Chiew KS, Braver TS. Neural circuitry of emotional and cognitive conflict revealed through facial expressions. PLoS One 6: e17635

Department of Psychology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 03/2011; 6(3):e17635. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017635
Source: PubMed


Neural systems underlying conflict processing have been well studied in the cognitive realm, but the extent to which these overlap with those underlying emotional conflict processing remains unclear. A novel adaptation of the AX Continuous Performance Task (AX-CPT), a stimulus-response incompatibility paradigm, was examined that permits close comparison of emotional and cognitive conflict conditions, through the use of affectively-valenced facial expressions as the response modality.
Brain activity was monitored with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of the emotional AX-CPT. Emotional conflict was manipulated on a trial-by-trial basis, by requiring contextually pre-cued facial expressions to emotional probe stimuli (IAPS images) that were either affectively compatible (low-conflict) or incompatible (high-conflict). The emotion condition was contrasted against a matched cognitive condition that was identical in all respects, except that probe stimuli were emotionally neutral. Components of the brain cognitive control network, including dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), showed conflict-related activation increases in both conditions, but with higher activity during emotion conditions. In contrast, emotion conflict effects were not found in regions associated with affective processing, such as rostral ACC.
These activation patterns provide evidence for a domain-general neural system that is active for both emotional and cognitive conflict processing. In line with previous behavioural evidence, greatest activity in these brain regions occurred when both emotional and cognitive influences additively combined to produce increased interference.

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    • "The anterior cingulate cortex has an evaluative function that monitors for current control demands and allows for appropriate , context-sensitive control adjustments (Botvinick et al., 2004). So far, studies of healthy people have found evidence for activation of both dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex when processing conflicting emotion cues (Haas et al., 2006; Wittfoth et al., 2010; Zaki et al., 2010; Chiew and Braver, 2011; Kanske and Kotz, 2011a, b). "
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    ABSTRACT: Our ability to make sense of emotional cues is of paramount importance for understanding state of mind and communicative intent. However, emotional cues often conflict with each other; this presents a significant challenge for people with schizophrenia. We conducted a theoretical review to determine the extent and types of impaired processing of emotion-related conflict in schizophrenia; we evaluated the relationship with medication and symptoms, and considered possible mediatory mechanisms. The literature established that people with schizophrenia demonstrated impaired function: (i) when passively exposed to emotion cues whilst performing an unrelated task, (ii) when selectively attending to one source of emotion cues whilst trying to ignore interference from another source, and (iii) when trying to resolve conflicting emotion cues and judge meta-communicative intent. These deficits showed associations with both negative and positive symptoms. There was limited evidence for antipsychotic medications attenuating impaired emotion perception when there are conflicting cues, with further direct research needed. Impaired attentional control and context processing may underlie some of the observed impairments. Neuroanatomical correlates are likely to involve interhemispheric transfer via the corpus callosum, limbic regions such as the amygdala, and possibly dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex through their role in conflict processing.
    Psychiatry Research 08/2014; 220(1-2). DOI:10.1016/j.psychres.2014.07.077 · 2.47 Impact Factor
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    • "Results from research on emotion regulation [13] and hysterical conversion disorder [14] point to the role of cortical limbic structures such as medial prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in the unconscious modulation of activity in subcortical structures. The ACC is, among other functions, widely known for its pivotal role in the detection and processing of conflicts, including those involving emotional [15]–[19] and autobiographical material [20], [21]. These studies suggest that automatic regulatory processes rely on different brain structures than voluntary suppression [12], [22]. "
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    ABSTRACT: The psychodynamic theory of repression suggests that experiences which are related to internal conflicts become unconscious. Previous attempts to investigate repression experimentally were based on voluntary, intentional suppression of stimulus material. Unconscious repression of conflict-related material is arguably due to different processes, but has never been studied with neuroimaging methods. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in addition with skin conductance recordings during two free association paradigms to identify the neural mechanisms underlying forgetting of freely associated words according to repression theory. In the first experiment, free association to subsequently forgotten words was accompanied by increases in skin conductance responses (SCRs) and reaction times (RTs), indicating autonomic arousal, and by activation of the anterior cingulate cortex. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that these associations were repressed because they elicited internal conflicts. To test this idea more directly, we conducted a second experiment in which participants freely associated to conflict-related sentences. Indeed, these associations were more likely to be forgotten than associations to not conflict-related sentences and were accompanied by increases in SCRs and RTs. Furthermore, we observed enhanced activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and deactivation of hippocampus and parahippocampal cortex during association to conflict-related sentences. These two experiments demonstrate that high autonomic arousal during free association predicts subsequent memory failure, accompanied by increased activation of conflict-related and deactivation of memory-related brain regions. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that during repression, explicit memory systems are down-regulated by the anterior cingulate cortex.
    PLoS ONE 04/2013; 8(4):e62358. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0062358 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Furthermore, a region in the right vlPFC selectively responded to human conflict vs no-conflict as a function of the quality of social relationship with the co-player and the individual propensity to resource sharing. So far, most of the neuroscience research on conflict monitoring has focused on cognitive/intrapersonal levels of response or processing competition, with strong evidence that a dedicated network encompassing dMFC, dlPFC and insula is crucially implicated in the monitoring of cognitive and affective conflicts (Botvinick et al., 2001; Ochsner et al., 2009; Chiew and Braver, 2011). Our current findings extend this literature by showing that the dMFC is also implicated in the detection of interpersonal conflicts due to competition for common gains, which require a resolution between self-interest and social motives. "
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    ABSTRACT: Little is known about brain mechanisms recruited during the monitoring and appraisal of social conflicts - for instance when individuals compete with each other for the same resources. We designed a novel experimental task inducing resource conflicts between two individuals. In an event-related fMRI design, participants played with another human participant or against a computer, who across trials chose either different (no conflict) or the same tokens (conflict trials) in order to obtain monetary gains. In conflict trials, the participants could decide whether they would share the token, and the resulting gain, with the other person or instead keep all points for themselves. Behaviorally, participants shared much more often when playing with a human partner than with a computer. FMRI results demonstrated that the dorsal mediofrontal cortex was selectively activated during human conflicts. This region might play a key role in detecting situations in which self- and social interest are incompatible and require behavioral adjustment. In addition, we found a conflict-related response in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex that correlated with measures of social relationship and individual sharing behavior. Taken together, these findings reveal a key role of these prefrontal areas for the appraisal and resolution of interpersonal resource conflicts.
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