Subjective rating of emotionally salient stimuli modulates neural activity
ABSTRACT Studies using emotionally salient stimuli have demonstrated neural activation in limbic and paralimbic brain regions. In some studies, subjects passively perceive evocative stimuli, while in other studies, they perform specific cognitive tasks. Evidence is emerging that even a simple cognitive task performed on emotionally salient stimuli can affect neural activation in emotion-associated brain regions. We tested the hypothesis that rating the subjective experience of an aversive visual stimulus would decrease limbic/paralimbic activation and increase activity in medial frontal regions. Ten healthy subjects underwent (15)O PET scans while they viewed pictures of aversive (AV) and nonaversive (NA) content, taken from the International Affective Picture System. Subjects appraised pictures on a scale of pleasantness/unpleasantness during one set of scans (RTNG), and they passively viewed pictures during another set (PSVW). After each scan, emotional responses were assessed. RTNG was associated with significantly less intensity of sadness and significantly less activation (AV - NA) of the right insula/amygdala and left insula, relative to PSVW. RTNG also activated the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate sulcus, which were not differentially activated during PSVW. For both RTNG and PSVW, subjects activated the left fusiform gyrus. The results support the proposition that task instructions about how subjects should process evocative stimuli can affect neural activity.
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ABSTRACT: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is thought to be characterized by general heightened amygdala activation. However, this hypothesis is mainly based on specific studies presenting fear or trauma-related stimuli, hence, a thorough investigation of trauma-unrelated emotional processing in PTSD is needed.Psychological Medicine 07/2014; DOI:10.1017/S0033291714001706 · 5.43 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Processing the emotional content of faces is recognised as a key deficit of schizophrenia, associated with poorer functional outcomes and possibly contributing to the severity of clinical symptoms such as paranoia. At the neural level, fMRI studies have reported altered limbic activity in response to facial stimuli. However, previous studies may be limited by the use of cognitively demanding tasks and static facial stimuli. To address these issues, the current study used a face processing task involving both passive face viewing and dynamic social stimuli. Such a task may (1) lack the potentially confounding effects of high cognitive demands and (2) show higher ecological validity.Schizophrenia Research 05/2014; 157(1-3). DOI:10.1016/j.schres.2014.05.023 · 4.43 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The choice of a meaningful baseline condition is a crucial issue for each experimental design. In the case of cognitive emotion regulation, it is common to either let participants passively view emotional stimuli without any further specific instructions or to instruct them to actively attend to and permit any arising emotions, and to contrast one of these baseline conditions with a regulation condition. While the "view" strategy can be assumed to allow for a more spontaneous emotional response, the "permit" strategy may result in a more pronounced affective and cognitive response. As these conceptual differences may be associated with differences both in subjective emotional experience and neural activation, we compared these two common control conditions within a single functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment, during which participants were instructed to either passively view a set of unpleasant and neutral pictures or to actively permit any emotions arising in response to the unpleasant pictures. Trial-by-trial ratings confirmed that participants perceived the unpleasant pictures as more arousing than the neutral pictures, but also indicated higher subjective arousal during the "permit negative" as compared to the "view negative" and "view neutral" conditions. While both the "permit negative" and "view negative" conditions led to increased activation of the bilateral amygdala when contrasted with the passive viewing of neutral pictures, activation in the left amygdala was increased in response to the "permit" instruction as compared to the "view" instruction for unpleasant pictures. The increase in amygdala activation in both the "permit" and "view" conditions renders both strategies as suitable baseline conditions for studies of cognitive emotion regulation. Conceptual and activation differences, however, indicate that these two variants are not exchangeable and should be chosen depending on the experimental context.Frontiers in Psychology 04/2014; 5:347. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00347 · 2.80 Impact Factor