States of mind: Emotions, body feelings, and thoughts share distributed neural networks

Northeastern University, Department of Psychology, Boston, MA 02115-5000, USA.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.36). 06/2012; 62(3):2110-28. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.05.079
Source: PubMed


Scientists have traditionally assumed that different kinds of mental states (e.g., fear, disgust, love, memory, planning, concentration, etc.) correspond to different psychological faculties that have domain-specific correlates in the brain. Yet, growing evidence points to the constructionist hypothesis that mental states emerge from the combination of domain-general psychological processes that map to large-scale distributed brain networks. In this paper, we report a novel study testing a constructionist model of the mind in which participants generated three kinds of mental states (emotions, body feelings, or thoughts) while we measured activity within large-scale distributed brain networks using fMRI. We examined the similarity and differences in the pattern of network activity across these three classes of mental states. Consistent with a constructionist hypothesis, a combination of large-scale distributed networks contributed to emotions, thoughts, and body feelings, although these mental states differed in the relative contribution of those networks. Implications for a constructionist functional architecture of diverse mental states are discussed.

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Available from: Kristen A Lindquist
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    • "Importantly, the CAT predicts that the aforementioned elements are domain-general elements of the mind and are not specific to the category of mental states called " emotions " (Barrett, 2009; Lindquist and Barrett, 2012; Barrett and Satpute, 2013; Lindquist, 2013). In essence, the CAT does not see " emotions " as states that are fundamentally distinct from " cognitions " or " perceptions " (cf., Barrett, 2009; Lindquist, 2013; e.g., Oosterwijk et al., 2012); all are constructed from the same basic elements and are nominal kind categories that exist because members of a culture agree that they share certain features (e.g., in English, " emotions " are typically thought to involve relatively greater involvement of the body than " thoughts, " even if body states are in fact constitutive of both kinds of mental states; e.g., Oosterwijk et al., 2012). The agreement between members of a culture imbues emotions with social reality—they are real even if the specific categories (e.g., anger, disgust, fear, sadness, schadenfreude, pride, excitement, awe, etc.) are not inborn categories given by the structure of the nervous system (cf., Barrett, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Common sense suggests that emotions are physical types that have little to do with the words we use to label them. Yet recent psychological constructionist accounts reveal that language is a fundamental element in emotion that is constitutive of both emotion experiences and perceptions. According to the psychological constructionist Conceptual Act Theory, an instance of emotion occurs when information from one’s body or other people’s bodies is made meaningful in light of the present situation using concept knowledge about emotion. The CAT suggests that language plays a role in emotion because language supports the conceptual knowledge used to make meaning of sensations from the body and world in a given context. In the present paper, we review evidence from developmental and cognitive science to reveal that language scaffolds concept knowledge in humans, helping humans to acquire abstract concepts such as emotion categories across the lifespan. Critically, language later helps individuals use concepts to make meaning of on-going sensory perceptions. Building on this evidence, we outline predictions from a psychological constructionist model of emotion in which language serves as the “glue” for emotion concept knowledge, binding concepts to embodied experiences and in turn shaping the ongoing processing of sensory information from the body and world to create emotional experiences and perceptions.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Frontiers in Psychology
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    • "The mental state sentences used in this study were taken from an existing set of materials (cf. Oosterwijk et al., 2012). The nonmental state sentences (e.g., " the jungle was full of life " ) were specifically written for the present study (the full list of sentences is available upon request). "
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    ABSTRACT: According to embodied cognition theories, concepts are contextually situated and grounded in neural systems that produce experiential states. This view predicts that processing mental state concepts recruits neural regions associated with different aspects of experience depending on the context in which people understand a concept. This neuroimaging study tested this prediction using a set of sentences that described emotional (e.g., fear, joy) and nonemotional (e.g., thinking, hunger) mental states with internal focus (i.e., focusing on bodily sensations and introspection) or external focus (i.e., focusing on expression and action). Consistent with our predictions, data suggested that the inferior frontal gyrus, a region associated with action representation, was engaged more by external than internal sentences. By contrast, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region associated with the generation of internal states, was engaged more by internal emotion sentences than external sentence categories. Similar patterns emerged when we examined the relationship between neural activity and independent ratings of sentence focus. Furthermore, ratings of emotion were associated with activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, whereas ratings of activity were associated with activation in the inferior frontal gyrus. These results suggest that mental state concepts are represented in a dynamic way, using context-relevant interoceptive and sensorimotor resources.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Social Neuroscience
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    • "Our results show that body feelings impact perception too, which is also consistent with recent findings on the effect of body posture on behavior [20] and the constructionist hypothesis by [66]. In particular, perceived affordances depend on body capabilities that are defined by the geometry (e.g., arm length) and biodynamics (e.g., muscular strength, joint mobility) of relevant parts of the actor's body. "
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    ABSTRACT: Perception, cognition, and emotion do not operate along segregated pathways; rather, their adaptive interaction is supported by various sources of evidence. For instance, the aesthetic appraisal of powerful mood inducers like music can bias the facial expression of emotions towards mood congruency. In four experiments we showed similar mood-congruency effects elicited by the comfort/discomfort of body actions. Using a novel Motor Action Mood Induction Procedure, we let participants perform comfortable/uncomfortable visually-guided reaches and tested them in a facial emotion identification task. Through the alleged mediation of motor action induced mood, action comfort enhanced the quality of the participant's global experience (a neutral face appeared happy and a slightly angry face neutral), while action discomfort made a neutral face appear angry and a slightly happy face neutral. Furthermore, uncomfortable (but not comfortable) reaching improved the sensitivity for the identification of emotional faces and reduced the identification time of facial expressions, as a possible effect of hyper-arousal from an unpleasant bodily experience.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · PLoS ONE
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