Interoception refers to the conscious perception of body signals. Mindfulness is a meditation practice that encourages individuals to focus on their internal experiences such as bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions. In this study, we selected a behavioral measure of interoceptive sensitivity (heartbeat detection task, HBD) to compare the effect of meditation practice on interoceptive sensitivity among long term practitioners (LTP), short term meditators (STM, subjects that completed a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program) and controls (non-meditators). All participants were examined with a battery of different tasks including mood state, executive function and social cognition tests (emotion recognition, empathy and theory of mind).
Compared to controls, both meditators’ groups showed lower levels of anxiety and depression, but no improvement in executive function or social cognition performance was observed (except for lower scores compared to controls only in the personal distress dimension of empathy). More importantly, meditators’ performance did not differ from that of nonmeditators regarding cardiac interoceptive sensitivity.
Results suggest no influence of meditation practice in cardiac interoception and in most related social cognition measures. These negative results could be partially due to the fact that awareness of heartbeat sensations is not emphasized during mindfulness/vipassana meditation and may not be the best index of the awareness supported by the practice of meditation.
Interoception; Meditation; Mindfulness; Social cognition; Heartbeat detection task
Research suggests that individuals with different attachment patterns process social information differently, especially in terms of facial emotion recognition. However, few studies have explored social information processes in adolescents. This study examined the behavioral and ERP correlates of emotional processing in adolescents with different attachment orientations (insecure attachment group and secure attachment group; IAG and SAG, respectively). This study also explored the association of these correlates to individual neuropsychological profiles.
We used a modified version of the dual valence task (DVT), in which participants classify stimuli (faces and words) according to emotional valence (positive or negative). Results showed that the IAG performed significantly worse than SAG on tests of executive function (EF attention, processing speed, visuospatial abilities and cognitive flexibility). In the behavioral DVT, the IAG presented lower performance and accuracy. The IAG also exhibited slower RTs for stimuli with negative valence. Compared to the SAG, the IAG showed a negative bias for faces; a larger P1 and attenuated N170 component over the right hemisphere was observed. A negative bias was also observed in the IAG for word stimuli, which was demonstrated by comparing the N170 amplitude of the IAG with the valence of the SAG. Finally, the amplitude of the N170 elicited by the facial stimuli correlated with EF in both groups (and negative valence with EF in the IAG).
Our results suggest that individuals with different attachment patterns process key emotional information and corresponding EF differently. This is evidenced by an early modulation of ERP components’ amplitudes, which are correlated with behavioral and neuropsychological effects. In brief, attachments patterns appear to impact multiple domains, such as emotional processing and EFs.
Immediate-release memantine (10 mg, twice daily) is approved in the USA for moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This study evaluated the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of a higher-dose, once-daily, extended-release formulation in patients with moderate-to-severe AD concurrently taking cholinesterase inhibitors.
In this 24-week, double-blind, multinational study (NCT00322153), outpatients with AD (Mini-Mental State Examination scores of 3–14) were randomized to receive once-daily, 28-mg, extended-release memantine or placebo. Co-primary efficacy parameters were the baseline-to-endpoint score change on the Severe Impairment Battery (SIB) and the endpoint score on the Clinician’s Interview-Based Impression of Change Plus Caregiver Input (CIBIC-Plus). The secondary efficacy parameter was the baseline-to-endpoint score change on the 19-item Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study–Activities of Daily Living (ADCS–ADL19); additional parameters included the baseline-to-endpoint score changes on the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) and verbal fluency test. Data were analyzed using a two-way analysis of covariance model, except for CIBIC-Plus (Cochran–Mantel–Haenszel test). Safety and tolerability were assessed through adverse events and physical and laboratory examinations.
A total of 677 patients were randomized to receive extended-release memantine (n = 342) or placebo (n = 335); completion rates were 79.8 and 81.2 %, respectively. At endpoint (week 24, last observation carried forward), memantine-treated patients significantly outperformed placebo-treated patients on the SIB (least squares mean difference [95 % CI] 2.6 [1.0, 4.2]; p = 0.001), CIBIC-Plus (p = 0.008), NPI (p = 0.005), and verbal fluency test (p = 0.004); the effect did not achieve significance on ADCS–ADL19 (p = 0.177). Adverse events with a frequency of ≥5.0 % that were more prevalent in the memantine group were headache (5.6 vs. 5.1 %) and diarrhea (5.0 vs. 3.9 %).
Extended-release memantine was efficacious, safe, and well tolerated in this population.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s40263-013-0077-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
The significance of social situations is commonly context-embedded. Although the role of context has been extensively studied in basic sensory processing or simple stimulus-response settings, its relevance for social cognition is unknown. We propose the social context network model (SCNM), a fronto-insular-temporal network responsible for processing social contextual effects. The SCNM may 1) update the context and use it to make predictions, 2) coordinate internal and external milieus, and 3) consolidate context-target associative learning. We suggest the behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) as a specific disorder in which the reported deficits in social cognition (e.g., facial recognition, empathy, decision-making, figurative language, theory of mind) can be described as context impairments due to deficits in the SCNM. Disruption of orbitofrontal-amygdala circuit, as well as the frontal, temporal, and insular atrophy in bVFTD, suggests a relationship between context-sensitive social cognition and SCNM. In considering context as an intrinsic part of social cognition, we highlight the need for a situated cognition approach in social cognition research as opposed to an abstract, universal, and decontextualized approach. The assessment of context-dependent social cognition paradigms, the SCNM, and their possible application to neuropsychiatric disorders may provide new insight into bvFTD and other related frontal disorders.
The ability to integrate contextual information with social cues to generate social meaning is a key aspect of social cognition. It is widely accepted that patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders have deficits in social cognition; however, previous studies on these disorders did not use tasks that replicate everyday situations.
This study evaluates the performance of patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders on social cognition tasks (emotional processing, empathy, and social norms knowledge) that incorporate different levels of contextual dependence and involvement of real-life scenarios. Furthermore, we explored the association between social cognition measures, clinical symptoms and executive functions. Using a logistic regression analysis, we explored whether the involvement of more basic skills in emotional processing predicted performance on empathy tasks. The results showed that both patient groups exhibited deficits in social cognition tasks with greater context sensitivity and involvement of real-life scenarios. These deficits were more severe in schizophrenic than in bipolar patients. Patients did not differ from controls in tasks involving explicit knowledge. Moreover, schizophrenic patients’ depression levels were negatively correlated with performance on empathy tasks.
Overall performance on emotion recognition predicted performance on intentionality attribution during the more ambiguous situations of the empathy task. These results suggest that social cognition deficits could be related to a general impairment in the capacity to implicitly integrate contextual cues. Important implications for the assessment and treatment of individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, as well as for neurocognitive models of these pathologies are discussed.
Recently (Roca et al. (2010), we used the relationship with general intelligence (Spearman’s g) to define two sets of frontal lobe or “executive” tests. For one group, including Wisconsin card sorting and verbal fluency, reduction in g entirely explained the deficits found in frontal patients. For another group, including tests of social cognition and multitasking, frontal deficits remained even after correction for g. Preliminary evidence suggested a link of the latter tasks to more anterior frontal regions. Here we develop this distinction in the context of behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), a disorder which progressively affects frontal lobe cortices. In bvFTD, some executive tests, including tests of social cognition and multitasking, decline from the early stage of the disease, while others, including classical executive tests such as Wisconsin card sorting, verbal fluency or Trail Making Test part B, show deficits only later on. Here we show that, while deficits in the classical executive tests are entirely explained by g, deficits in the social cognition and multitasking tests are not. The results suggest a relatively selective cognitive deficit at mild stages of the disease, followed by more widespread cognitive decline well predicted by g.
► A progressive loss of general intelligence (g) can be found in patients with FTD. ► Advanced FTD classical executive deficits can be entirely explained by loss of g. ► Early social cognition and multitasking deficits exceed the ones predicted from g. ► Assessment in FTD should encompass g, multitasking and social cognition.
Frontotemporal dementia; Fluid intelligence; Executive functions; Theory of mind; Multitasking
The dimensional approach to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) considers ASD as the extreme of a dimension traversing through the entire population. We explored the potential utility of electroencephalography (EEG) functional connectivity as a biomarker. We hypothesized that individual differences in autistic traits of typical subjects would involve a long-range connectivity diminution within the delta band.
Resting-state EEG functional connectivity was measured for 74 neurotypical subjects. All participants also provided a questionnaire (Social Responsiveness Scale, SRS) that was completed by an informant who knows the participant in social settings. We conducted multivariate regression between the SRS score and functional connectivity in all EEG frequency bands. We explored modulations of network graph metrics characterizing the optimality of a network using the SRS score.
Our results show a decay in functional connectivity mainly within the delta and theta bands (the lower part of the EEG spectrum) associated with an increasing number of autistic traits. When inspecting the impact of autistic traits on the global organization of the functional network, we found that the optimal properties of the network are inversely related to the number of autistic traits, suggesting that the autistic dimension, throughout the entire population, modulates the efficiency of functional brain networks.
EEG functional connectivity at low frequencies and its associated network properties may be associated with some autistic traits in the general population.
Autism spectrum disorders; Electroencephalography; Autistic traits; Synchronization likelihood; Small world; Long-range connections
Social cognition impairments are pervasive in the frontotemporal dementias (FTD). These deficits would be triggered by (a) basic emotion and face recognition processes as well as by (b) higher level social cognition (e.g., theory of mind, ToM). Both emotional processing and social cognition impairments have been previously reported in the behavioral variant of FTD (bvFTD) and also in other versions of FTDs, including primary progressive aphasia. However, no neuroanatomic comparison between different FTD variants has been performed. We report selective behavioral impairments of face recognition, emotion recognition, and ToM in patients with bvFTD and progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA) when compared to controls. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) shows a classical impairment of mainly orbitofrontal (OFC), anterior cingulate (ACC), insula and lateral temporal cortices in patients. Comparative analysis of regional gray matter related to social cognition deficits (VBM) reveals a differential pattern of fronto-insulo-temporal atrophy in bvFTD and an insulo-temporal involvement in PNFA group. Results suggest that in spite of similar social cognition impairments reported in bvFTD and PNFA, the former represents an inherent ToM affectation whereas in the PNFA these deficits could be related to more basic processes of face and emotion recognition. These results are interpreted in the frame of the fronto-insulo-temporal social context network model (SCNM).
PNFA; bvFTD; theory of mind; voxel-based morphometry; social context network model; fronto-insulo-temporal network
Cockayne syndrome (CS) is an autosomal recessive disease associated with premature aging, progressive multiorgan degeneration, and nervous system abnormalities including cerebral and cerebellar atrophy, brain calcifications, and white matter abnormalities. Although several clinical descriptions of CS patients have reported developmental delay and cognitive impairment with relative preservation of social skills, no previous studies have carried out a comprehensive neuropsychological and social cognition assessment. Furthermore, no previous research in individuals with CS has examined the relationship between brain atrophy and performance on neuropsychological and social cognition tests. This study describes the case of an atypical late-onset type III CS patient who exceeds the mean life expectancy of individuals with this pathology. The patient and a group of healthy controls underwent a comprehensive assessment that included multiple neuropsychological and social cognition (emotion recognition, theory of mind, and empathy) tasks. In addition, we compared the pattern of atrophy in the patient to controls and to its concordance with ERCC8 gene expression in a healthy brain. The results showed memory, language, and executive deficits that contrast with the relative preservation of social cognition skills. The cognitive profile of the patient was consistent with his pattern of global cerebral and cerebellar loss of gray matter volume (frontal structures, bilateral cerebellum, basal ganglia, temporal lobe, and occipito-temporal/occipito-parietal regions), which in turn was anatomically consistent with the ERCC8 gene expression level in a healthy donor’s brain. The study of exceptional cases, such as the one described here, is fundamental to elucidating the processes that affect the brain in premature aging diseases, and such studies provide an important source of information for understanding the problems associated with normal and pathological aging.
Cockayne syndrome; ERCC8; social cognition; cognitive profile; executive functions; VBM; early-onset neurodegeneration
Converging neuroscientific evidence suggests the existence of close links between language and sensorimotor cognition. Accordingly, during the comprehension of meaningful actions, our brain would recruit semantic-related operations similar to those associated with the processing of language information. Consistent with this view, electrophysiological findings show that the N400 component, traditionally linked to the semantic processing of linguistic material, can also be elicited by action-related material. This review outlines recent data from N400 studies that examine the understanding of action events. We focus on three specific domains, including everyday action comprehension, co-speech gesture integration, and the semantics involved in motor planning and execution. Based on the reviewed findings, we suggest that both negativities (the N400 and the action-N400) reflect a common neurocognitive mechanism involved in the construction of meaning through the expectancies created by previous experiences and current contextual information. To shed light on how this process is instantiated in the brain, a testable contextual fronto-temporo-parietal model is proposed.
N400; action comprehension; action meaning; language; contextual integration; fronto-temporo-parietal network
Only a small proportion of individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) will convert to dementia. Methods currently available to identify risk for conversion do not combine enough sensitivity and specificity, which is even more problematic in low-educated populations. Current guidelines suggest the use of combined markers for dementia to enhance the prediction accuracy of assessment methods. The present study adhered to this proposal and investigated the sensitivity and specificity of the electrophysiological component P300 and standard neuropsychological tests to assess patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and MCI recruited from a low-income country. The neuropsychological battery comprised tests of memory, attention, language, praxis, and executive functions. The P300 was recorded using a classical visual odd-ball paradigm. Three variables were found to achieve sensitivity and specificity values above 80% (Immediate and Delayed recall of word list – CERAD – and the latency of P300) for both MCI and AD. When they entered the model together (i.e., combined approach) the sensitivity for MCI increased to 96% and the specificity remained high (80%). Our preliminary findings suggest that the combined use of sensitive neuropsychological tasks and the analysis of the P300 may offer a very useful method for the preclinical assessment of AD, particularly in populations with low socioeconomic and educational levels. Our results provide a platform and justification to employ more resources to convert P300 and related parameters into a biological marker for AD.
Alzheimer’s disease; mild cognitive impairment; event related potentials; P300; neuropsychology; early detection; preclinical markers
Adults with bipolar disorder (BD) have cognitive impairments that affect face processing and social cognition. However, it remains unknown whether these deficits in euthymic BD have impaired brain markers of emotional processing.
We recruited twenty six participants, 13 controls subjects with an equal number of euthymic BD participants. We used an event-related potential (ERP) assessment of a dual valence task (DVT), in which faces (angry and happy), words (pleasant and unpleasant), and face-word simultaneous combinations are presented to test the effects of the stimulus type (face vs word) and valence (positive vs. negative). All participants received clinical, neuropsychological and social cognition evaluations. ERP analysis revealed that both groups showed N170 modulation of stimulus type effects (face > word). BD patients exhibited reduced and enhanced N170 to facial and semantic valence, respectively. The neural source estimation of N170 was a posterior section of the fusiform gyrus (FG), including the face fusiform area (FFA). Neural generators of N170 for faces (FG and FFA) were reduced in BD. In these patients, N170 modulation was associated with social cognition (theory of mind).
This is the first report of euthymic BD exhibiting abnormal N170 emotional discrimination associated with theory of mind impairments.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder (BD) share DSM-IV criteria in adults and cause problems in decision-making. Nevertheless, no previous report has assessed a decision-making task that includes the examination of the neural correlates of reward and gambling in adults with ADHD and those with BD.
We used the Iowa gambling task (IGT), a task of rational decision-making under risk (RDMUR) and a rapid-decision gambling task (RDGT) which elicits behavioral measures as well as event-related potentials (ERPs: fERN and P3) in connection to the motivational impact of events. We did not observe between-group differences for decision-making under risk or ambiguity (RDMUR and IGT); however, there were significant differences for the ERP-assessed RDGT. Compared to controls, the ADHD group showed a pattern of impaired learning by feedback (fERN) and insensitivity to reward magnitude (P3). This ERP pattern (fERN and P3) was associated with impulsivity, hyperactivity, executive function and working memory. Compared to controls, the BD group showed fERN- and P3-enhanced responses to reward magnitude regardless of valence. This ERP pattern (fERN and P3) was associated with mood and inhibitory control. Consistent with the ERP findings, an analysis of source location revealed reduced responses of the cingulate cortex to the valence and magnitude of rewards in patients with ADHD and BD.
Our data suggest that neurophysiological (ERPs) paradigms such as the RDGT are well suited to assess subclinical decision-making processes in patients with ADHD and BD as well as for linking the cingulate cortex with action monitoring systems.
Deficits in social cognition are an evident clinical feature of the Asperger syndrome (AS). Although many daily life problems of adults with AS are related to social cognition impairments, few studies have conducted comprehensive research in this area. The current study examined multiple domains of social cognition in adults with AS assessing the executive functions (EF) and exploring the intra and inter-individual variability. Fifteen adult's diagnosed with AS and 15 matched healthy controls completed a battery of social cognition tasks. This battery included measures of emotion recognition, theory of mind (ToM), empathy, moral judgment, social norms knowledge, and self-monitoring behavior in social settings. We controlled for the effect of EF and explored the individual variability. The results indicated that adults with AS had a fundamental deficit in several domains of social cognition. We also found high variability in the social cognition tasks. In these tasks, AS participants obtained mostly subnormal performance. EF did not seem to play a major role in the social cognition impairments. Our results suggest that adults with AS present a pattern of social cognition deficits characterized by the decreased ability to implicitly encode and integrate contextual information in order to access to the social meaning. Nevertheless, when social information is explicitly presented or the situation can be navigated with abstract rules, performance is improved. Our findings have implications for the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with AS as well as for the neurocognitive models of this syndrome.
Asperger syndrome; contextual social cognition; executive functions; individual variability
Background. A “dysexecutive” group of patients with Alzheimer disease (AD) has been previously identified, and these patients have been found to present higher frequency of psychiatric symptoms and more pronounced functional impact. This study aimed at evaluating the frequency of neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with early AD who present with impaired executive functioning.
Methods. Thirty patients with early AD diagnosis were divided into a spared (SEF) and an impaired (IEF) executive functioning group according to their performance scores on neuropsychological tests. Their closest relatives or caregivers completed the Cambridge behavioral inventory (CBI), which assesses behavioral symptoms grouped into 13 categories. Results. A significant difference was exclusively found between SEF and IEF in terms of the frequency of stereotypies and repetitive motor behavior (U = 60.5, P = .024).
Conclusions. The presence of stereotypies could be associated with a dysexecutive profile in AD patients. These results shed light on the role of frontal circuitry in the expression of motor symptoms in AD and prompt for further research that will contribute to the differential diagnosis both of different subtypes of AD and other types of dementia.
While fluid intelligence has proved to be central to executive functioning, logical reasoning and other frontal functions, the role of this ability in psychosocial adaptation has not been well characterized.
A random-probabilistic sample of 2370 secondary school students completed measures of fluid intelligence (Raven's Progressive Matrices, RPM) and several measures of psychological adaptation: bullying (Delaware Bullying Questionnaire), domestic abuse of adolescents (Conflict Tactic Scale), drug intake (ONUDD), self-esteem (Rosenberg's Self Esteem Scale) and the Perceived Mental Health Scale (Spanish adaptation).
Lower fluid intelligence scores were associated with physical violence, both in the role of victim and victimizer. Drug intake, especially cannabis, cocaine and inhalants and lower self-esteem were also associated with lower fluid intelligence. Finally, scores on the perceived mental health assessment were better when fluid intelligence scores were higher.
Our results show evidence of a strong association between psychosocial adaptation and fluid intelligence, suggesting that the latter is not only central to executive functioning but also forms part of a more general capacity for adaptation to social contexts.
Integration of compatible or incompatible emotional valence and semantic information is an essential aspect of complex social interactions. A modified version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) called Dual Valence Association Task (DVAT) was designed in order to measure conflict resolution processing from compatibility/incompatibly of semantic and facial valence. The DVAT involves two emotional valence evaluative tasks which elicits two forms of emotional compatible/incompatible associations (facial and semantic).
Behavioural measures and Event Related Potentials were recorded while participants performed the DVAT.
Behavioural data showed a robust effect that distinguished compatible/incompatible tasks. The effects of valence and contextual association (between facial and semantic stimuli) showed early discrimination in N170 of faces. The LPP component was modulated by the compatibility of the DVAT.
Results suggest that DVAT is a robust paradigm for studying the emotional interference effect in the processing of simultaneous information from semantic and facial stimuli.
ERP; N170; LPP; IAT; DVAT; interference effects; valence; word; face
The vegetative state (VS) is characterized by the absence of awareness of self or the environment and preserved autonomic functions. The diagnosis relies critically on the lack of consistent signs of purposeful behavior in response to external stimulation. Yet, given that patients with disorders of consciousness often exhibit fragmented movement patterns, voluntary actions may go unnoticed. Here we designed a simple motor paradigm that could potentially detect signs of purposeful behavior in VS patients with mild to severe brain damage by examining the neural correlates of motor preparation in response to verbal commands. Twenty-four patients who met the diagnostic criteria for VS were recruited for this study. Eleven of these patients showing preserved auditory evoked potentials underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to test for basic speech processing. Five of these patients, who showed word related activity, were included in a second fMRI study aimed at detecting functional changes in premotor cortex elicited by specific verbal instructions to move either their left or their right hand. Despite the lack of overt muscle activity, two patients out of five activated the dorsal premotor cortex contralateral to the instructed hand, consistent with movement preparation. Our results may reflect residual voluntary processing in these two patients. We believe that the identification of positive results with fMRI using this simple task, may complement the clinical assessment by helping attain a more precise diagnosis in patients with disorders of consciousness.
consciousness; intention; vegetative state; functional imaging; movement preparation
Behavioral studies have provided evidence for an action–sentence compatibility effect (ACE) that suggests a coupling of motor mechanisms and action-sentence comprehension. When both processes are concurrent, the action sentence primes the actual movement, and simultaneously, the action affects comprehension. The aim of the present study was to investigate brain markers of bidirectional impact of language comprehension and motor processes.
Participants listened to sentences describing an action that involved an open hand, a closed hand, or no manual action. Each participant was asked to press a button to indicate his/her understanding of the sentence. Each participant was assigned a hand-shape, either closed or open, which had to be used to activate the button. There were two groups (depending on the assigned hand-shape) and three categories (compatible, incompatible and neutral) defined according to the compatibility between the response and the sentence. ACEs were found in both groups. Brain markers of semantic processing exhibited an N400-like component around the Cz electrode position. This component distinguishes between compatible and incompatible, with a greater negative deflection for incompatible. Motor response elicited a motor potential (MP) and a re-afferent potential (RAP), which are both enhanced in the compatible condition.
The present findings provide the first ACE cortical measurements of semantic processing and the motor response. N400-like effects suggest that incompatibility with motor processes interferes in sentence comprehension in a semantic fashion. Modulation of motor potentials (MP and RAP) revealed a multimodal semantic facilitation of the motor response. Both results provide neural evidence of an action-sentence bidirectional relationship. Our results suggest that ACE is not an epiphenomenal post-sentence comprehension process. In contrast, motor-language integration occurring during the verb onset supports a genuine and ongoing brain motor-language interaction.
The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is the most popular measure to evaluate implicit attitudes. Nevertheless, its neural correlates are not yet fully understood. We examined event related potentials (ERPs) in response to face- and word processing while indigenous and non-indigenous participants performed an IAT displaying faces (ingroup and outgroup members) and words (positive and negative valence) as targets of category judgments. The N170 component was modulated by valence of words and by ingroup/outgroup face categorization. Contextual effects (face–words implicitly associated in the task) had an influence on the N170 amplitude modulation. On the one hand, in face categorization, right N170 showed differences according to the association between social categories of faces and affective valence of words. On the other, in word categorization, left N170 presented a similar modulation when the task implied a negative-valence associated with ingroup faces. Only indigenous participants showed a significant IAT effect and N170 differences. Our results demonstrate an early ERP blending of stimuli processing with both intergroup and evaluative contexts, suggesting an integration of contextual information related to intergroup attitudes during the early stages of word and face processing. To our knowledge, this is the first report of early ERPs during an ethnicity IAT, opening a new branch of exchange between social neuroscience and social psychology of attitudes.
N170; VPP; dual valence task; attitudes; implicit association test; contextual blending; intergroup context; indigenous participants
Many tests of specific ‘executive functions’ show deficits after frontal lobe lesions. These deficits appear on a background of reduced fluid intelligence, best measured with tests of novel problem solving. For a range of specific executive tests, we ask how far frontal deficits can be explained by a general fluid intelligence loss. For some widely used tests, e.g. Wisconsin Card Sorting, we find that fluid intelligence entirely explains frontal deficits. When patients and controls are matched on fluid intelligence, no further frontal deficit remains. For these tasks too, deficits are unrelated to lesion location within the frontal lobe. A second group of tasks, including tests of both cognitive (e.g. Hotel, Proverbs) and social (Faux Pas) function, shows a different pattern. Deficits are not fully explained by fluid intelligence and the data suggest association with lesions in the right anterior frontal cortex. Understanding of frontal lobe deficits may be clarified by separating reduced fluid intelligence, important in most or all tasks, from other more specific impairments and their associated regions of damage.
executive function; fluid intelligence; frontal lobe
Several event related potential (ERP) studies have investigated the time course of different aspects of evaluative processing in social bias research. Various reports suggest that the late positive potential (LPP) is modulated by basic evaluative processes, and some reports suggest that in-/outgroup relative position affects ERP responses. In order to study possible LPP blending between facial race processing and semantic valence (positive or negative words), we recorded ERPs while indigenous and non-indigenous participants who were matched by age and gender performed an implicit association test (IAT). The task involved categorizing faces (ingroup and outgroup) and words (positive and negative). Since our paradigm implies an evaluative task with positive and negative valence association, a frontal distribution of LPPs similar to that found in previous reports was expected. At the same time, we predicted that LPP valence lateralization would be modulated not only by positive/negative associations but also by particular combinations of valence, face stimuli and participant relative position.
Results showed that, during an IAT, indigenous participants with greater behavioral ingroup bias displayed a frontal LPP that was modulated in terms of complex contextual associations involving ethnic group and valence. The LPP was lateralized to the right for negative valence stimuli and to the left for positive valence stimuli. This valence lateralization was influenced by the combination of valence and membership type relevant to compatibility with prejudice toward a minority. Behavioral data from the IAT and an explicit attitudes questionnaire were used to clarify this finding and showed that ingroup bias plays an important role. Both ingroup favoritism and indigenous/non-indigenous differences were consistently present in the data.
Our results suggest that frontal LPP is elicited by contextual blending of evaluative judgments of in-/outgroup information and positive vs. negative valence association and confirm recent research relating in-/outgroup ERP modulation and frontal LPP. LPP modulation may cohere with implicit measures of attitudes. The convergence of measures that were observed supports the idea that racial and valence evaluations are strongly influenced by context. This result adds to a growing set of evidence concerning contextual sensitivity of different measures of prejudice.