. While judging faces as untrustworthy in comparison to trustworthy, men with XXY displayed less activation than controls in (i) the amygdala, which plays a key role in screening information for socio-emotional significance, (ii) the insula, which plays a role in subjective emotional experience, as well as (iii) the fusiform gyrus and (iv) the superior temporal sulcus, which are both involved in the perceptual processing of faces and which were also less involved during age judgments in men with XXY. This is the first study showing that KS can be associated with reduced involvement of the neural network subserving social cognition. Studying KS may increase our understanding of the genetic and hormonal basis of neural dysfunctions contributing to abnormalities in social cognition and behavior, which are considered core abnormalities in psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.
X chromosome; social cognition; autism; schizophrenia; amygdala; Klinefelter
Comparing pain is done in daily life and involves short-term memorizing and attention focusing. This event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging study investigated the short-term brain activations associated with the comparison of pain stimuli using a delayed discrimination paradigm. Fourteen healthy young volunteers compared two successive pain stimuli administered at a 10 s interval to the same location at the nasal mucosa. Fourteen age- and sex-matched subjects received similar pain stimuli without performing the comparison task. With the comparison task, the activations associated with the second pain stimulus were significantly greater than with the first stimulus in the anterior insular cortex and the primary somatosensory area. This was observed on the background of a generally increased stimulus-associated brain activation in the presence of the comparison task that included regions of the pain matrix (insular cortex, primary and secondary somatosensory area, midcingulate cortex, supplemental motor area) and regions associated with attention, decision making, working memory and body recognition (frontal and temporal gyri, inferior parietal lobule, precuneus, lingual cortices). This data provides a cerebral correlate for the role of pain as a biological alerting system that gains the subject's attention and then dominates most other perceptions and activities involving pain-specific and non-pain-specific brain regions.
This study examined neural activation during the experience of compassion, an emotion that orients people toward vulnerable others and prompts caregiving, and pride, a self-focused emotion that signals individual strength and heightened status. Functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) were acquired as participants viewed 55 s continuous sequences of slides to induce either compassion or pride, presented in alternation with sequences of neutral slides. Emotion self-report data were collected after each slide condition within the fMRI scanner. Compassion induction was associated with activation in the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG), a region that is activated during pain and the perception of others’ pain, and that has been implicated in parental nurturance behaviors. Pride induction engaged the posterior medial cortex, a region that has been associated with self-referent processing. Self-reports of compassion experience were correlated with increased activation in a region near the PAG, and in the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Self-reports of pride experience, in contrast, were correlated with reduced activation in the IFG and the anterior insula. These results provide preliminary evidence towards understanding the neural correlates of important interpersonal dimensions of compassion and pride. Caring (compassion) and self-focus (pride) may represent core appraisals that differentiate the response profiles of many emotions.
nurturing; self-focus; caregiving; midbrain periaqueductal gray; posterior medial cortex
The current study uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine whether regulating negative bias to stigmatized individuals has a unique neural activity profile from general emotion regulation. Participants were presented with images of stigmatized (e.g. homeless people) or non-stigmatized (e.g. a man holding a gun) social targets while undergoing fMRI and were asked either to maintain or regulate their emotional response. Their implicit bias toward these stigmatized group members was also measured. Analyses were conducted in both, an event-related fashion, considering the event to be the onset of regulation, and in a blocked-design fashion, considering the sustained activity throughout the 8-s regulatory period. In the event-related (onset) analyses, participants showed more activity throughout the prefrontal cortex when initiating a regulatory response to stigmatized as compared with non-stigmatized images. This neural activity was positively correlated with their implicit bias. Interestingly, in the block (sustained) analyses, general emotion regulation elicited a more widespread pattern of neural activity as compared with stigma regulation. This activity was largely posterior, suggesting that general emotion regulation may engage more visuo-spatial processing as compared with stigma regulation. These findings suggest that regulating negative affect toward stigmatized targets may occur relatively more quickly than regulating negative affect toward non-stigmatized targets.
emotion regulation; fMRI; IAT; stigma
Psychopathic behavior is characteristically amoral, but to date research studies have largely failed to identify any systematic differences in moral judgment capability between psychopaths and non-psychopaths. In this study, we investigate whether significant differences in moral judgment emerge when taking into account the phenotypic heterogeneity of the disorder through a well-validated distinction between psychopathic subtypes. Three groups of incarcerated participants [low-anxious psychopaths (n = 12), high-anxious psychopaths (n = 12) and non-psychopaths (n = 24)] completed a moral judgment test involving hypothetical dilemmas. The moral dilemmas featured ‘personal’ (i.e. involving direct physical harm) or ‘impersonal’ (i.e. involving indirect or remote harm) actions. Compared to non-psychopaths, both groups of psychopaths were significantly more likely to endorse the impersonal actions. However, only the low-anxious psychopaths were significantly more likely to endorse the personal harms when commission of the harm would maximize aggregate welfare—the ‘utilitarian’ choice. High-anxious psychopaths and non-psychopaths did not significantly differ in their personal moral judgments. These results provide novel laboratory evidence of abnormal moral judgment in psychopaths, as well as additional support for the importance of considering psychopathic subtypes.
psychopathy; morality; decision-making; emotion; anxiety; antisocial
Affective empathy (AE) is distinguished clinically and neurally from cognitive empathy (CE). While AE is selectively disrupted in psychopathy, autism is associated with deficits in CE. Despite such dissociations, AE and CE together contribute to normal human empathic experience. A dimensional measure of individual differences in AE ‘relative to’ CE captures this interaction and may reveal brain–behavior relationships beyond those detectable with AE and CE separately. Using resting-state fMRI and measures of empathy in healthy adults, we show that relative empathic ability (REA) is reflected in the brain's intrinsic functional dynamics. Dominance of AE was associated with stronger functional connectivity among social–emotional regions (ventral anterior insula, orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, perigenual anterior cingulate). Dominance of CE was related to stronger connectivity among areas implicated in interoception, autonomic monitoring and social–cognitive processing (brainstem, superior temporal sulcus, ventral anterior insula). These patterns were distinct from those observed with AE and CE separately. Finally, REA and the strength of several functional connections were associated with symptoms of psychopathology. These findings suggest that REA provides a dimensional index of empathic function and pathological tendencies in healthy adults, which are reflected in the intrinsic functional dynamics of neural systems associated with social and emotional cognition.
affective empathy; cognitive empathy; fMRI; resting-state functional connectivity; social cognition
Previous studies have shown that healthy participants learn to control local brain activity with operant training by using real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rt-fMRI). Very little data exist, however, on the dynamics of interaction between critical brain regions during rt-fMRI-based training. Here, we examined self-regulation of stimulus-elicited insula activation and performed a psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analysis of real-time self-regulation data. During voluntary up-regulation of the left anterior insula in the presence of threat-related pictures, differential activations were observed in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, the frontal operculum, the middle cingulate cortex and the right insula. Down-regulation in comparison to no-regulation revealed additional activations in right superior temporal cortex, right inferior parietal cortex and right middle frontal cortex. There was a significant learning effect over sessions during up-regulation, documented by a significant improvement of anterior insula control over time. Connectivity analysis revealed that successful up-regulation of the activity in left anterior insula while viewing aversive pictures was directly modulated by dorsomedial and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. Down-regulation of activity was more difficult to achieve and no learning effect was observed. More extensive training might be necessary for successful down-regulation. These findings illustrate the functional interactions between different brain areas during regulation of anterior insula activity in the presence of threat-related stimuli.
emotion; real-time fMRI; psychophysiological interaction; insula; prefrontal cortex
Alexithymia is a trait characterized by a diminished capacity to describe and distinguish emotions and to fantasize; it is associated with reduced introspection and problems in emotion processing. The default mode network (DMN) is a network of brain areas that is normally active during rest and involved in emotion processing and self-referential mental activity, including introspection. We hypothesized that connectivity of the DMN might be altered in alexithymia. Twenty alexithymic and 18 non-alexithymic healthy volunteers underwent a resting state fMRI scan. Independent component analysis was used to identify the DMN. Differences in connectivity strength were compared between groups. Within the DMN, alexithymic participants showed lower connectivity within areas of the DMN (medial frontal and temporal areas) as compared to non-alexithymic participants. In contrast, connectivity in the high-alexithymic participants was higher for the sensorimotor cortex, occipital areas and right lateral frontal cortex than in the low-alexithymic participants. These results suggest a diminished connectivity within the DMN of alexithymic participants, in brain areas that may also be involved in emotional awareness and self-referential processing. On the other hand, alexithymia was associated with stronger functional connections of the DMN with brain areas involved in sensory input and control of emotion.
alexithymia; connectivity; default mode network; fMRI; resting state
In the past, power analyses were not that common for fMRI studies, but recent advances in power calculation techniques and software development are making power analyses much more accessible. As a result, power analyses are more commonly expected in grant applications proposing fMRI studies. Even though the software is somewhat automated, there are important decisions to be made when setting up and carrying out a power analysis. This guide provides tips on carrying out power analyses, including obtaining pilot data, defining a region of interest and other choices to help create reliable power calculations.
functional magnetic resonance imaging; classification analysis; MVPA; beta series estimation; rapid event-related design