Musical emotion can be conveyed by subtle variations in timbre. Here, we investigated whether the brain is capable to discriminate tones differing in emotional expression by recording event-related potentials (ERPs) in an oddball paradigm under preattentive listening conditions. First, using multidimensional Fechnerian scaling, pairs of violin tones played with a happy or sad intonation were rated same or different by a group of non-musicians. Three happy and three sad tones were selected for the ERP experiment. The Fechnerian distances between tones within an emotion were in the same range as the distances between tones of different emotions. In two conditions, either 3 happy and 1 sad or 3 sad and 1 happy tone were presented in pseudo-random order. A mismatch negativity for the emotional deviant was observed, indicating that in spite of considerable perceptual differences between the three equiprobable tones of the standard emotion, a template was formed based on timbral cues against which the emotional deviant was compared. Based on Juslin's assumption of redundant code usage, we propose that tones were grouped together, because they were identified as belonging to one emotional category based on different emotion-specific cues. These results indicate that the brain forms an emotional memory trace at a preattentive level and thus, extends previous investigations in which emotional deviance was confounded with physical dissimilarity. Differences between sad and happy tones were observed which might be due to the fact that the happy emotion is mostly communicated by suprasegmental features.
preattentive processing; musical emotion; timbre; event-related potential; mismatch negativity; multidimensional scaling
Producing sounds by a musical instrument can lead to audiomotor coupling, i.e. the joint activation of the auditory and motor system, even when only one modality is probed. The sonification of otherwise mute movements by sounds based on kinematic parameters of the movement has been shown to improve motor performance and perception of movements.
Here we demonstrate in a group of healthy young non-athletes that congruently (sounds match visual movement kinematics) vs. incongruently (no match) sonified breaststroke movements of a human avatar lead to better perceptual judgement of small differences in movement velocity. Moreover, functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed enhanced activity in superior and medial posterior temporal regions including the superior temporal sulcus, known as an important multisensory integration site, as well as the insula bilaterally and the precentral gyrus on the right side. Functional connectivity analysis revealed pronounced connectivity of the STS with the basal ganglia and thalamus as well as frontal motor regions for the congruent stimuli. This was not seen to the same extent for the incongruent stimuli.
We conclude that sonification of movements amplifies the activity of the human action observation system including subcortical structures of the motor loop. Sonification may thus be an important method to enhance training and therapy effects in sports science and neurological rehabilitation.
Errorless learning has advantages over errorful learning. The erroneous items produced during errorful learning compete with correct items at retrieval resulting in decreased memory performance. This interference is associated with an increased demand on executive monitoring processes. Event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to contrast errorless and errorful learning. Learning mode was manipulated by the number of distractors during learning of face-name associations: in errorless learning only the correct name was introduced. During errorful learning either one incorrect name or two incorrect names were additionally introduced in order to modulate the interference in recognition.
The behavioural results showed an enhanced memory performance after errorless learning. The veridicality of recognition of the face-name associations was reflected in a left lateralized fronto-temporal-parietal network. The different learning modes were associated with modulations in left prefrontal and parietal regions.
Errorless learning enhances memory performance as compared to errorful learning and underpins the known advantages for errorless learning. During memory retrieval different networks are engaged for specific purposes: Recognition of face-name associations engaged a lateralized fronto-temporal-parietal network and executive monitoring processes of memory engaged the left prefrontal and parietal regions.
Errorless; Errorful; Executive control; Face-name associations; Recognition; Parietal; Prefrontal
Playing a musical instrument demands the engagement of different neural systems. Recent studies about the musician's brain and musical training highlight that this activity requires the close interaction between motor and somatosensory systems. Moreover, neuroplastic changes have been reported in motor-related areas after short and long-term musical training. Because of its capacity to promote neuroplastic changes, music has been used in the context of stroke neurorehabilitation. The majority of patients suffering from a stroke have motor impairments, preventing them to live independently. Thus, there is an increasing demand for effective restorative interventions for neurological deficits. Music-supported Therapy (MST) has been recently developed to restore motor deficits. We report data of a selected sample of stroke patients who have been enrolled in a MST program (1 month intense music learning). Prior to and after the therapy, patients were evaluated with different behavioral motor tests. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) was applied to evaluate changes in the sensorimotor representations underlying the motor gains observed. Several parameters of excitability of the motor cortex were assessed as well as the cortical somatotopic representation of a muscle in the affected hand. Our results revealed that participants obtained significant motor improvements in the paretic hand and those changes were accompanied by changes in the excitability of the motor cortex. Thus, MST leads to neuroplastic changes in the motor cortex of stroke patients which may explain its efficacy.
stroke; music-supported therapy; music; plasticity; transcranial magnetic stimulation
The present study examines the influence of induced affective state on performance monitoring. The electroencephalogram was recorded while human participants engaged in a speeded choice-reaction time task commonly used to examine performance monitoring processes. Prior to the experiment, participants were randomly allocated to receive either encouraging or derogatory feedback during task execution. Feedback was based on each participant's reaction times. Affective state was assessed prior and after the experiment with a state questionnaire. Although participants of both feedback groups loaded high on items describing tiredness in the state questionnaire, only those with derogatory feedback loaded higher on negative state items and lower on positive state items after completion of the experiment. The error-related negativity (ERN) as an index of performance monitoring was increased after derogatory feedback; this difference was not seen at the beginning of the experiment. Negative state correlated significantly with ERN amplitude. The error positivity, a later component following errors, did not differ between feedback groups. This study provides further evidence that changes in affective state influence how we monitor ongoing behavior.
event-related brain potentials (ERPs); error-related negativity (ERN); error positivity (Pe); performance monitoring; emotion; feedback
Research on infarct detection by noncontrast cranial computed tomography (CCT) in patients with transient ischemic attack (TIA) is sparse. However, the aims of this study are to determine the frequency of new infarcts in patients with TIA, to evaluate the independent predictors of infarct detection, and to investigate the association between a new infarct and early short-term risk of stroke during hospitalization. We prospectively evaluated 1533 consecutive patients (mean age, 75.3 ± 11 years; 54% female; mean National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale [NIHSS] score, 1.7 ± 2.9) with TIA who were admitted to hospital within 48 h of symptom onset. A new infarct was detected by CCT in 47 (3.1%) of the 1533 patients. During hospitalization, 17 patients suffered a stroke. Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed the following independent predictors for infarct detection: NIHSS score ≥10 (odds ratio [OR], 4.8), time to CCT assessment >6 h (OR 2.2), and diabetes (OR 2.3). The evidence of a new infarct was not associated with the risk of stroke after TIA. The frequency of a new infarct in patients with TIA using CCT is low. The use of the CCT tool to predict the stroke risk during hospitalization in patients with TIA is found to be inappropriate. The estimated clinical predictors are easy to use and may help clinicians in the TIA work up.
CCT; epidemiology; infarct; prognosis; stroke; TIA
Bilingual speakers are faced with the problem to keep their languages apart, but do so with interindividually varying success. Cognitive control abilities might be an important factor to explain such interindividual differences. Here we compare two late, balanced and highly proficient bilingual groups (mean age 24 years, L1 Russian, L2 German) which were established according to their language control abilities on a bilingual picture-naming task. One group had difficulties to remain in the instructed target language and switched unintentionally to the non-target language (“switchers”), whereas the other group rarely switched unintentionally (“non-switchers”). This group-specific behavior could not be explained by language background, socio-cultural, or demographic variables. Rather, the non-switchers also demonstrated a faster and better performance on four cognitive control tests (Tower of Hanoi, Ruff Figural Fluency Test, Divided Attention, Go/Nogo). Here, we focus on two additional executive function tasks, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) and the Flanker task requiring conflict monitoring and conflict resolution. Non-switchers outperformed switchers with regard to speed and accuracy, and were better at finding and applying the correct rules in the WCST. Similarly, in the Flanker task non-switchers performed faster and better on conflict trials and had a higher correction rate following an error. Event-related potential recordings furthermore revealed a smaller error-related negativity in the non-switchers, taken as evidence for a more efficient self-monitoring system. We conclude that bilingual language performance, in particular switching behavior, is related to performance on cognitive control tasks. Better cognitive control, including conflict monitoring, results in decreased unintentional switching.
Flanker task; ERN; Wisconsin Card Sorting Test; conflict monitoring; inhibition; late bilinguals; cognitive control; executive function
Language switching is omnipresent in bilingual individuals. In fact, the ability to switch languages (code switching) is a very fast, efficient, and flexible process that seems to be a fundamental aspect of bilingual language processing. In this study, we aimed to characterize psychometrically self-perceived individual differences in language switching and to create a reliable measure of this behavioral pattern by introducing a bilingual switching questionnaire. As a working hypothesis based on the previous literature about code switching, we decomposed language switching into four constructs: (i) L1 switching tendencies (the tendency to switch to L1; L1-switch); (ii) L2 switching tendencies (L2-switch); (iii) contextual switch, which indexes the frequency of switches usually triggered by a particular situation, topic, or environment; and (iv) unintended switch, which measures the lack of intention and awareness of the language switches. A total of 582 Spanish–Catalan bilingual university students were studied. Twelve items were selected (three for each construct). The correlation matrix was factor-analyzed using minimum rank factor analysis followed by oblique direct oblimin rotation. The overall proportion of common variance explained by the four extracted factors was 0.86. Finally, to assess the external validity of the individual differences scored with the new questionnaire, we evaluated the correlations between these measures and several psychometric (language proficiency) and behavioral measures related to cognitive and attentional control. The present study highlights the importance of evaluating individual differences in language switching using self-assessment instruments when studying the interface between cognitive control and bilingualism.
bilingualism; natural language switching; cognitive control; psychometric
In natural communication speech perception is profoundly influenced by observable mouth movements. The additional visual information can greatly facilitate intelligibility but incongruent visual information may also lead to novel percepts that neither match the auditory nor the visual information as evidenced by the McGurk effect. Recent models of audiovisual (AV) speech perception accentuate the role of speech motor areas and the integrative brain sites in the vicinity of the superior temporal sulcus (STS) for speech perception. In this event-related 7 Tesla fMRI study we used three naturally spoken syllable pairs with matching AV information and one syllable pair designed to elicit the McGurk illusion. The data analysis focused on brain sites involved in processing and fusing of AV speech and engaged in the analysis of auditory and visual differences within AV presented speech. Successful fusion of AV speech is related to activity within the STS of both hemispheres. Our data supports and extends the audio-visual-motor model of speech perception by dissociating areas involved in perceptual fusion from areas more generally related to the processing of AV incongruence.
audio-visual integration; McGurk illusion; 7 Tesla; functional magnetic resonance imaging
Reactive aggression after interpersonal provocation is a common behavior in humans. Little is known, however, about brain regions and neurotransmitters critical for the decision-making and affective processes involved in aggressive interactions. With the present fMRI study, we wanted to examine the role of serotonin in reactive aggression by means of an acute tryptophan depletion (ATD). Participants performed in a competitive reaction time task (Taylor Aggression Paradigm, TAP) which entitled the winner to punish the loser. The TAP seeks to elicit aggression by provocation. The study followed a double-blind between-subject design including only male participants. Behavioral data showed an aggression diminishing effect of ATD in low trait-aggressive participants, whereas no ATD effect was detected in high trait-aggressive participants. ATD also led to reduced insula activity during the decision phase, independently of the level of provocation. Whereas previous reports have suggested an inverse relationship between serotonin level and aggressive behavior with low levels of serotonin leading to higher aggression and vice versa, such a simple relationship is inconsistent with the current data.
Errorless learning is advantageous over trial and error learning (errorful learning) as errors are avoided during learning resulting in increased memory performance. Errorful learning challenges the executive control system of memory processes as the erroneous items compete with the correct items during retrieval. The left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is a core region involved in this executive control system. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can modify the excitability of underlying brain functioning.
In a single blinded tDCS study one group of young healthy participants received anodal and another group cathodal tDCS of the left DLPFC each compared to sham stimulation. Participants had to learn words in an errorless and an errorful manner using a word stem completion paradigm. The results showed that errorless compared to errorful learning had a profound effect on the memory performance in terms of quality. Anodal stimulation of the left DLPFC did not modulate the memory performance following errorless or errorful learning. By contrast, cathodal stimulation hampered memory performance after errorful learning compared to sham, whereas there was no modulation after errorless learning.
Concluding, the study further supports the advantages of errorless learning over errorful learning. Moreover, cathodal stimulation of the left DLPFC hampered memory performance following the conflict-inducing errorful learning as compared to no modulation after errorless learning emphasizing the importance of the left DLPFC in executive control of memory.
In order to further understand the mechanisms involved in planning an aggressive act, we conducted an event-related potential (ERP) study of young men with and without a history of violence. Participants completed a competitive reaction time task (based on the Taylor aggression paradigm) against a virtual opponent. In "passive" blocks, participants were punished by the opponent when losing the trial but could not punish, when winning, whereas in "active" blocks, participants were able to punish the opponent when winning, but were not punished when losing. Participants selected punishment strength in a decision phase prior to each reaction time task and were informed whether they had won or lost in the outcome phase. Additionally, a flanker task was conducted to assess basic performance monitoring. Violent participants selected stronger punishments, especially in "active" blocks. During the decision phase, a frontal P200 was more pronounced for violent participants, whereas non-violent participants showed an enhanced frontal negativity around 300 ms. The P200 might reflect the decision to approach the opponent at a very early state, the latter negativity could reflect inhibition processes, leading to a more considerate reaction in non-violent participants. During the outcome phase, a Feedback-Related Negativity was seen in both groups. This effect was most pronounced when losing entailed a subsequent inability to retaliate. The groups did not differ in the flanker task, indicating intact basic performance monitoring. Our data suggest that the planning of an aggressive act is associated with distinct brain activity and that such activity is differentially represented in violent and non-violent individuals.
An extensive literature suggests a link between executive functions and aggressive behavior in humans, pointing mostly to an inverse relationship, i.e., increased tendencies toward aggression in individuals scoring low on executive function tests. This literature is limited, though, in terms of the groups studied and the measures of executive functions. In this paper, we present data from two studies addressing these issues. In a first behavioral study, we asked whether high trait aggressiveness is related to reduced executive functions. A sample of over 600 students performed in an extensive behavioral test battery including paradigms addressing executive functions such as the Eriksen Flanker task, Stroop task, n-back task, and Tower of London (TOL). High trait aggressive participants were found to have a significantly reduced latency score in the TOL, indicating more impulsive behavior compared to low trait aggressive participants. No other differences were detected. In an EEG-study, we assessed neural and behavioral correlates of error monitoring and response inhibition in participants who were characterized based on their laboratory-induced aggressive behavior in a competitive reaction time task. Participants who retaliated more in the aggression paradigm and had reduced frontal activity when being provoked did not, however, show any reduction in behavioral or neural correlates of executive control compared to the less aggressive participants. Our results question a strong relationship between aggression and executive functions at least for healthy, high-functioning people.
reactive aggression; executive functions; Eriksen Flanker task; stop-signal task; Taylor aggression paradigm; Tower of London
Pronouns are bound to their antecedents by matching syntactic and semantic information. The aim of this functional magnetic resonance imaging study was to localize syntactic and semantic information retrieval and integration during pronoun resolution. Especially we investigated their possible interaction with verbal working memory manipulated by distance between antecedent and pronoun. We disentangled biological and syntactic gender information using German sentences about persons (biological/syntactic gender) or things (syntactic gender) followed by congruent or incongruent pronouns. Increasing the distance between pronoun and antecedent resulted in a short and a long distance condition. Analysis revealed a language related network including inferior frontal regions bilaterally (integration), left anterior and posterior temporal regions (lexico-semantics and syntactic retrieval) and the anterior cingulate gyrus (conflict resolution) involved in pronoun resolution. Activities within the inferior frontal region were driven by Congruency (incongruent > congruent) and Distance (long > short). Temporal regions were sensitive to Distance and Congruency (but solely within long distant conditions). Furthermore, anterior temporal regions were sensitive to the antecedent type with an increased activity for person pronouns compared to thing pronouns. We suggest that activity modulations within these areas reflect the integration process of an appropriate antecedent which depends on the type of information that has to be retrieved (lexico-syntactic posterior temporal, lexico-semantics anterior temporal). It also depends on the overall syntactic and semantic complexity of long distant sentences. The results are interpreted in the context of the memory–unification-control model for sentence comprehension as proposed by Vosse and Kempen (2000), Hagoort (2005), and Snijders et al. (2009).
language; pronoun; syntax; semantics; memory; unification; MUC; fMRI
In the search for neurobiological correlates of depression, a major finding is hyperactivity in limbic-paralimbic regions. However, results so far have been inconsistent, and the stimuli used are often unspecific to depression. This study explored hemodynamic responses of the brain in patients with depression while processing individualized and clinically derived stimuli.
Eighteen unmedicated patients with recurrent major depressive disorder and 17 never-depressed control subjects took part in standardized clinical interviews from which individualized formulations of core interpersonal dysfunction were derived. In the patient group such formulations reflected core themes relating to the onset and maintenance of depression. In controls, formulations reflected a major source of distress. This material was thereafter presented to subjects during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) assessment.
Increased hemodynamic responses in the anterior cingulate cortex, medial frontal gyrus, fusiform gyrus and occipital lobe were observed in both patients and controls when viewing individualized stimuli. Relative to control subjects, patients with depression showed increased hemodynamic responses in limbic-paralimbic and subcortical regions (e.g. amygdala and basal ganglia) but no signal decrease in prefrontal regions.
This study provides the first evidence that individualized stimuli derived from standardized clinical interviewing can lead to hemodynamic responses in regions associated with self-referential and emotional processing in both groups and limbic-paralimbic and subcortical structures in individuals with depression. Although the regions with increased responses in patients have been previously reported, this study enhances the ecological value of fMRI findings by applying stimuli that are of personal relevance to each individual's depression.
The A-kinase-anchoring protein 5 (AKAP5), a post-synaptic multi-adaptor molecule that binds G-protein-coupled receptors and intracellular signaling molecules has been implicated in emotional processing in rodents, but its role in human emotion and behavior is up to now still not quite clear. Here, we report an association of individual differences in aggressive behavior and anger expression with a functional genetic polymorphism (Pro100Leu) in the human AKAP5 gene. Among a cohort of 527 young, healthy individuals, carriers of the less common Leu allele (15.6% allele frequency) scored significantly lower in the physical aggression domain of the Buss and Perry Aggression Questionnaire and higher in the anger control dimension of the state-trait anger expression inventory. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment we could further demonstrate that AKAP5 Pro100Leu modulates the interaction of negative emotional processing and executive functions. In order to investigate implicit processes of anger control, we used the well-known flanker task to evoke processes of action monitoring and error processing and added task-irrelevant neutral or angry faces in the background of the flanker stimuli. In line with our predictions, Leu carriers showed increased activation of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) during emotional interference, which in turn predicted shorter reaction times and might be related to stronger control of emotional interference. Conversely, Pro homozygotes exhibited increased orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) activation during emotional interference, with no behavioral advantage. Immunohistochemistry revealed AKAP5 expression in post mortem human ACC and OFC. Our results suggest that AKAP5 Pro100Leu contributes to individual differences in human aggression and anger control. Further research is warranted to explore the detailed role of AKAP5 and its gene product in human emotion processing.
AKAP5; genetic; aggression; anger; fMRI
Actions of others may have immediate consequences for oneself. We probed the neural responses associated with the observation of another person's action using event-related potentials in a modified gambling task. In this task a "performer" bet either a higher or lower number and could win or lose this amount. Three different groups of "observers" were also studied. The first (neutral) group simply observed the performer's action, which had no consequences for the observers. In the second (parallel) group, wins/losses of the performer were paralleled by similar wins and losses by the observer. In the third (reverse) group, wins of the performer led to a loss of the observer and vice versa.
ERPs of the performers showed a mediofrontal feedback related negativity (FRN) to losses. The neutral and parallel observer groups did similarly show an FRN response to the performer's losses with a topography indistinguishable from that seen in the performers. In the reverse group, however, the FRN occurred for wins of the performer which translated to losses for the observer.
Taking into account previous experiments, we suggest that the FRN response in observers is driven by two evaluative processes (a) related to the benefit/loss for oneself and (b) related to the benefit/loss of another person.
Recent research based on comparisons between bilinguals and monolinguals postulates that bilingualism enhances cognitive control functions, because the parallel activation of languages necessitates control of interference. In a novel approach we investigated two groups of bilinguals, distinguished by their susceptibility to cross-language interference, asking whether bilinguals with strong language control abilities ("non-switchers") have an advantage in executive functions (inhibition of irrelevant information, problem solving, planning efficiency, generative fluency and self-monitoring) compared to those bilinguals showing weaker language control abilities ("switchers").
29 late bilinguals (21 women) were evaluated using various cognitive control neuropsychological tests [e.g., Tower of Hanoi, Ruff Figural Fluency Task, Divided Attention, Go/noGo] tapping executive functions as well as four subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. The analysis involved t-tests (two independent samples). Non-switchers (n = 16) were distinguished from switchers (n = 13) by their performance observed in a bilingual picture-naming task.
The non-switcher group demonstrated a better performance on the Tower of Hanoi and Ruff Figural Fluency task, faster reaction time in a Go/noGo and Divided Attention task, and produced significantly fewer errors in the Tower of Hanoi, Go/noGo, and Divided Attention tasks when compared to the switchers. Non-switchers performed significantly better on two verbal subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (Information and Similarity), but not on the Performance subtests (Picture Completion, Block Design).
The present results suggest that bilinguals with stronger language control have indeed a cognitive advantage in the administered tests involving executive functions, in particular inhibition, self-monitoring, problem solving, and generative fluency, and in two of the intelligence tests. What remains unclear is the direction of the relationship between executive functions and language control abilities.
An assortment of human behaviors is thought to be driven by rewards including reinforcement learning, novelty processing, learning, decision making, economic choice, incentive motivation, and addiction. In each case the ventral tegmental area/ventral striatum (nucleus accumbens) (VTA–VS) system has been implicated as a key structure by functional imaging studies, mostly on the basis of standard, univariate analyses. Here we propose that standard functional magnetic resonance imaging analysis needs to be complemented by methods that take into account the differential connectivity of the VTA–VS system in the different behavioral contexts in order to describe reward based processes more appropriately. We first consider the wider network for reward processing as it emerged from animal experimentation. Subsequently, an example for a method to assess functional connectivity is given. Finally, we illustrate the usefulness of such analyses by examples regarding reward valuation, reward expectation and the role of reward in addiction.
reward; connectivity; learning; addiction; functional magnetic resonance imaging
The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is thought to be overacting in patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) reflecting an enhanced action monitoring system. However, influences of conflict and error-likelihood have not been explored. Here, the error-related negativity (ERN) originating in ACC served as a measure of conflict and error-likelihood during memory recognition following different learning modes. Errorless learning prevents the generation of false memory candidates and has been shown to be superior to trial-and-error-learning. The latter, errorful learning, introduces false memory candidates which interfere with correct information in later recognition leading to enhanced conflict processing.
Sixteen OCD patients according to DSM-IV criteria and 16 closely matched healthy controls participated voluntarily in the event-related potential study. Both, OCD- and control group showed enhanced memory performance following errorless compared to errorful learning. Nevertheless, response-locked data showed clear modulations of the ERN amplitude. OCD patients compared to controls showed an increased error-likelihood effect after errorless learning. However, with increased conflict after errorful learning, OCD patients showed a reduced error-likelihood effect in contrast to controls who showed an increase.
The increase of the errorlikelihood effect for OCD patients within low conflict situations (recognition after errorless learning) might be conceptualized as a hyperactive monitoring system. However, within high conflict situations (recognition after EF-learning) the opposite effect was observed: whereas the control group showed an increased error-likelihood effect, the OCD group showed a reduction of the error-likelihood effect based on altered ACC learning rates in response to errors. These findings support theoretical frameworks explaining differences in ACC activity on the basis of conflict and perceived error-likelihood as influenced by individual error learning rate.
Recent research on the “embodiment of emotion” implies that experiencing an emotion may involve perceptual, somatovisceral, and motor feedback aspects. For example, manipulations of facial expression and posture appear to induce emotional states and influence how affective information is processed. The present study investigates whether performance monitoring, a cognitive process known to be under heavy control of the dopaminergic system, is modulated by induced facial expressions. In particular, we focused on the error-related negativity, an electrophysiological correlate of performance monitoring.
During a choice reaction task, participants held a Chinese chop stick either horizontally between the teeth (“smile” condition) or, in different runs, vertically (“no smile”) with the upper lip. In a third control condition, no chop stick was used (“no stick”). It could be shown on a separate sample that the facial feedback procedure is feasible to induce mild changes in positive affect. In the ERP sample, the smile condition, hypothesized to lead to an increase in dopaminergic activity, was associated with a decrease of ERN amplitude relative to “no smile” and “no stick” conditions.
Embodying emotions by induced facial expressions leads to a changes in the neural correlates of error detection. We suggest that this is due to the joint influence of the dopaminergic system on positive affect and performance monitoring.
The voice is a marker of a person's identity which allows individual recognition even if the person is not in sight. Listening to a voice also affords inferences about the speaker's emotional state. Both these types of personal information are encoded in characteristic acoustic feature patterns analyzed within the auditory cortex. In the present study 16 volunteers listened to pairs of non-verbal voice stimuli with happy or sad valence in two different task conditions while event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded. In an emotion matching task, participants indicated whether the expressed emotion of a target voice was congruent or incongruent with that of a (preceding) prime voice. In an identity matching task, participants indicated whether or not the prime and target voice belonged to the same person. Effects based on emotion expressed occurred earlier than those based on voice identity. Specifically, P2 (~200 ms)-amplitudes were reduced for happy voices when primed by happy voices. Identity match effects, by contrast, did not start until around 300 ms. These results show an early task-specific emotion-based influence on the early stages of auditory sensory processing.
Emotion; Identity; Voice; Prosody; Timbre; Auditory perception; Event-related potentials (ERP)
In this issue of Neuron, Wahl et al. demonstrate via invasive recordings from Deep Brain Stimulation leads that the thalamus (but not basal ganglia) is sensitive to certain linguistic violations, consistent with a subcortical role in selective recruitment of language-related cortical areas.
Although the concept of utility is fundamental to many economic theories, up to now a generally accepted method determining a subject's utility function is not available. We investigated two methods that are used in economic sciences for describing utility functions by using response-locked event-related potentials in order to assess their neural underpinnings. For determining the certainty equivalent, we used a lottery game with probabilities to win p = 0.5, for identifying the subjects’ utility functions directly a standard bisection task was applied. Although the lottery tasks’ payoffs were only hypothetical, a pronounced negativity was observed resembling the error related negativity (ERN) previously described in action monitoring research, but this occurred only for choices far away from the indifference point between money and lottery. By contrast, the bisection task failed to evoke an remarkable ERN irrespective of the responses’ correctness. Based on these findings we are reasoning that only decisions made in the lottery task achieved a level of subjective relevance that activates cognitive-emotional monitoring. In terms of economic sciences, our findings support the view that the bisection method is unaffected by any kind of probability valuation or other parameters related to risk and in combination with the lottery task can, therefore, be used to differentiate between payoff and probability valuation.
utility function; neuroeconomics; error-related negativity; executive functions; cognitive electrophysiology; lottery; bisection
Aggressive behavior is a common reaction in humans after an interpersonal provocation, but little is known about the underlying brain mechanisms. The present study analyzed oscillatory brain activity while participants were involved in an aggressive interaction to examine the neural processes subserving the associated decision and evaluation processes. Participants were selected from a larger sample because of their high scores in trait aggressiveness. We used a competitive reaction time task that induces aggressive behavior through provocation. Each trial is separated in a decision phase, during which the punishment for the opponent is set, and an outcome phase, during which the actual punishment is applied or received. We observed provocation-related differences during the decision phase in the theta band which differed depending on participants’ aggressive behavior: high provocation was associated with an increased frontal theta response in participants refraining from retaliation, but with reduced theta power in those who got back to the opponent. Moreover, more aggressive decisions after being punished were associated with a decrease of frontal theta power. Non-aggressive and aggressive participants differed also in their outcome-related response: being punished led to an increased frontal theta power compared to win trials in the latter only, pointing to differences in evaluation processes associated with their different behavioral reactions. The data thus support previous evidence for a role of prefrontal areas in the control of reactive aggression and extend behavioral studies on associations between aggression or violence and impaired prefrontal functions.
reactive aggression; electroencephalography; wavelet analysis; theta; beta