Article

Lending a Hand Social Regulation of the Neural Response to Threat

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Abstract

Social contact promotes enhanced health and well-being, likely as a function of the social regulation of emotional responding in the face of various life stressors. For this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, 16 married women were subjected to the threat of electric shock while holding their husband's hand, the hand of an anonymous male experimenter, or no hand at all. Results indicated a pervasive attenuation of activation in the neural systems supporting emotional and behavioral threat responses when the women held their husband's hand. A more limited attenuation of activation in these systems occurred when they held the hand of a stranger. Most strikingly, the effects of spousal hand-holding on neural threat responses varied as a function of marital quality, with higher marital quality predicting less threat-related neural activation in the right anterior insula, superior frontal gyrus, and hypothalamus during spousal, but not stranger, hand-holding.

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... When used during the anticipation of electric shock, handholding attenuates response in regions of the salience network (e.g., anterior cingulate cortex, striatum) and cognitive control network (e.g., dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, DLPFC; Coan et al., 2006Coan et al., , 2013. The salience network is implicated in emotion and detecting threats (Menon, 2011). ...
... It is currently unclear how the social regulation attenuates neural response to negative visual stimuli that elicit a broad range of negative emotions, including social stimuli that involve seeing people in distressing situations. Previous studies have focused on handholding during the nonsocial threat of electric shock (Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2013. An advantage of using the threat of electric shock as the negative stimulus is that it primarly elicits a specific emotion-fear. ...
... Social regulation attenuates a greater number of brain regions implicated in emotion and cognitive control when conducted by someone emotionally close to the individual (e.g., a spouse) compared to when it is conducted by a stranger (Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2013. Thus, degree of closeness matters, and it may be related to greater availability to share the load of the threat. ...
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Introduction Emotions typically emerge in interpersonal contexts, but the neural circuitry involved remains insufficiently understood. Two key features of interpersonal contexts are interpersonal interactions (e.g., supportive physical touch serving as a form of social regulation) and interpersonal traits. Social regulation research has predominately focused on fear by using physical threat (i.e., electric shock) as the stimulus. Given that social regulation helps with various negative emotions in the real world, using visual stimuli that elicit negative emotions more broadly would also be beneficial. Differing from trait loneliness—which is related to lower recruitment of social circuitry in negative socioaffective contexts—trait desired emotional closeness is related to adaptive outcomes and may demonstrate an opposite pattern. This study investigated the roles of social regulation and desired emotional closeness in neural response to aversive social images. Methods Ten pairs of typically developing emerging adult friends (N = 20; ages 18–25) completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) handholding task. Each friend viewed negative and neutral social images in the scanner under two conditions: (a) holding their friend's hand and (b) having their friend in the room. Results Handholding attenuated response to aversive social images in a region implicated in emotion and inhibitory control (right dorsal striatum/anterior insula/ventrolateral prefrontal cortex). Desired emotional closeness was positively associated with response to aversive social images (in the no handholding condition) in self and social processing (right ventral posterior cingulate cortex) and somatosensory regions (right postcentral gyrus). Discussion These findings extend previous research on the roles of interpersonal behaviors and tendencies in neural response to aversive stimuli.
... When inadequately processed and stored, salient attachment events can become activated in the dyadic context, causing distortions and blocks (Moses, 2007), which manifest in the negative cycles that are targeted in EFT. The premise that contact with a loving partner can function as a safeguard against the stress and pain from upsetting traumatic memories (Capps et al., 2005;Capps, 2006;Coan et al., 2006;Johnson, 2002Johnson, , 2004Johnson, , 2019Moses, 2007) aligns with the results of this study. Whereas trauma physiologically dysregulates, secure bonds physiologically regulate (Coan et al., 2006). ...
... The premise that contact with a loving partner can function as a safeguard against the stress and pain from upsetting traumatic memories (Capps et al., 2005;Capps, 2006;Coan et al., 2006;Johnson, 2002Johnson, , 2004Johnson, , 2019Moses, 2007) aligns with the results of this study. Whereas trauma physiologically dysregulates, secure bonds physiologically regulate (Coan et al., 2006). Likewise, whereas trauma induces helplessness and fear, secure attachment offers a sense of safety and protection (Johnson, 2002). ...
... Social support and close relationships continue to appear in the literature as the most relevant factors in the experience of and the recovery from trauma (Herman, 2015;Johnson, 2002Johnson, , 2019Legg, 2013;Kardiner & Spiegel, 1947). Traumatic events also tend to be experienced with a sense of intense loneliness, which secure attachment can powerfully mollify when activated and cultivated (Coan et al., 2006;Johnson, 2002). The results of this study are consistent with these ideas. ...
Article
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In this article, we present partial findings from a thematic analysis study that examined integrating emotionally focused therapy (EFT) and eye‐movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) as clinical frameworks in couple therapy. The purpose of the study is to better understand how therapists integrate EFT and EMDR therapy in their clinical work. Thirteen licensed therapists (n = 13) trained in EFT and EMDR were interviewed about their experiences integrating these two models in their couple therapy practice. The findings included in this article are related to how these models complement each other as well as the clinical benefits associated with their integration. Findings provide preliminary evidence that there are benefits and challenges when integrating both models, although we emphasize complementarity in this article. Limitations and implications for future research on the integration and efficacy of these two models are also discussed.
... Arguably, this might be considered a species atypical situation-threatening in and of itselfbecause humans are ultrasocial animals that heavily rely on supportive others (Coan & Sbarra, 2015;Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015). In this regard, it is interesting to note that the right dlPFC response to threat can be socially regulated, downregulating when adults are in the physical presence of a supportive partner, an effect that is greater among those reporting higher quality relationships with, or greater perceived social support from, the partner (Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2017. In contrast, left dlPFC has not been shown to be socially regulated under threat (Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2017, but cognitive control processes improve when adult participants are in physical contact with a romantic partner (Saunders et al., 2018). ...
... In this regard, it is interesting to note that the right dlPFC response to threat can be socially regulated, downregulating when adults are in the physical presence of a supportive partner, an effect that is greater among those reporting higher quality relationships with, or greater perceived social support from, the partner (Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2017. In contrast, left dlPFC has not been shown to be socially regulated under threat (Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2017, but cognitive control processes improve when adult participants are in physical contact with a romantic partner (Saunders et al., 2018). This work with adults suggests that infants with more supportive or engaged caregivers might show greater left or reduced right dlPFC in response to threat. ...
... These results are consistent with prior work finding a reduction in threat bias among preschool children when in physical contact with their caregivers with whom they have a highquality relationship as well as broader theories of the social regulation of emotion postulating reduced threat responding and greater regulation in the physical context of more supportive others (Coan & Sbarra, 2015;Tottenham, 2020). However, using caregiver behavior as a proxy measure of the variation of social support did not reveal evidence that infants' right dlPFC response to threat is socially downregulated as it is among adults (Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2017, as we had also hypothesized. It is possible that manipulating the physical presence and availability of the social partner as done in previous work with adults is needed to induce this kind of effect in infants. ...
Article
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The early development of threat perception in infancy might be dependent on caregiver context, but this link has not yet been studied in human infants. This study examined the emergence of the young infant's response to threat in the context of variations in caregiving behavior. Eighty infant-caregiver dyads (39 female infants, all of western European descent) visited the laboratory when the infant was 5 months old. Each dyad completed a free-play task, from which we coded for the mother's level of engagement: the amount of talking, close proximity, positive affect, and attention directed toward the infant. When the infant was 7 months old, they came back to the laboratory and we used functional near infrared spectroscopy and eye tracking to measure infants’ neural and attentional responses to threatening angry faces. In response to threat, infants of more-engaged mothers showed increased brain responses in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—a brain region associated with emotion regulation and cognitive control among adults—and reduced attentional avoidance. These results point to a role for caregiver behavioral context in the early development of brain systems involved in human threat responding.
... People that have higher attachment security report fewer negative experiences evoked by unpleasant stimuli (e.g., physical pain; Carnelley and Rowe, 2007;Master et al., 2009). In particular, the brain regions corresponding to the negative experience have been observed to show reduced activation among securely attached people than control participants (Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2017Eisenberger et al., 2011;Karremans et al., 2011;Norman et al., 2015). However, our understanding of how attachment security modulates the early process of threat information (i.e., attention) remains limited. ...
... First, to avoid group differences in attachment styles and the other dimensions at the baseline, we adopted a within-participant design. Such within-participants design has also been showed to be effective in examining the effect of attachment security (Bartz and Lydon, 2004;Coan et al., 2006;Beauregard et al., 2009;Master et al., 2009;Eisenberger et al., 2011;Karremans et al., 2011). However, Gillath et al. (2008) pointed out that attachment security priming may have a long-term effect. ...
Article
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Although attachment security has been found to attenuate people’s experience of unpleasant information, how it modulates the attentional process toward such information remains unknown. The present study examined this issue by employing the dot-probe task in functional MRI. After completing the Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised questionnaire (ECR-R), 39 participants were asked to complete the dot-probe task in two conditions: the attachment security priming condition and neutral priming condition. The behavioral results revealed that individuals with high level of attachment anxiety exhibited larger attention disengagement from negative traits in the security priming condition than in the control condition. Correspondingly, the brain regions involved in attention regulation and shifting, such as the posterior cingulate and bilateral parietal area, were less activated among high anxiously attached individuals in the security priming condition. These results suggest a role of attachment security priming in regulating the emotional response in anxiously attached individuals during the attentional stage.
... This result is supported by similar findings in previous studies. Specifically, in human studies, physical interaction (Coan et al., 2006;Goldstein et al., 2018;Kreuder et al., 2019;Seltzer et al., 2010), images of social support Hornstein et al., 2016Master et al., 2009), vocal communication (Seltzer et al., 2010), and even imagining a partner's presence (Toumbelekis et al., 2018) have been shown to regulate levels of an individual's stress, pain, or fear. Therefore, it is reasonable that pure vowels voiced by a loved one can enhance safety learning. ...
... Compared with spouses who have been married for a long time, youngadult love may be more passionate, unstable, and impulsive. The social support effect for couples is associated with relationship quality and dating duration (Coan et al., 2006). Future studies could recruit partners of different ages and control diverse dating durations to increase sample diversity. ...
Article
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Humans have evolved to seek the proximity of attachment figures during times of threat in order to obtain a sense of safety. In this context, we examined whether or not the voice of an intimate partner (termed "attachment voice") could reduce fear-learning of conditioned stimuli (CS+) and enhance learning of safety signals (CS-). Although the ability to learn safety signals is vital for human survival, few studies have explored how attachment voices affect safety learning. To test our hypothesis, we recruited thirty-five young couples and performed a classic Pavlovian conditioning experiment, recording behavioral and electroencephalographic (EEG) data. The results showed that compared with a stranger's voice, the voices of the partners reduced expectancy of the unconditioned stimulus (a shock) during fear-conditioning, as well as the magnitude of P2 event-related potentials within the EEG responses, provided the voices were safety signals. Additionally, behavioral and EEG responses to the CS+ and CS- differed more when the participants heard their partner's voice than when they heard the stranger's voice. Thus, attachment voices, even as pure vowel sounds without any semantic information, enhanced acquisition of conditioned safety (CS-). These findings may provide implications for investigating other new techniques to improve clinical treatments for fear- and anxiety-related disorders and for psychological interventions against the mental health effects of the public health emergency.
... Importantly, they know that they are afraid and worried (first box). However, the available evidence (Coan et al., 2006;Eisenberger et al., 2007;Salvador et al., 2020b) suggests that the experience of such a threat may be temporarily blocked if people feel connected with close, supportive others (second box). Such social relations are likely to have an analgesic effect. ...
... The extant evidence indicates that close social relations entail an analgesic effect. For example, recent neuroimaging studies find that the presence of close others can mitigate neural responses to physical pain (Coan et al., 2006;Eisenberger et al., 2007). This effect could be greater for those who are closely attached to the relations. ...
Article
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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic has taken a massive toll on human life worldwide. The case of the United States—the world's largest economy—is particularly noteworthy, since the country suffered a disproportionately larger number of deaths than all other countries during the first year of the pandemic. A careful analysis may shed new light on the multifaceted processes contributing to this failure and help us prepare ourselves not to repeat the same mistakes in the future. Cultural psychology offers unique insights by highlighting mutually reinforcing interactions across collective, cultural, and psychological factors. Here, we review extant evidence and argue that various factors at these disparate levels converged to foster an independent mode of action, which, in turn, undermined effective coping with the infectious disease. The lack of effective political leadership exacerbated the resulting dire state of the country. Drawing on this analysis, we discuss several policy recommendations at collective, cultural, and psychological levels.
... For now, we restrict ourselves to emotional social support that is defined at a global level as the act of talking, listening, and being empathetic with a distressed individual (Zellars & Perrewé, 2001). Emotional social support can be achieved through verbal expressions or via physical contact (e.g., holding a partner's hand or talking with the partner; Coan, Schaefer, & Davidson, 2006;Ditzen et al. 2007). For now, we leave out other forms of social support (informational, instrumental, and appraisal) as emotional social support is thought to be associated with well-being and consequently lower mortality and lower levels of stress (Reblin & Uchino, 2008). ...
... Similarly, based on prior literature detailing the efficacy of different providers of social support (e.g., Uchino et al., 2011), we expected that 6) the support coming from a known person (e.g., a friend or an intimate partner) would be stronger in terms of stress reduction than the one provided by a stranger. Additionally, based on Social Baseline Theory (e.g., Beckes & Coan, 2011;Coan & Sbarra, 2015) and meta-analyses on the importance of social proximity on health (e.g., Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015), any form of physical social support (e.g., hand holding; Coan et al., 2006) should be stronger than simply being reminded about social support and/or verbal social support. We therefore expected that 7) physical social support to be stronger than other types of emotional social support. ...
Preprint
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This meta-analysis explored whether being in nature and emotional social support are effective in reducing levels of stress through a Registered Report. We retrieved all the relevant articles that investigated a connection between one of these two strategies and various components of stress (physiological, affective and cognitive) as well as affective consequences of stress. We followed a stringent analysis workflow (including permutation-based selection models and multilevel regression-based models) to provide publication bias-corrected estimates. We found [no evidence for the efficacy of either strategy/evidence for one of the two strategies/evidence for both strategies] with an estimated mean effect size of [xx/xx] and we recommend [recommendation will be provided if necessary].
... Ainsi, lorsque les attentes d un individu seraient satisfaites, celui-ci produirait un effort cognitif minimal et à l inverse si les individus sont seuls ou en dessous de leurs attentes, cela provoquerait des processus cognitifs et comportementaux supplémentaires pour compenser le déficit(Beckes & Coan, 2011; Coan & Maresh, 2014;Coan & Sbarra, 2015;Gross & Medina-DeVilliers, 2020;Gross & Proffitt, 2013. En soi, il est possible de retrouver des preuves expérimentales d une telle considération dans le cadre de la thermorégulation(IJzerman et al., 2012) ou encore de l activité cérébrale associé à la gestion de la menace(Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2017López-Solà et al., 2019). Par exemple, Ijzerman et al. ont montré qu une situation d inclusion ou d exclusion sociale avait un impact sur la température corporelle périphérique des individus. ...
... Leurs ressources énergétiques devant être préservées, cela aurait entraîner une diminution de leur température corporelle périphérique.Autre exemple, dans le cas de la perception de la douleur, il a été montré que l activité cérébrale des individus était modulée par la présence de ressources sociale. Ainsi, lorsque les individus font face à une situation menaçante, la présence de ressources sociales est associée à une réduction de leur activité(Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2017López-Solà et al., 2019).Par exemple, Coan et al. (2006) ont montré que des femmes menacées de chocs électriques avaient une activité cérébrale moins importante dans les régions cérébrales associées à l autorégulation de l émotion, lorsqu elles étaient à proximité d un partenaire de confiance, comparativement à lorsqu elles étaient seules ou en compagnie d un étranger. De manière intéressante, ces régions étaient moins activées lorsqu elles étaient avec un étranger que lorsqu elles étaient seules. ...
Thesis
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La cognition, la perception et l’action peuvent être considérées comme faisant partie d'un même processus dynamique avant tout orienté vers le maintien adaptatif des individus. Ce que perçoivent les individus, ce n’est pas un environnement objectif et indépendant d’eux, mais c’est un environnement leur offrant des opportunités d’action (e.g., des affordances). En se couplant à l’environnement, les organismes créeront leur propre domaine de signification, ce qui leur permettra en retour d’entreprendre des actions adaptées. Un principe illustrant bien une telle conception au niveau écologique est le principe d’économie d’action. Ce principe stipule que pour survivre, grandir et se reproduire, les organismes doivent conserver leurs énergies dans le temps. Cela, implique alors qu’ils puissent se maintenir autour d’une ligne de base homéostatique autour de laquelle les coûts énergétiques de leurs actions pourront être évalués. Chez l'homme, cette ligne de base serait fonction à la fois des ressources physiologiques, mais également des ressources sociales. Cette idée est notamment défendue par la théorie de la base sociale qui suggère que le fonctionnement par défaut de la cognition humaine serait d’agir au sein d’un environnement social. Selon cette théorie, lorsque les individus feraient face à des demandes environnementales, ils auraient tendance à partager la charge afin de minimiser le coût de leurs interactions avec le monde. Se basant sur cette approche incarnée des relations sociales, cette thèse aura donc pour objectif de comprendre comment s’opère ce partage des charges lorsque les individus anticipent d’agir dans un environnement donné. Précisément, elle sera de montrer que l’impact du partage des charges sur l’économie d’action, est fonction des caractéristiques de la situation (axe 1) mais également du niveau de base sociale des individus (axe 2).
... In addition, it has identified affective touch as a pleasant stimulus that can dampen responses to threatening or distressing events (Gallace & Spence, 2010). For example, holding a partner's hand was found to ease stress responses arising from electric shock (Coan et al., 2006) or social conflict (Jakubiak & Feeney, 2019). ...
Article
This study examined how touch role and culture shape affective touch experiences. Germans (N = 130) and Chinese (N = 130) were surveyed once as toucher and once as touchee. For different touch actions, they (a) provided free-text descriptions of what prompts touch, (b) indicated with whom touch feels comfortable, and (c) highlighted areas of touch comfort on a body outline. Overall, touch was prompted by affectionate feelings, was more comfortable with more closely bonded individuals, and when directed at the upper arms, shoulders, and upper back. Touch role mattered for the experiences prompting touch in that touchees felt less positive than touchers. Culture differentiated touch comfort topographies. Compared with Chinese, Germans felt more comfortable with more intimate touch to the torso and upper back and less comfortable with more public touch to the hands. Notably, however, examining touch role and culture revealed more overlap than divergence, ensuring mutual comfort as individuals physically connect.
... In addition, caudate regions, linked to social cognition and emotion processing, also related to neighborhood income inequality, though not surviving correction (Coan, Schaefer, & Davidson, 2006;Kemp et al., 2013;Weidt et al., 2016). Within the medial temporal lobe, medial prefrontal area, a region long implicated in affect regulation and social functions including understanding others' emotions, predicted objective neighborhood inequality (Adolphs, 2009;Hillis, 2014;Jankowski & Takahashi, 2014 ...
Article
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Systemic environmental disadvantage relates to a host of health and functional outcomes. Specific structural factors have seldom been linked to neural structure, however, clouding understanding of putative mechanisms. Examining relations during childhood/preadolescence, a dynamic period of neurodevelopment, could aid bridge this gap. A total of 10,213 youth were recruited from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development study. Self-report and objective measures (Census and Federal bureau of investigation metrics extracted using geocoding) of environmental exposures were used, including stimulation indexing lack of safety and high attentional demands, discrepancy indexing social exclusion/lack of belonging, and deprivation indexing lack of environmental enrichment. Environmental measures were related to cortical thickness, surface area, and subcortical volume regions, controlling for other environmental exposures and accounting for other brain regions. Self-report (|β| = .04-.09) and objective (|β| = .02-.06) environmental domains related to area/thickness in overlapping (e.g., insula, caudal anterior cingulate), and unique regions (e.g., for discrepancy, rostral anterior and isthmus cingulate, implicated in socioemotional functions; for stimulation, precuneus, critical for cue reactivity and integration of environmental cues; and for deprivation, superior frontal, integral to executive functioning). For stimulation and discrepancy exposures, self-report and objective measures showed similarities in correlate regions, while deprivation exposures evidenced distinct correlates for self-report and objective measures. Results represent a necessary step toward broader work aimed at establishing mechanisms and correlates of structural disadvantage, highlighting the relevance of going beyond aggregate models by considering types of environmental factors, and the need to incorporate both subjective and objective measurements in these efforts.
... It can be observed that InBS is a promising measure of social interaction, beyond the aspects of social encounters that we can see or hear (García and Ibáñez, 2014). In this context, the importance of InBS lies in an intrinsic element of an affective component, namely the natural constitution of social exchange and psychophysiological connectivity (Coan et al., 2006;McAssey et al., 2013;Acquadro et al., 2016;Balconi and Vanutelli, 2016). Therefore, observed psychophysiological measures which occur between interactors indeed play a large role in understanding social interactions (Hari and Kujala, 2009;Konvalinka and Roepstorff, 2012). ...
Article
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Social anxiety disorder has been widely recognised as one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders. Individuals with social anxiety disorder experience difficulties during social interactions that are essential in the regular functioning of daily routines; perpetually motivating research into the aetiology, maintenance and treatment methods. Traditionally, social and clinical neuroscience studies incorporated protocols testing one participant at a time. However, it has been recently suggested that such protocols are unable to directly assess social interaction performance, which can be revealed by testing multiple individuals simultaneously. The principle of two-person neuroscience highlights the interpersonal aspect of social interactions that observes behaviour and brain activity from both (or all) constituents of the interaction, rather than analysing on an individual level or an individual observation of a social situation. Therefore, two-person neuroscience could be a promising direction for assessment and intervention of the social anxiety disorder. In this paper, we propose a novel paradigm which integrates two-person neuroscience in a neurofeedback protocol. Neurofeedback and interbrain synchrony, a branch of two-person neuroscience, are discussed in their own capacities for their relationship with social anxiety disorder and relevance to the paradigm. The newly proposed paradigm sets out to assess the social interaction performance using interbrain synchrony between interacting individuals, and to employ a multi-user neurofeedback protocol for intervention of the social anxiety.
... In other cases, cross-cultural and within-population differences in neural activation do affect overt performance, such as in the neural response to threat (Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2017, or is likely to have performance implications, such as the relationship between age and brain structure (LeWinn et al., 2017), reading and writing (Bolger et al., 2005a;Kobayashi et al., 2007;Tan, Laird, et al., 2005a), collectivism-individualism (Triandis et al., 1988), or tightness-looseness (Gelfand et al., 2011a). ...
Thesis
This thesis presents a framework for understanding how the organisation of the human mind and its psychobiological basis are produced through the mechanisms of cultural evolution. It foregrounds three characteristics of the human mind: its cross-cultural variation, its responsiveness to environmental inputs, and its collective construction. Each of these characteristics has been studied on its own, but cultural evolution serves as an integrative theoretical framework for understanding how they relate to each other. A key insight is how the developmental environment is shaped extensively by cumulative cultural evolution, allowing culture and nervous system to be meshed in a functionally productive and highly evolvable coupling. Classical conceptions of nature and nurture are insufficient for capturing this dynamic, and instead reinforce conceptual and methodological barriers that obscure the effect of culture. This thesis articulates a theoretical interface that allows a number of insights derived from cultural evolutionary theory to be productively employed within the psychological sciences—fields such as psychology, behavioural biology, behavioural genetics, developmental science, and cognitive neuroscience. Chapter 1 briefly introduces the subsequent chapters, and Chapter 2 charts the overall theoretical framework of the thesis. Chapter 3 attempts a theoretical integration of cultural evolution and behavioural genetics in particular, offering new insights about the interpretation of genetic effects like heritability. Chapter 4 is an empirical test of a prediction given in the prior chapter, and demonstrates how cultural variance influences heritability across countries. Chapter 5 shows cross-cultural variation in the structure of internal representations using factor analysis and a questionnaire, and provides preliminary evidence that writing systems shape mental organisation. Chapter 6 proposes a theoretical integration between cultural evolution and neuroscience. Taken together, these studies give substance to a novel theoretical framework for the psychological sciences that elucidates the rich coordination of mind, biology, the developmental environment, and cultural dynamics.
... For example, affectionate touch has been linked with improved mood, less distress, and/or lower perceived stress in multiple daily diary studies (e.g., Burleson et al., 2007;Debrot et al., 2014;Debrot et al., 2020;Murphy et al., 2018), after laboratory stressors (e.g., Jakubiak & Feeney, 2019a;Robinson et al., 2015), and after a 6-week intervention to increase kissing frequency in couples (Floyd et al., 2009). Affectionate touch interventions also can induce physiological changes that indicate more positive affective states or lower stress responses, including reduced threat-associated brain activation (Coan et al., 2006), lower salivary alpha-amylase (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2008), and lower cardiovascular reactivity to stressors (Ditzen et al., 2007). On the other hand, receiving less affectionate touch than desired is linked with individual and relational negative outcomes (e.g., loneliness, relationship dissatisfaction; Floyd, 2014). ...
Article
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing guidelines were implemented to reduce viral spread, altering typical social interactions and reducing the amount of physical contact and affectionate touch many individuals experienced. The pandemic also caused psychological distress, perhaps in part related to reductions in affectionate touch with close others. We theorized that this would be particularly problematic for individuals reliant on affectionate touch to help regulate their emotions. Using online survey data collected nationwide from married or romantically partnered adults ( N = 585), we examined how physical distancing (moderated by cohabiting with spouse/partner) and affectionate touch with close others (moderated by individual differences in typical use and efficacy of touch for affect regulation [TAR]) related to individual psychological distress and romantic relationship quality. As hypothesized, more physical distancing was associated with less affectionate touch among non-cohabiters, but surprisingly with more touch among cohabiters. Also as hypothesized, participants higher in TAR and experiencing less affectionate touch reported more psychological distress than those similarly high in TAR and experiencing more affectionate touch, or than those lower in TAR. Unexpectedly, more physical distancing was associated directly with lower psychological distress and better relationship quality. Better relationship quality was linked directly to more affectionate touch and greater endorsement of TAR. Thus, for those cohabiting in satisfying romantic relationships, physical distancing may facilitate relationship-positive behaviors. Further, individual differences in TAR may influence the potency of touch effects on mood and stress.
... Similarly, adults seek partners to reduce aversive arousal. For example, holding the hand of a spouse attenuates neural responses associated with threat of electrical shock in married women (Coan, Schaefer, & Davidson, 2006). Although holding the hand of a male stranger attenuates threat response as well, a spouse is more effective, and the magnitude of threat attenuation is associated with marital quality. ...
... Touch is central to affect regulation and distress mitigation, not only between infants and caregivers (Cascio et al., 2019;Waters et al., 2014) but also in adult relationships Jakubiak & Feeney, 2017). As with sleep, these effects potentially occur indirectly by enhancing regulatory capacity and directly via neural/physiological processes (Coan et al., 2006;Ditzen et al., 2007;Holt-Lunstad et al., 2008). In couples, affect regulation and touch can have synergistic effects and reciprocal associations with relationship satisfaction. ...
Article
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Touch associated with sleep (sleep-touch; reported physical contact during or shortly before/after sleep) is underexplored as a distinct contributor to affect regulatory processes associated with adult sleep. Given the affect-regulating effects of interpersonal touch, we theorized that among healthy co-sleeping adults, sleep-touch would add to sleep-related effects on affective “resetting,” resulting in the experience of calmer, more regulated states. We studied 210 married heterosexual couples (aged 20–67 years, 79% non-Hispanic white, 13% Latinx) assigned 14 days of twice-daily (morning/evening) sleep/mood diaries. Multilevel daily (within-couple) mediation analyses showed that as hypothesized, more reported sleep-touch was associated with happier/calmer and less angry/irritable morning mood. In turn, happier/calmer mood was associated with greater enjoyment of time with spouse (for both spouses). Sleep-touch also was linked directly to both evening positive spousal events and enjoyment ratings. Sleep-touch was associated indirectly with fewer negative spousal events and less spouse-related stress via less angry/irritable morning mood (both spouses). Further, wives’ sleep-touch was related to happier/calmer husband mood and evening enjoyment; husbands’ sleep-touch was unrelated to wives’ reports. All associations with sleep-touch were present while accounting for subjective sleep quality, prior evening mood, non-sleep-related physical affection, day in study, and weekend versus weekday. We speculate that among relatively healthy satisfied couples, physical touch during and surrounding sleep may add to sleep’s restorative and affect-regulatory functions, suggesting a pathway through which co-sleeping can improve affect regulation and ultimately relationships and health.
... This is because CT contributions may still be critical in types of human touch, such as holding hands, that do not involve CTs, possibly via conditioning [77 ]. The specific eff ; ects of such touch are then modulated by factors like partner identity, such as when the emotional response to a threat is more strongly reduced by holding hands with one's spouse than by holding hands with a stranger, with the magnitude of the response depending on marital quality [78]. ...
Article
Recent findings have shown that the neurophysiological mechanisms involved in human massage and caress are similar to those involved in grooming of nonhuman primates. In contrast, little is known about the neurophysiological mechanisms of brief touch in both human and other primates. Here we review evidence for brief touch in nonhuman primates and contrast its patterns and potential functions with those better known of grooming. We show that brief touch is not an affiliative behavior as it functions to assess the competitive tendencies of unfamiliar individuals and former opponents, to test the state of a social relationship and to signal benign intent. Thus, brief touch plays an important role, complementary to that of grooming, in the regulation of social relationships.
... In addition, Antonucci and colleagues (2017) note that interaction by digital modalities might have the potential to be de-humanizing, inviting negativity and insensitivity when it occurs in absence of non-verbal cues. Also, physical contact, a unique feature of face-to-face interactions, has been shown to have beneficial effects on mood (Coan et al., 2006;Debrot et al., 2013). Second, limited lifetime experience with technology may make it difficult for older adults today to experience satisfying social interactions using technology. ...
Article
Associations between social relationships and well-being are widely documented across the lifespan, including in older age. Older adults increasingly use digital communication technologies. In the present study, we examine the role of social interactions for older adults’ daily well-being with a focus on three interaction modalities (face-to-face, telephone, and digital). Specifically, we examine (a) whether people who are more socially active than others report higher levels of well-being and (b) how day-to-day fluctuations in the number of social interactions are associated with day-to-day fluctuations of well-being, separately by interaction modality. We use data from 115 participants (age: M = 72 years, SD = 5, range = 65–94; 40% women), who documented their social interactions over 21 days and reported their well-being each evening (including positive affect, negative affect, and loneliness). Taken together, our findings show that frequency of face-to-face interactions is more consistently related to well-being than telephone or digital interactions. At the between-person level, those who report more face-to-face social interactions than others across 21 days report higher levels of positive affect than others. At the within-person level, on days where participants report more face-to-face social interactions than their own average, they report higher positive affect, lower negative affect, and lower loneliness than usual. In addition, a higher number of digital interactions is associated with lower negative affect at the between-person level. In summary, our findings suggest that face-to-face social interactions are uniquely relevant to older adults’ daily well-being. We discuss implications of these findings for future research.
... Nonetheless, our ndings seem surprising given the many positive effects of caregivers, attachment gures, and signi cant others on physical health, well-being, and affect regulation (Eisenberger & Cole, 2012;Uchino, 2009). For instance, holding hands with your spouse reduces reported unpleasantness of shock anticipation compared to no hand-holding or holding hands with a stranger (Coan et al., 2006(Coan et al., , 2017. Similarly, the mere pictorial presence of loved ones (e.g., pictures of the spouse) has been hypothesized to activate a mental representation of that person, resulting in reduced pain (Eisenberger et al., 2011;Master et al., 2009), and inhibition of defensive re ex activity (Guerra et al., 2012b). ...
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Looking at pictures of loved ones, such as one's romantic partner or good friends, has been shown to alleviate the experience of pain and reduce defensive reactions. However, little is known about such modulatory effects on threat and safety learning and the psychophysiological processes involved. Here, we explored the hypothesis that beloved faces serve as implicit safety cues and attenuate the expression of fear responses and/or accelerate extinction learning in a threatening context. Thirty-two participants viewed pictures of their loved ones (romantic partner, parents, and best friend) as well as of unknown individuals within contextual background colors indicating threat-of-shock or safety. Focusing on the extinction of non-reinforced threat associations (no shocks were given), the experiment was repeated on two more test days while the defensive startle-EMG, SCR, and threat ratings were obtained. Results confirmed pronounced defensive responding to instructed threat-of-shock relative to safety context (e.g., threat-enhanced startle reflex and SCR). Moreover, threat-potentiated startle response slowly declined across test days indicating passive extinction learning in the absence of shocks. Importantly, neither a main effect of face category (loved vs. unknown) nor a significant interaction with threat/safety instructions was observed. Thus, a long-term learning history of beneficial relations (e.g., with supportive parents) did not interfere with verbal threat learning and aversive apprehensions.
... Contemporary theorists and clinicians have continued to draw upon and elaborate on the selfobject concept, identifying new pathways for its use in both assessment and intervention (25,26). It has been welldocumented that the ability to draw upon social relationships is an important coping strategy that can effectively alter stress responses on an emotional and physiological level (27,28). However, the ability to utilize relational resources may in part be dependent upon an individual's view of self (29,30), and some social networks may be unable to provide the needed support, the lack of which may ultimately result in the development of symptoms such as loneliness and depression (31)(32)(33). ...
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The COVID-19 outbreak has affected healthcare across all levels. Older adults and those with chronic illness are at greatest risk for infection complications and mortality, which presents significant psychological distress for residential healthcare workers. The concept of selfobject needs, consisting of Mirroring, Idealizing, and Twinship, may be relevant in explaining psychological distress. This study seeks to enhance our understanding of the needs of healthcare workers responsible for elderly patients and evaluate the role of psychosocial support through selfobject needs to mitigate the effects of trauma during the pandemic. Participants ( N = 103) employed in residential healthcare facilities in the metropolitan Detroit, MI (USA) region completed an online survey during the peak initial infection. Assessments included standardized measures of trauma-related symptoms, depression, anxiety, and general distress symptoms, as well as a validated measure of selfobject needs. Residential healthcare workers reported mental health symptoms across domains, including clinical elevations in symptoms of trauma, depression, and anxiety. Selfobject needs and mental health outcomes were positively correlated, indicating that greater unmet relational need was associated with greater severity of symptoms. Greater trauma symptom severity as a proxy index of current experience during the pandemic predicted high depressive symptoms, and greater Mirroring need worsened the effect. These results suggest that interventions targeting selfobject needs, specifically Mirroring, may be effective at mitigating acute mental health symptoms among healthcare workers during a distressing event.
... Thus, it isn't clear how the vicarious rating of static touch on the palm we report here relate to ratings of directly experienced stimuli on the same skin site. This is important because contextually, palmar touch is a key aspect of human tactile interactions, it is the primary skin site used in active social touch, such as holding hands or providing a reassuring pat on the back [79][80][81][82] . Psychophysical data would help differentiate bottom up sensory from top-down cognitive effects on our ratings. ...
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Tactile sensitivities are common in Autism Spectrum Conditions (autism). Psychophysically, slow, gentle stroking touch is typically rated as more pleasant than faster or slower touch. Vicarious ratings of social touch results in a similar pattern of velocity dependent hedonic ratings as directly felt touch. Here we investigated whether adults and children’s vicarious ratings vary according to autism diagnosis and self-reported autistic traits. Adults’ scoring high on the AQ rated stroking touch on the palm as less pleasant than a Low AQ group. However, in contrast to our hypothesis, we did not find any effect of autism diagnosis on children’s touch ratings despite parental reports highlighting significant somatosensory sensitivities. These results are discussed in terms of underpinning sensory and cognitive factors.
... Social baseline theory hypothesizes that because the human brain has evolved within a highly social environment, its default state is to be surrounded by others (Beckes & Coan, 2011). Effects supporting this theory include lower BOLD activity in response to stressful stimuli when the brain is put in a social context compared to in isolation (Coan, Schaefer, & Davidson, 2006;Eisenberger, Taylor, Gable, Hilmert, & Lieberman, 2007). Additionally, social deprivation or isolation causes abnormal stress levels, while social support acts to reduce or normalize stress responses (Bugajski, 1999;Gunnar & Hostinar, 2015;Koss, Hostinar, Donzella, & Gunnar, 2014;Thomas et al., 2018). ...
Article
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Sharing emotional experiences impacts how we perceive and interact with the world, but the neural mechanisms that support this sharing are not well characterized. In this study, participants (N = 52) watched videos in an MRI scanner in the presence of an unfamiliar peer. Videos varied in valence and social context (i.e., participants believed their partner was viewing the same (joint condition) or a different (solo condition) video). Reported togetherness increased during positive videos regardless of social condition, indicating that positive contexts may lessen the experience of being alone. Two analysis approaches were used to examine both sustained neural activity averaged over time and dynamic synchrony throughout the videos. Both approaches revealed clusters in the medial prefrontal cortex that were more responsive to the joint condition. We observed a time‐averaged social‐emotion interaction in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, although this region did not demonstrate synchrony effects. Alternatively, social‐emotion interactions in the amygdala and superior temporal sulcus showed greater neural synchrony in the joint compared to solo conditions during positive videos, but the opposite pattern for negative videos. These findings suggest that positive stimuli may be more salient when experienced together, suggesting a mechanism for forming social bonds. Participants watched emotional videos in an MRI either with a partner or alone. Social‐emotion interactions in the amygdala and superior temporal sulcus showed greater neural synchrony in the joint condition during positive videos, alongside reports of greater feelings of togetherness. These findings suggest that positive stimuli may be more salient when experienced together, suggesting a mechanism for forming social bonds.
... In the baby monkey example above, the maternal touch between the mother and child not only improved the neurological development of the baby, but also the mental state of the mother [55]. Evidence proves that proper interpersonal physical contact decreases blood pressure, heart rate, and pressure level [47], and this effect of touch on stress is more significant when the touch is applied within an intimate relationship rather than to a stranger [35]. But no matter what relationship it is, appropriate interpersonal physical contact can positively impact our physical and psychological state, and these "healing touches" can potentially be used in therapies [125] or psychological health care [101]. ...
Thesis
As one of the most important non-verbal communication channels, touch is widely used for different purposes. It is a powerful force in human physical and psychological development, shaping social structures as well as communicating emotions. However, even though current information and communication technology (ICT) systems enable the use of various non-verbal languages, the support of communicating through the sense of touch is still insufficient. Inspired by the cross-modal interaction of human perception, the approach I present in this dissertation is to use multimodality to improve mediated touch interaction. Following this approach, I present three devices that provide empirical contributions to multimodal touch interaction: VisualTouch, SansTouch, and In-Flat. To understand if multimodal stimuli can improve the emotional perception of touch, I present the VisualTouch device, and quantitatively evaluate the cross-modal interaction between the visual and tactile modality. To investigate the use of different modalities in real touch communication, I present the SansTouch device, which provides empirical insights on multimodal interaction and skin-like touch generation in the context of face-to-face communication. Going one step forward in the use of multimodal stimuli in touch interaction, I present the In-Flat device, an input/output touch overlay for smartphones. In-Flat not only provides further insights on the skin-like touch generation, but also a better understanding of the role that mediated touch plays in more general contexts. In summary, this dissertation strives to bridge the gap between touch communication and HCI, by contributing to the design and understanding of multimodal stimuli in mediated touch interaction.
... This is plausibly relevant for daily-life social affective benefit since this behavioral experience requires the integration of social contexts and affective appraisals. For example, ACC activity has been associated with the effects of social support during adverse events such as pain administration to a spouse (Coan, Schaefer, & Davidson, 2006). Likewise, greater social support and diminished cortisol responses were associated with blunted stress-related activity in the dorsal ACC Although our cross-sectional study design does not support causal inferences, we thus speculate that larger ACC gray matter volumes support the ability to benefit emotionally from social contact in daily life. ...
Thesis
Disturbed affective well-being contributes to the development of major psychiatric disorders. Thus, scientists and clinicians have been investigating how to help psychiatric patients and at-risk populations become resilient against distressed affective states. In the present dissertation, I studied two real-life affective resilience measures, namely social affective benefit and affective reactivity to positive events that capture the respective effects of social contact and positive events on real-life affective well-being. To this end, I used a neuro-epidemiological approach combining state-of-the-art smartphone-based ambulatory assessment, neuroimaging, and self-report inventories of psychiatric risk and resilience. I examined the neurobiological correlates of social affective benefit using structural MRI in study 1, and the neural basis of affective reactivity to positive events using functional MRI measured with the monetary incentive delay task in study 2. Additionally, in both studies, I also probed the potential relevance of these two real-life affective resilience measures for psychiatric risk and resilience. In study 1, I corroborated in two independent community-based adult samples that real-life social contact was associated with increased affective valence using multilevel models, an effect I named social affective benefit. Our findings also showed that higher levels of social affective benefit were associated with greater anterior cingulate cortex gray matter volume, suggesting that structural integrity of the anterior cingulate cortex may be important for this fundamental affective resilience measure. Moreover, higher levels of social affective benefit were linked to increased social competence, indicated by utilizing social support in stressful life situations and socially desirable personality traits such as agreeableness and conscientiousness. Together these findings demonstrate that social affective benefit may be relevant for psychiatric resilience. In study 2, I showed a strong association between real-life positive events and momentary affect in a community-based developmental sample comprising adolescents and young adults. Further, affective reactivity to positive events was linked to laboratory-based reward-related ventral striatum reactivity at the between-subject level. Additionally, using an accelerated longitudinal design, I demonstrated that ventral striatum reactivity was linearly associated with real-life affective reactivity to positive events within subjects across three annually separated measurement time points. This within-subject association indicates that real-life and laboratory-based neural reward measures co-evolve over time, which was specifically pronounced in individuals with high social environmental risk indicated by higher urban upbringing scores and a smaller social network size. I speculated that for at-risk individuals, the ability to benefit from rewarding experiences may represent an important real-life resilience measure to compensate for compromised striatal reward processing. Moreover, I showed that the within-subject association between ventral striatum reactivity and affective reactivity to positive events was independent of the developmental effect of striatal reward processing in adolescence and early adulthood. In summary, beneficial social influences and positive daily-life experiences are major sources of mental health resilience. This dissertation suggests that social contact and positive events are strongly associated with enhanced affective well-being in real life, thus forming two real-life affective resilience measures: social affective benefit and affective reactivity to positive events. The neurobiological substrates of social affective benefit and affective reactivity to positive events map to a region shown as a convergence site for psychiatric resilience and a core region in the brain reward system that is often perturbed in psychiatric patients. Given the technological advances in mobile research and intervention technologies, real-life social affective benefit and affective reactivity to positive events may thus represent important and feasible targets for smartphone-based preventative and therapeutic interventions aiming at identifying and utilizing daily life experiences to reduce the mental health risk in vulnerable populations and mitigating affective symptoms in psychiatric patients.
... Nonetheless, our findings seem surprising given the many positive effects of caregivers, attachment figures, and significant others on physical health, well-being, and affect regulation 18,20 . For instance, holding hands with your spouse reduces reported unpleasantness of shock anticipation compared to no hand-holding or holding hands with a stranger 39,40 . Similarly, the mere pictorial presence of loved ones (e.g., pictures of the spouse) has been hypothesized to activate a mental representation of that person, resulting in reduced pain 1,41 , and inhibition of defensive reflex activity 2 . ...
Article
Full-text available
Looking at pictures of loved ones, such as one’s romantic partner or good friends, has been shown to alleviate the experience of pain and reduce defensive reactions. However, little is known about such modulatory effects on threat and safety learning and the psychophysiological processes involved. Here, we explored the hypothesis that beloved faces serve as implicit safety cues and attenuate the expression of fear responses and/or accelerate extinction learning in a threatening context. Thirty-two participants viewed pictures of their loved ones (romantic partner, parents, and best friend) as well as of unknown individuals within contextual background colors indicating threat-of-shock or safety. Focusing on the extinction of non-reinforced threat associations (no shocks were given), the experiment was repeated on two more test days while the defensive startle-EMG, SCR, and threat ratings were obtained. Results confirmed pronounced defensive responding to instructed threat-of-shock relative to safety context (e.g., threat-enhanced startle reflex and SCR). Moreover, threat-potentiated startle response slowly declined across test days indicating passive extinction learning in the absence of shocks. Importantly, neither a main effect of face category (loved vs. unknown) nor a significant interaction with threat/safety instructions was observed. Thus, a long-term learning history of beneficial relations (e.g., with supportive parents) did not interfere with verbal threat learning and aversive apprehensions. These findings reflect the effects of worries and apprehensions that persist despite the repeated experience of safety and the pictorial presence of loved ones. How to counter such aversive expectations is key to changing mal-adaptive behaviors (e.g., avoidance or stockpiling), biased risk perceptions, and stereotypes.
... These findings are in line with interpersonal attunement and social-emotional regulation (i.e., the regulation of emotions via interpersonal interactions) as proposed in the Social Baseline Theory (SBT; Clore & Ortony, 2000;Schwarz & Clore, 1983), which suggests that the presence of other people helps individuals to conserve important and often metabolically costly somatic and neural resources through the social regulation of emotion (Beckes & Coan, 2011, 2012Coan & Maresh, 2014). Neuroscience evidence supports this theory, showing neural areas associated with the self-regulation of emotion are less active when appropriate social support (e.g., through attunement to one's needs) is provided (Coan et al., 2006;Eisenberger et al., 2007). In sum, Attention to and Awareness of others' bodily states is central to attuning to their needs and therefore to mindful interpersonal interactions. ...
Article
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Objectives Previously developed mindfulness measures focused on its intrapersonal dimensions and did not measure the interpersonal aspects of mindfulness. Furthermore, recently developed interpersonal mindfulness measures were either specific to a certain context (e.g., parenting, conjugal, teaching) or omitted/minimized the role of the body in the interpersonal dynamic. The proposed Interpersonal Mindfulness Questionnaire (IMQ) aims to operationalize the theoretical notion of embodied and embedded mindfulness by grounding it into four dimensions, each representing a set of skills that can be cultivated through training and practice: (1) Detachment from the Mind, (2) Body-Anchored Presence, (3) Attention to and Awareness of the Other Person, and (4) Mindful Responding. Methods The IMQ subscales were developed through consultations with a panel of eight graduate students and ten experts in the field. Three studies were conducted to evaluate the construct, internal consistency, reliability, convergent validity, and utility of the IMQ. Results Findings from the three studies supported the proposed four subscales of IMQ and suggested that these four subscales are independent and supported by convergent evidence. In addition, results suggested that IMQ subscales’ scores are sensitive to meditation experience and are associated with better intrapersonal and interpersonal outcomes. Conclusions IMQ subscales are valid and are consistent with the proposed embodied and embedded conception of interpersonal mindfulness. IMQ subscales are associated with intrapersonal mindfulness, but not strongly enough to be conceived as the same phenomenon. Limitations, as well as theoretical and practical implications of IMQ subscales, are thoroughly discussed.
... Social and emotional communication by touch is important to human development in daily life. It contributes to brain and cognitive development in infancy and childhood (Cascio et al., 2019), and plays a role in providing emotional support (Coan et al., 2006), and forming social bonds (Vallbo et al., 2016). For example, being touched by one's partner mitigates one's reactivity to psychological pressure, as observed in decreased blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels (Gallace and Spence, 2010). ...
Article
Full-text available
Across a plethora of social situations, we touch others in natural and intuitive ways to share thoughts and emotions, such as tapping to get one’s attention or caressing to soothe one’s anxiety. A deeper understanding of these human-to-human interactions will require, in part, the precise measurement of skin-to-skin physical contact. Among prior efforts, each measurement approach exhibits certain constraints, e.g., motion trackers do not capture the precise shape of skin surfaces, while pressure sensors impede skin-to-skin contact. In contrast, this work develops an interference-free 3D visual tracking system using a depth camera to measure the contact attributes between the bare hand of a toucher and the forearm of a receiver. The toucher’s hand is tracked as a posed and positioned mesh by fitting a hand model to detected 3D hand joints, whereas a receiver’s forearm is extracted as a 3D surface updated upon repeated skin contact. Based on a contact model involving point clouds, the spatiotemporal changes of hand-to-forearm contact are decomposed as six, high-resolution, time-series contact attributes, i.e., contact area, indentation depth, absolute velocity, and three orthogonal velocity components, together with contact duration. To examine the system’s capabilities and limitations, two types of experiments were performed. First, to evaluate its ability to discern human touches, one person delivered cued social messages, e.g., happiness, anger, sympathy, to another person using their preferred gestures. The results indicated that messages and gestures, as well as the identities of the touchers, were readily discerned from their contact attributes. Second, the system’s spatiotemporal accuracy was validated against measurements from independent devices, including an electromagnetic motion tracker, sensorized pressure mat, and laser displacement sensor. While validated here in the context of social communication, this system is extendable to human touch interactions such as maternal care of infants and massage therapy.
... Prior to the experiment, participants were asked to complete the self-assessment manikin scale to rate the valence and arousal of their emotional states (Bradley and Lang, 1994;Kirsch et al., 2005;Coan et al., 2006). Immediately after the experiment, participants were asked to rate their emotional state again. ...
Article
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Social interaction is a dynamic and variable process. However, most hyperscanning studies implicitly assume that inter-brain synchrony (IBS) is constant and rarely investigate the temporal variability of the multi-brain networks. In this study, we used sliding windows and k-mean clustering to obtain a set of representative inter-brain network states during different group communication tasks. By calculating the network parameters and temporal occurrence of the inter-brain states, we found that dense efficient interbrain states and sparse inefficient interbrain states appeared alternately and periodically, and the occurrence of efficient interbrain states was positively correlated with collaborative behaviors and group performance. Moreover, compared to common communication, the occurrence of efficient interbrain states and state transitions were significantly higher during creative communication, indicating a more active and intertwined neural network. These findings may indicate that there is a close correspondence between inter-brain network states and social behaviors, contributing to the flourishing literature on group communication.
... This result probably reflects the difficulty PGs face in interpersonal relationships and their preference for computer-mediated relationships (Lo et al., 2005). This result could explain the PGs' higher scores on negative affect, as authors (Coan et al., 2006) demonstrated that having greater access to social resources often helps individuals to perceive stressful events as less threatening and thus relieves their negative emotional reactions. ...
Article
Résumé Objectif L’objectif de cette étude est d’investiguer les relations entre les processus de régulation émotionnelle (intra- et interpersonnelle) et la construction identitaire, selon le niveau d’usage des jeux vidéo, dans une population tout venant d’adolescents et de jeunes adultes. Méthode Trois groupes ont été constitués à partir de la Game Addiction Scale : des non-joueurs (NJ, n = 37, âge moyen = 19,70), des joueurs non problématiques (JNP, n = 133, âge moyen = 18,60) et des joueurs problématiques (JP, n = 37, âge moyen = 20,16). Les participants ont complété des questionnaires évaluant la construction identitaire et différents processus émotionnels intrapersonnels et interpersonnels. Résultats Les résultats de notre étude montrent : 1) de nombreuses relations entre les processus de régulation émotionnelle (intra- et interpersonnelle) et de construction identitaire ; 2) des spécificités dans les processus concernés selon le niveau d’usage ; les joueurs non problématiques étant le groupe dans lequel on retrouve le plus de liens ; et 3) des spécificités selon le genre. Conclusion Nos résultats confirment l’interdépendance de la régulation émotionnelle et de la construction identitaire. Cependant, tenir compte du genre et du niveau d’usage des JV est essentiel dans la compréhension de ces liens. Nos résultats fournissent des perspectives intéressantes quant à l’accompagnement psychothérapeutique des adolescents/jeunes adultes ayant un usage problématique des JV.
... Some research support this view. In a threat-activation paradigm, the mere presence of a supportive relationship partner is sufficient to attenuate lowlevel responses to threat cues (Coan et al. 2006). Elsewhere, research has shown that very brief moments of care (e.g., 30-40 s) embodied by a health care provider can have positive downstream effects on a patient in medical settings (Fogarty et al. 1999;Trzeciak & Mazzarelli 2019). ...
Article
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This article addresses two distinct but interrelated aspects of “skillful means” that can inform compassion training: (1) the historical precedent and need for adapting meditation practices to meet new cultural contexts, and (2) the need to express compassion flexibly in ways that creatively meet the specific contexts, mentalities, and needs of particular persons and situations. We first discuss ways that the doctrine of skillful means was employed by Buddhists to rationalize the repeated adaptation of Buddhist teachings to meet the culturally situated mentalities and needs of diverse Asian peoples. Then, in continuity with that history of Buddhist adaptation, we explore how theories from modern psychological science, such as attachment theory, can be newly drawn upon to support adaptation of relational frameworks operative in traditional Buddhist cultures of compassion training for modern contexts. Finally, we draw on theories from cognitive science, namely situated conceptualization, that provide a tractable framework for understanding skillful compassion as embodied emptiness—involving the relaxation of pattern completion mechanisms, which helps open up greater discernment and presence to others, so that care and compassion can be more unrestricted, creative, and directly responsive to the person and situation at hand.
... Social and emotional communication by touch is important to human development in daily life. It contributes to brain and cognitive development in infancy and childhood (Cascio et al., 2019), and plays a role in providing emotional support (Coan et al., 2006), and forming social bonds (Vallbo et al., 2016). For example, being touched by one's partner mitigates one's reactivity to psychological pressure, as observed in decreased blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels (Gallace and Spence, 2010). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Across a plethora of social situations, we touch others in natural and intuitive ways to share thoughts and emotions, such as tapping to get one's attention or caressing to soothe one's anxiety. A deeper understanding of these human-to-human interactions will require, in part, the precise measurement of skin-to-skin physical contact. Among prior efforts, each measurement approach exhibits certain constraints, e.g., motion trackers do not capture the precise shape of skin surfaces, while pressure sensors impede direct skin contact. In contrast, this work develops an interference-free 3D visual tracking system using a depth camera to measure the contact attributes between the bare hand of a toucher and the forearm of a receiver. The toucher's hand is tracked as a posed and positioned mesh by fitting a hand model to detected 3D joints, whereas the forearm is extracted as a detailed 3D surface. Based on a contact model of point clouds, the spatiotemporal contact changes are decomposed as six high-resolution time-series attributes, i.e., contact area, indentation depth, absolute velocity, and three orthogonal velocity components, together with contact duration. To examine the system's capabilities and limitations, two experiments were performed. First, to evaluate its ability to discern human touches, one person delivered cued social messages, e.g., happiness, anger, sympathy, to another using their preferred gestures. The results indicated that messages, gestures, and the individual touchers, were readily discerned from their contact attributes. Second, the measurement accuracy was validated against independent devices, including an electromagnetic tracker, pressure mat, and laser sensor. While validated here in the context of social communication, this system is extendable to human touch interactions such as maternal care of infants and massage therapy.
... A second major tenet of Social Cognitive Theory of Stress Adaptation is that social environments interact with self-regulation processes [2,6,69]. Social resources (e.g., received social support) provide stress regulation benefits, both through direct downregulation of sympathetic nervous system arousal [14,15,49,51] and through transaction with one's CSE appraisals [69,74]. Recovering from exposure to trauma can exceed individual coping capabilities, requiring us to seek and utilize social resources to boost coping success [80,100]. ...
Article
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Purpose Healthcare workers are at increased risk for mental health problems during disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Identifying resilience mechanisms can inform development of interventions for this population. The current study examined pathways that may support healthcare worker resilience, specifically testing enabling (social support enabled self-efficacy) and cultivation (self-efficacy cultivating support) models. Methods Healthcare workers (N = 828) in the Rocky Mountain West completed self-report measures at four time points (once per month from April to July of 2020). We estimated structural equation models to explore the potential mediating effects that received social support and coping self-efficacy had (at time 2 and time 3) between traumatic stress symptom severity (at time 1 and time 4). Models included covariates gender, age, minority status, and time lagged co-variations between the proposed mediators (social support and coping self-efficacy). Results The full model fit the data well, CFI = .993, SRMR = .027, RMSEA = .036 [90% CIs (0.013, 0.057)]. Tests of sequential mediation supported enabling model dynamics. Specifically, the effects of time 1 traumatic stress severity were mediated through received social support at time 2 and time 3 coping self-efficacy, in sequential order to reduce time 4 traumatic stress severity. Conclusions Findings show the importance of received social support and coping self-efficacy in mitigating psychopathology risk. Interventions can support mental health by focusing on social resource engagement that facilitates coping empowerment, which may decrease risk for mental health job-related problems among frontline healthcare workers exposed to highly stressful events.
... This notion is supported by the hypothesis of social regulation, which argues that social relationships can mitigate adverse effects and promote health and wellbeing in the face of stressful life events (145). Social contact was found to attenuate stress responses on a neural systems level, which is related to the regulation of emotional and behavioral threat responses (146). In the light of evolution, phylogenetic development has led to neurophysiological responses associated with social behavior that are indeed linked to adaptive coping with stress (147). ...
Article
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The current study explores the relationship between three constructs of high relevance in the context of adversities which have, however, not yet been systematically linked on the level of psychological dispositions: psychological vulnerability, psychological resilience, and social cohesion. Based on previous theoretical and empirical frameworks, a collection of trait questionnaires was assessed in a Berlin sample of 3,522 subjects between 18 and 65 years of age. Using a confirmatory factor analytical approach, we found no support for a simple three-factor structure. Results from exploratory structural analyses suggest that instead of psychological resilience and psychological vulnerability constituting two separate factors, respective indicators load on one bipolar latent factor. Interestingly, some psychological resilience indicators contributed to an additional specific latent factor, which may be interpreted as adaptive capacities, that is, abilities to adapt to changes or adjust to consequences of adversities. Furthermore, instead of evidence for one single social cohesion factor on the psychological level, indicators of perceived social support and loneliness formed another specific factor of social belonging, while indicators of prosocial competencies were found to form yet another distinct factor, which was positively associated to the other social factors, adaptive capacities and social belonging. Our results suggest that social cohesion is composed of different independent psychological components, such as trust, social belonging, and social skills. Furthermore, our findings highlight the importance of social capacities and belonging for psychological resilience and suggest that decreasing loneliness and increasing social skills should therefore represent a valuable intervention strategy to foster adaptive capacities.
Article
This study sought to explore whether relationship satisfaction moderated the relationship between affection and individual health (i.e., depression and stress) and affection and relational well-being (i.e., trust and closeness). The sample (N = 631) was comprised of predominantly female non-married Southwestern college students. Relationship satisfaction did not interact with the relationship between affection and trust, affection and closeness, and affection and depression. However, relationship satisfaction moderated the relationship between affection and stress such that affection was significantly and negative related to stress only for highly satisfied relationships. Dissatisfied participants were affectionately deprived, and their frequency of affectionate behaviors varied. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.
Article
For over two decades, the minority stress model has guided research on the health of sexually-diverse individuals (those who are not exclusively heterosexual) and gender-diverse individuals (those whose gender identity/expression differs from their birth-assigned sex/gender). According to this model, the cumulative stress caused by stigma and social marginalization fosters stress-related health problems. Yet studies linking minority stress to physical health outcomes have yielded mixed results, suggesting that something is missing from our understanding of stigma and health. Social safety may be the missing piece. Social safety refers to reliable social connection, inclusion, and protection, which are core human needs that are imperiled by stigma. The absence of social safety is just as health-consequential for stigmatized individuals as the presence of minority stress, because the chronic threat-vigilance fostered by insufficient safety has negative long-term effects on cognitive, emotional, and immunological functioning, even when exposure to minority stress is low. We argue that insufficient social safety is a primary cause of stigma-related health disparities and a key target for intervention.
Article
Past research has shown consistent benefits associated with and resulting from affectionate touch, though past research is based almost exclusively on highly satisfied and otherwise non-representative samples. The current research used two nationally representative samples to test correlates (Study 1) and anticipated consequences (Study 2) of affectionate touch in romantic relationships. In Study 1, greater kissing frequency was associated with greater individual well-being, and these links were especially pronounced in the most satisfying relationships. In Study 2, participants who were randomly assigned to imagine receiving affectionate touch from their spouse anticipated greater individual well-being (less stress and greater life satisfaction) and relational benefits (greater perceived partner affection, state security, cognitive interdependence, and relationship quality). These benefits were stronger among people with moderate or high relationship satisfaction but observed even for the subset of individuals (approximately one-third of the sample) who rated their relationships as “distressed.” Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
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There exist extensive animal research and lesion studies in humans demonstrating a tight association between the hypothalamus and socioemotional behavior. However, human neuroimaging literature in this direction is still rather limited. In order to reexamine the functional role of this region in regulating human social behavior, we here provided a synthesis of neuroimaging studies showing hypothalamic activation during affiliative, cooperative interactions, and in relation to ticklish laughter and humor. In addition, studies reporting involvement of the hypothalamus during aggressive and antisocial interactions were also considered. Our systematic review revealed a growing number of investigations demonstrating that the evolutionary conserved hypothalamic neural circuity is involved in multiple and diverse aspects of human socioemotional behavior. On the basis of the observed heterogeneity of hypothalamus-mediated socioemotional responses, we concluded that the hypothalamus might play an extended functional role for species survival and preservation, ranging from exploratory and approaching behaviors promoting social interactions to aggressive and avoidance responses protecting and defending the established social bonds.
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Kapitel enthält: emotionale, soziale und ethische Aspekte von Berührungen; Placeboeffekte; Embodiment; Haus- und Therapietiere; Einsamkeit. - Abstract: Im medizinischen Kontext können von erforderlichen Berührungen, die einem medizinischen oder pflegerischen Zweck dienen, soziale Berührungen unterschieden werden. Diese, oft spontan auftretenden Berührungen, erfüllen soziale oder emotionale Funktionen. Soziale Berührungen können beruhigend, tröstend, angst-, schmerz- oder stressreduzierend wirken. Es besteht somit die Möglichkeit, soziale Berührungen im medizinischen oder pflegerischen Kontext gezielt zu diesen Zwecken einzusetzen.
Chapter
Umarmungen sind für das Wohlbefinden von Menschen jeden Alters wichtig. Nicht alle können von jemandem umarmt werden oder jemanden umarmen, etwa weil sie einsam, alleinstehend oder isoliert sind. Bei Pandemien besteht die Gefahr einer ungenügenden Anzahl von Umarmungen auch bei der breiten Bevölkerung. Soziale Roboter können Menschen umarmen, Menschen können soziale Roboter umarmen. Die Frage ist, ob der Wunsch danach überhaupt besteht, was die Wirkung und was der Nutzen einer robotischen Berührung ist und wie man durch gestalterische und technische Maßnahmen das Wohlbefinden bei einer robotischen Umarmung verbessern kann. Der vorliegende Beitrag geht zunächst auf die Theorie der Umarmung ein und sammelt einige Fakten und Resultate von Studien hierzu. Dann untersucht er die Möglichkeit robotischer Umarmungen. Schließlich wird eine Onlineumfrage mit fast 300 Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmern, die 2020 an der Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW durchgeführt wurde, vorgestellt und zusammengefasst.
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Social support (SS), or having people to depend on during times of stress, may offer an emotional and neurological buffer to problem drinking. Specifically, SS may modulate reward and stress-related brain responses to mitigate perceptions of alcohol reward and stress. There is limited evidence, however, on this topic and specifically on brain networks that may modulate SS effects on stress and alcohol reward. Here we present a review of the current literature on this topic as well as data from a large community sample of 115 social drinkers. Findings from a novel fMRI task viewing alcohol cue, stress, and neutral images, in separate blocks, while providing ratings on subjective feelings of alcohol craving, stress, and arousal are included. Lower SS significantly predicted greater alcohol craving during alcohol cue and stress conditions, higher baseline levels of stress, and greater arousal in the alcohol cue, relative to neutral condition. Remarkably, individuals with low SS showed greater reward activation (ventral medial prefrontal cortex (VmPFC) and ventral striatum) during alcohol cue exposure, while those with high SS showed no such activation (p < 0.001, family wise error corrected at 0.05). Furthermore, individuals with lower SS showed greater stress circuit (VmPFC, dorsal striatum, and periaqueductal gray) activation not observed in the high SS groups. Both groups showed increased amygdala activation under stress condition. The findings support the notion that SS is a powerful modulator of stress response and reward motivation. High SS buffers neural and subjective stress responses, while low SS potentiates greater reward seeking with higher alcohol craving and greater brain activation during alcohol cue exposure. Previous research and current results suggest the need to further explore the role of SS in those at risk of developing alcohol use disorder and assess novel prevention strategies to boost SS in at-risk drinkers.
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From ancient time, Homo sapiens moved around in search of a better life. Although the development of agriculture and industrialization no longer necessitates frequently moving to find new food sources, people today still change their residences for a variety of reasons. This article highlights key findings from residential mobility, focusing on its implications for the self, social relationships, societies, and well‐being. Generally, residential mobility shifts individual attention away from collective attributes towards personal attributes. It also changes people’s relationship styles and preferences, leading individuals to favor wider social networks, more open communication, low commitment groups, and egalitarian helpers. In addition, it increases tolerance for norm violations and moral deviations. Lastly, residential mobility can explain some cross‐national and within‐nation variations. This article reviews recent psychological research on residential mobility and then discusses limitations, paradoxical findings, and future directions.
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Previous studies have identified associations between affectionate communication and blood lipid levels but been limited by small, homogenous samples and failed replication attempts. Moreover, no study has tested the prediction derived from affection exchange theory that stress mediates the association between affectionate behavior and health. Using secondary analyses of data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) Refresher study Biomarker Project, this paper remedies these limitations by testing the prediction that stress mediates the association between kissing and serum levels of triglycerides, high-density lipoproteins, and low-density lipoproteins using a large probability sample of U.S. American adults (N = 863). Results indicate significant indirect effects of kissing frequency on triglycerides and high-density lipoproteins for participants who reported kissing seven or more times in the previous month.
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Positive social contact predicts better health, but the mechanisms for this association remain debated. One way to explore this link is through the social regulation of emotion, particularly anticipatory anxiety. Previous research finds less neural threat response during partner handholding than when people are alone or stranger handholding. Various mechanistic accounts have been forwarded, including the hypothesis that this effect is mediated by endogenous opioid activity. This experiment critically tested the opioid hypothesis in 60 married participants and their partners. The study used a naltrexone opioid blockade in a double‐blind placebo control with functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine whether endogenous opioids were necessary for handholding effects. Regulatory effects of supportive handholding manifested in threat network regions during opioid blockade, but not with placebo. Despite a surprising lack of effect in the placebo group, the overall study findings provide initial evidence that endogenous opioids may not be necessary for the social regulation of neural threat responding. Our findings suggest compelling evidence against a major outstanding hypothesis that the stimulation of endogenous opioid release during social touch mediates neural threat response. This has major implications for understanding the salubrious effects of close relationships. Ultimately, we believe these findings provide critical clues as to the processes by which stress and relationships are linked.
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Interpersonal touch and affective touch play a crucial role in social interactions and have a positive influence on mental health. The social distancing regulations implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic have reduced the ability to engage in interpersonal touch. This could cause longing for touch, and it might subsequently alter the way in which affective touch is perceived. To investigate this, we conducted an online survey and included 1982 participants, which contained questions regarding the COVID-19 regulations, longing for touch, and the perceived pleasantness of affective and non-affective touch. Results showed that participants reported feelings of longing for touch. This significantly increased with the duration and severity of the COVID-19 regulations. In addition, participants who experienced more longing for touch rated videos of affective and non-affective touch as more pleasant. Current results provide insight in the impact of sudden and prolonged COVID-19 regulations and show that increasing the duration and severity of these regulations is associated with a higher desire for touch, which is associated with increased perceived pleasantness of observing touch.
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Although previous research revealed sex differences in affective touch, the implicated processes and the manner in which men and women differ have been left uncertain. Here we addressed this issue in two studies examining sensory and social processes, respectively. Study 1 comprised a series of lab-based experiments in which a robot stroked 214 participants (half female) at five different velocities modulating the activity of C-tactile afferents thought to support tactile pleasantness. Average pleasantness ratings followed velocity with the typical inverted u-shape similarly in both sexes. In Study 2, 260 participants (half female) completed an online survey. Here, women were more likely than men to express touch comfort with less familiar or unknown individuals, had a greater preference for touch with other women, and felt more comfortable giving and receiving touch to the forearm. Additionally, when describing how their own experiences might motivate others to touch them affectively, women produced more negative descriptions than men. Together, these results show that, while the sexes compare in a touch's sensory pleasantness, they differ in their preceding affective experiences and how they value touch at a higher-order social level. This agrees with extant research on negative affect and stress and suggests that affective touch may be a more relevant coping mechanisms for women than for men.
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Following preventive measures is crucial for slowing the rate of COVID-19 spread. To date, most research has focused on the role of individual differences and personality in compliance with preventive measures to COVID-19. Building on findings that interpersonal touch instills a feeling of security, we propose that interpersonal touching behavior, an underexplored factor tied to social interaction, leads to more breaches of coronavirus restrictions by inducing security feelings. In a lab experiment (Experiment 1) and a field study (Experiment 2), we demonstrated that a female experimenter’s fleeting and comforting pat on the shoulder made people less willing to abide by preventive measures in their self-report and actual behavior. Further, we excluded a potential alternative explanation that touch intervention by the experimenter presents the defiance of COVID-19 rules because the effect cannot be observed when the touch consists of a handshake rather than a comforting pat on the shoulder (Experiment 3). Finally, consistent with our theoretical perspective, the results revealed that sense of security mediated the effect of interpersonal touch on violation of instructions to follow coronavirus precautions. Taken together, interpersonal touch not only enhances trust and security, but also can push people away from health guidelines.
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Traditionally, nonverbal behaviors have been understood as coded messages one person sends to another. Following this tradition, social touch has been pursued by asking what it communicates. We argue this question is misleading and ask instead how touch impacts on those giving and receiving it. Indeed, a growing literature investigating gentle physical contact highlights that both toucher and touchee may benefit because such contact is pleasurable, because it helps regulate stress and negative affect, or because it generates trust and good will. Together, published findings prompt a new perspective that understands tactile and other nonverbal behaviors as tools. This perspective seems better suited to explain existing data and to guide future research into the processes and consequences of social touch.
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Meta-analyses show that Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) significantly reduces child abuse and neglect in families where maltreatment has already occurred; however, research into the underlying mechanisms of change (i.e., how PCIT effects positive changes in parenting) remains limited. In this article, we discuss a new conceptual model of PCIT’s active ingredients that is informed by biobehavioral research documenting the physiological underpinnings of problematic parenting. We describe deficits in self-regulation observed in child maltreating parents and PCIT’s unique live coaching approach and associated techniques that may form the basis for in-vivo social regulation in the act of parenting that supports more effective, positive parenting behavior, strengthens parents’ self-regulation skills, and reduces child maltreatment.
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This article reviews all published studies reporting tests for sex differences in well-being. Women were found to report greater happiness and life satisfaction than men. This sex difference was explained in terms of men's and women's social roles: The female (vs. male) gender role specifies greater emotional responsiveness. Furthermore, past role-related experiences provide women with appropriate skills and attitudes. Women's (vs. men's) greater well-being was also found to hold for married but not unmarried Ss: For both sexes the married state (vs. unmarried) was associated with favorable well-being, but the favorable outcomes proved stronger for women than men. Given that most Ss were married, the overall sex difference in well-being can be attributed to Ss' marital status. These findings were discussed in the context of prior research on sex differences in negative well-being. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Stressful life experience can have significant effects on a variety of physiological systems, including the autonomic nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and the immune system. These relationships can be bidirectional; for example, immune cell products can act on the brain, altering mood and cognition, potentially contributing to depression. Although acute physiological alterations may be adaptive in the short term, chronic or repeated provocation can result in damage to health. The central dogma in the field of stress research assumes a stereotyped physiological response to all stressors (the generality model). However, increasing evidence suggests that specific stressful conditions and the specific way an organism appraises these conditions can elicit qualitatively distinct emotional and physiological responses (the integrated specificity model). For example, appraisals of threat (vs. challenge), uncontrollability, and negative social evaluation have been shown to provoke specific psychobiological responses. Emotional responses appear to have specific neural substrates, which can result in differentiated alterations in peripheral physiological systems, so that it is incorrect to presume a uniform stress response.
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We propose that the anterior cingulate cortex is a specialization of neocortex rather than a more primitive stage of cortical evolution. Functions central to intelligent behavior, that is, emotional self-control, focused problem solving, error recognition, and adaptive response to changing conditions, are juxtaposed with the emotions in this structure. Evidence of an important role for the anterior cingulate cortex in these functions has accumulated through single-neuron recording, electrical stimulation, EEG, PET, fMRI, and lesion studies. The anterior cingulate cortex contains a class of spindle-shaped neurons that are found only in humans and the great apes, and thus are a recent evolutionary specialization probably related to these functions. The spindle cells appear to be widely connected with diverse parts of the brain and may have a role in the coordination that would be essential in developing the capacity to focus on difficult problems. Furthermore, they emerge postnatally and their survival may be enhanced or reduced by environmental conditions of enrichment or stress, thus potentially influencing adult competence or dysfunction in emotional self-control and problem-solving capacity.
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Recent scientific work has established both a theoretical basis and strong empirical evidence for a causal impact of social relationships on health. Prospective studies, which control for baseline health status, consistently show increased risk of death among persons with a low quantity, and sometimes low quality, of social relationships. Experimental and quasi-experimental studies of humans and animals also suggest that social isolation is a major risk factor for mortality from widely varying causes. The mechanisms through which social relationships affect health and the factors that promote or inhibit the development and maintenance of social relationships remain to be explored.
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The experience of pain is subjectively different from the fear and anxiety caused by threats of pain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging in healthy humans was applied to dissociate neural activation patterns associated with acute pain and its anticipation. Expectation of pain activated sites within the medial frontal lobe, insular cortex, and cerebellum distinct from, but close to, locations mediating pain experience itself. Anticipation of pain can in its own right cause mood changes and behavioral adaptations that exacerbate the suffering experienced by chronic pain patients. Selective manipulations of activity at these sites may offer therapeutic possibilities for treating chronic pain.
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The neurohypophysial peptide oxytocin (OT) and OT-like hormones facilitate reproduction in all vertebrates at several levels. The major site of OT gene expression is the magnocellular neurons of the hypothalamic paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei. In response to a variety of stimuli such as suckling, parturition, or certain kinds of stress, the processed OT peptide is released from the posterior pituitary into the systemic circulation. Such stimuli also lead to an intranuclear release of OT. Moreover, oxytocinergic neurons display widespread projections throughout the central nervous system. However, OT is also synthesized in peripheral tissues, e.g., uterus, placenta, amnion, corpus luteum, testis, and heart. The OT receptor is a typical class I G protein-coupled receptor that is primarily coupled via G(q) proteins to phospholipase C-beta. The high-affinity receptor state requires both Mg(2+) and cholesterol, which probably function as allosteric modulators. The agonist-binding region of the receptor has been characterized by mutagenesis and molecular modeling and is different from the antagonist binding site. The function and physiological regulation of the OT system is strongly steroid dependent. However, this is, unexpectedly, only partially reflected by the promoter sequences in the OT receptor gene. The classical actions of OT are stimulation of uterine smooth muscle contraction during labor and milk ejection during lactation. While the essential role of OT for the milk let-down reflex has been confirmed in OT-deficient mice, OT's role in parturition is obviously more complex. Before the onset of labor, uterine sensitivity to OT markedly increases concomitant with a strong upregulation of OT receptors in the myometrium and, to a lesser extent, in the decidua where OT stimulates the release of PGF(2 alpha). Experiments with transgenic mice suggest that OT acts as a luteotrophic hormone opposing the luteolytic action of PGF(2 alpha). Thus, to initiate labor, it might be essential to generate sufficient PGF(2 alpha) to overcome the luteotrophic action of OT in late gestation. OT also plays an important role in many other reproduction-related functions, such as control of the estrous cycle length, follicle luteinization in the ovary, and ovarian steroidogenesis. In the male, OT is a potent stimulator of spontaneous erections in rats and is involved in ejaculation. OT receptors have also been identified in other tissues, including the kidney, heart, thymus, pancreas, and adipocytes. For example, in the rat, OT is a cardiovascular hormone acting in concert with atrial natriuretic peptide to induce natriuresis and kaliuresis. The central actions of OT range from the modulation of the neuroendocrine reflexes to the establishment of complex social and bonding behaviors related to the reproduction and care of the offspring. OT exerts potent antistress effects that may facilitate pair bonds. Overall, the regulation by gonadal and adrenal steroids is one of the most remarkable features of the OT system and is, unfortunately, the least understood. One has to conclude that the physiological regulation of the OT system will remain puzzling as long as the molecular mechanisms of genomic and nongenomic actions of steroids have not been clarified.
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Male parental care is exceptionally rare in nature, although one of the most fascinating aspects of New Guinea's biodiversity is the evolution of male care in the frog family Microhylidae. Here I report a new mode of parental care: transport of froglets by the male parent, which was recently discovered in two species of microhylid frogs from the mountains of Papua New Guinea. As the offspring jump off at different points, they may benefit from reduced competition for food, lower predation pressure and fewer opportunities for inbreeding between froglets, which may explain why this unusual form of parental care evolved.
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Environmental conditions in early life permanently alter the development of glucocorticoid receptor gene expression in the hippocampus and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to acute or chronic stress. In part, these effects can involve an activation of ascending serotonergic pathways and subsequent changes in the expression of transcription factors that might drive glucocorticoid receptor expression in the hippocampus. This paper summarizes the evidence in favor of these pathways as well as recent studies describing regulatory targets within the chromatin structure of the promoter region of the rat hippocampal glucocorticoid receptor gene.
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A neurobiological model for pair-bond formation has emerged from studies in monogamous rodents. The neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin contribute to the processing of social cues necessary for individual recognition. Mesolimbic dopamine is involved in reinforcement and reward learning. Concurrent activation of neuropeptide and dopamine receptors in the reward centers of the brain during mating results in a conditioned partner preference, observed as a pair bond. Differential regulation of neuropeptide receptor expression may explain species differences in the ability to form pair bonds. These and other studies discussed here have intriguing implications for the neurobiology of social attachment in our own species.
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This study reports on the development of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, a new measure for assessing the quality of marriage and other similar dyads. The 32 item scale is designed for use with either married or unmarried cohabiting couples. Despite widespread criticisms of the concept of adjustment, the study proceeds from the pragmatic position that a new measure, which is theoretically grounded, relevant, valid, and highly reliable, is necessary since marital and dyadic adjustment continue to be researched. This factor analytic study tests a conceptual definition set forth in earlier work and suggests the existence of four empirically verified components of dyadic adjustment which can be used as subscales [dyadic satisfaction, dyadic cohesion, dyadic consensus and affectional expression]. Evidence is presented suggesting content, criterion related, and construct validity. High scale reliability is reported. The possibility of item weighting is considered and endorsed as a potential measurement technique, but it is not adopted for the present Dyadic Adjustment Scale. It is concluded that the Dyadic Adjustment Scale represents a significant improvement over other measures of marital adjustment, but a number of troublesome methodological issues remain for future research.
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The effects of handholding on anxiety in cataract surgery patients under local anaesthesia Aim of the study. To assess the effectiveness of handholding on the anxiety of patients undergoing planned cataract surgery under local anaesthesia. Background. Anxiety concerning anaesthesia, pain, physical injuries, isolation, prognosis, possibilities of deformity, or loss of self-control may be stressful to patients undergoing surgery. Anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system, characterized by an increase in catecholamine concentration, heart rate and blood pressure and increased glucocorticoid levels; it also affects immune responses. Therefore, there is a need for nursing interventions to reduce the anxiety of patients under local anaesthesia who are conscious. Methods. An untreated control group design with pre and post-test was used. Among 62 patients, 30 were randomly assigned to the handholding group and 32 to the control group. Handholding was provided to subjects of the handholding group during surgery. Visual analogue scales and interviews were used to measure anxiety, and pulse rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressure were used as physiological measures of stress. Blood was taken for analysis of levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, neutrophils, lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Results. The number of subjects who reported decreased anxiety during operation was significantly higher in the handholding group compared with the control group and most of the subjects reported that handholding during operation was very helpful in reducing anxiety. Epinephrine levels in the handholding group were significantly lower than in the control group. Conclusions. Results suggest that this noninvasive intervention has potential for reducing anxiety in patients having cataract surgery under local anaesthesia.
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Attachment theory is a powerful framework for understanding affect regulation. In this article, we examine the role played by attachment orientation in shaping emotional reactions to interpersonal transactions within close relationships. Using our recent integrative model of attachment-system activation and dynamics as a guide (M. Mikulincer & P. R. Shaver, 2003), we review relevant evidence, present new findings, and propose hypotheses concerning how people with different attachment styles are likely to react emotionally to relational events. Specifically, we focus on attachment-related variations in the emotional states elicited by a relationship partner's positive and negative behaviors and by signals of a partner's (relationship relevant or relationship irrelevant) distress or pleasure. In so doing, we organize existing knowledge and point the way to future research on attachment-related emotions in close relationships.
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Attachment theory (J. Bowlby, 1982/1969, 1973) is one of the most useful and generative frameworks for understanding both normative and individual-differences aspects of the process of affect regulation. In this article we focus mainly on the different attachment-related strategies of affect regulation that result from different patterns of interactions with significant others. Specifically, we pursue 3 main goals: First, we elaborate the dynamics and functioning of these affect-regulation strategies using a recent integrative model of attachment-system activation and dynamics (P. R. Shaver & M. Mikulincer, 2002). Second, we review recent findings concerning the cognitive consequences of attachment-related strategies following the arousal of positive and negative affect. Third, we propose some integrative ideas concerning the formation and development of the different attachment-related strategies.
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This article outlines a strategy for studying early social relationships in relatively simple animal model systems. It describes some of the differences in approach between neuroscientists and human developmentalists in dealing with the same research problems. These ideas are then illustrated in work from our laboratory on the processes of early social attachment in young rats and on their responses to separation from their mothers. We have found evidence for a novel mechanism by which the mother appears to be a regulator of physiological and behavioral systems of the infant so that many of the prolonged responses to separation represent withdrawal or release phenomena. Finally, I will describe some surprising results from our studies on the organization of nursing that reveal an unexpected degree of synchrony and reciprocity in this apparently simple interaction that is so basic to being a mammal.
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The Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) is a non-verbal pictorial assessment technique that directly measures the pleasure, arousal, and dominance associated with a person's affective reaction to a wide variety of stimuli. In this experiment, we compare reports of affective experience obtained using SAM, which requires only three simple judgments, to the Semantic Differential scale devised by Mehrabian and Russell (An approach to environmental psychology, 1974) which requires 18 different ratings. Subjective reports were measured to a series of pictures that varied in both affective valence and intensity. Correlations across the two rating methods were high both for reports of experienced pleasure and felt arousal. Differences obtained in the dominance dimension of the two instruments suggest that SAM may better track the personal response to an affective stimulus. SAM is an inexpensive, easy method for quickly assessing reports of affective response in many contexts.
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A package of computer programs for analysis and visualization of three-dimensional human brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) results is described. The software can color overlay neural activation maps onto higher resolution anatomical scans. Slices in each cardinal plane can be viewed simultaneously. Manual placement of markers on anatomical landmarks allows transformation of anatomical and functional scans into stereotaxic (Talairach-Tournoux) coordinates. The techniques for automatically generating transformed functional data sets from manually labeled anatomical data sets are described. Facilities are provided for several types of statistical analyses of multiple 3D functional data sets. The programs are written in ANSI C and Motif 1.2 to run on Unix workstations.
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Although an inability to form normal social attachments characterizes many forms of psychopathology, there has been little study of the neural basis of social bond formation. The primary purpose of this article is to describe a novel approach to the neurobiology of attachment. The author reviews animal research on two closely related neuropeptides, oxytocin and vasopressin, implicated in the central mediation of attachment behaviors. These neuropeptides appear to be important for the initiation of pair bonds and parental behaviors as well as the infant's response to social separation. Both cellular and molecular studies have begun to reveal the mechanisms by which oxytocin and vasopressin neural pathways are regulated, leading to a preliminary understanding of how these hormones act within the brain to influence complex social behaviors. Although their function in the human brain has yet to be demonstrated, the available evidence suggests that oxytocin and vasopressin may prove to be important in the pathophysiology of clinical disorders, such as autism, characterized by an inability to form normal social attachments.
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During breastfeeding or suckling, maternal oxytocin levels are raised by somatosensory stimulation. Oxytocin may, however, also be released by nonnoxious stimuli such as touch, warm temperature etc. in plasma and in cerebrospinal fluid. Consequently, oxytocin may be involved in physiological and behavioral effects induced by social interaction in a more general context. In both male and female rats oxytocin exerts potent physiological antistress effects. If daily oxytocin injections are repeated over a 5-day period, blood pressure is decreased by 10-20 mmHg, the withdrawal latency to heat stimuli is prolonged, cortisol levels are decreased and insulin and cholecystokinin levels are increased. These effects last from 1 to several weeks after the last injection. After repeated oxytocin treatment weight gain may be promoted and the healing rate of wounds increased. Most behavioral and physiological effects induced by oxytocin can be blocked by oxytocin antagonists. In contrast, the antistress effects can not, suggesting that unidentified oxytocin receptors may exist. The prolonged latency in the tail-flick test can be temporarily reversed by administration of naloxone, suggesting that endogenous opioid activity has been increased by the oxytocin injections. In contrast, the long-term lowering of blood pressure and of cortisol levels as well as the sedative effects of oxytocin have been found to be related to an increased activity of central alpha 2-adrenoceptors. Positive social interactions have been related to health-promoting effects. Oxytocin released in response to social stimuli may be part of a neuroendocrine substrate which underlies the benefits of positive social experiences. Such processes may in addition explain the health-promoting effects of certain alternative therapies. Because of the special properties of oxytocin, including the fact that it can become conditioned to psychological state or imagery, oxytocin may also mediate the benefits attributed to therapies such as hypnosis or meditation.
Article
Recently, there has been a convergence in lesion and neuroimaging data in the identification of circuits underlying positive and negative emotion in the human brain. Emphasis is placed on the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the amygdala as two key components of this circuitry. Emotion guides action and organizes behavior towards salient goals. To accomplish this, it is essential that the organism have a means of representing affect in the absence of immediate elicitors. It is proposed that the PFC plays a crucial role in affective working memory. The ventromedial sector of the PFC is most directly involved in the representation of elementary positive and negative emotional states while the dorsolateral PFC may be involved in the representation of the goal states towards which these elementary positive and negative states are directed. The amygdala has been consistently identified as playing a crucial role in both the perception of emotional cues and the production of emotional responses, with some evidence suggesting that it is particularly involved with fear-related negative affect. Individual differences in amygdala activation are implicated in dispositional affective styles and increased reactivity to negative incentives. The ventral striatum, anterior cingulate and insular cortex also provide unique contributions to emotional processing.
Article
Complex mechanisms which are still not completely defined, are responsible for the spontaneous onset of labour: an essential role is attributed to endocrine factors. A massive increase, even three times higher than normal physiological values of ACTH and cortisol, has been reported during labour. Similar behaviour has also been recorded for oxytocin at the end of pregnancy as well as during labour. The relationship between oxytocin and the adrenal axis are still debated thus the goal of our study was to attempt to clarify this rapport. Sixty-two women at the end of a term-pregnancy agreed to participate in this study: 46 were innoculated with oxytocin (syntocinon) every 20 minutes for 1 hour; 16 were administered a natural placebo every 20 minutes for 1 hour (control group). ACTH and cortisol values from plasma samples were taken every 20 minutes and analyzed. Our results demonstrated an inhibitory effect of exogenous oxytocin on ACTH and cortisol release. This inhibitory effect, as shown by our results, is time and dose-related. High oxytocin levels, as during exogenous infusion, could induce an effect opposite a normal physiologic one.
Article
The traditional notion of aggression as an antisocial instinct is being replaced by a framework that considers it a tool of competition and negotiation. When survival depends on mutual assistance, the expression of aggression is constrained by the need to maintain beneficial relationships. Moreover, evolution has produced ways of countering its disruptive consequences. For example, chimpanzees kiss and embrace after fights, and other nonhuman primates engage in similar “reconciliations.” Theoretical developments in this field carry implications for human aggression research. From families to high schools, aggressive conflict is subject to the same constraints known of cooperative animal societies. It is only when social relationships are valued that one can expect the full complement of natural checks and balances.
Article
In a series of [15O]PET experiments aimed at investigating the neural basis of emotion and feeling, 41 normal subjects recalled and re-experienced personal life episodes marked by sadness, happiness, anger or fear. We tested the hypothesis that the process of feeling emotions requires the participation of brain regions, such as the somatosensory cortices and the upper brainstem nuclei, that are involved in the mapping and/or regulation of internal organism states. Such areas were indeed engaged, underscoring the close relationship between emotion and homeostasis. The findings also lend support to the idea that the subjective process of feeling emotions is partly grounded in dynamic neural maps, which represent several aspects of the organism's continuously changing internal state.
Article
We propose that the anterior cingulate cortex is a specialization of neocortex rather than a more primitive stage of cortical evolution. Functions central to intelligent behavior, that is, emotional self-control, focused problem solving, error recognition, and adaptive response to changing conditions, are juxtaposed with the emotions in this structure. Evidence of an important role for the anterior cingulate cortex in these functions has accumulated through single-neuron recording, electrical stimulation, EEG, PET, fMRI, and lesion studies. The anterior cingulate cortex contains a class of spindle-shaped neurons that are found only in humans and the great apes, and thus are a recent evolutionary specialization probably related to these functions. The spindle cells appear to be widely connected with diverse parts of the brain and may have a role in the coordination that would be essential in developing the capacity to focus on difficult problems. Furthermore, they emerge postnatally and their survival may be enhanced or reduced by environmental conditions of enrichment or stress, thus potentially influencing adult competence or dysfunction in emotional self-control and problem-solving capacity.
Article
It is widely agreed that visuospatial orienting attention depends on a network of frontal and parietal areas in the right hemisphere. It is thought that the visuospatial orienting role of the right parietal lobe is related to its role in the production of overt eye movements. The experiments reported here test the possibility that other parietal regions may be important for directing attention in relation to response modalities other than eye movement. Specifically, we used positron emission tomography (PET) to test the hypothesis that a 'left' parietal area, the supramarginal gyrus, is important for attention in relation to limb movements (Rushworth et al., 1997; Rushworth, Ellison, & Walsh, in press). We have referred to this process as 'motor attention' to distinguish it from orienting attention. In one condition subjects spent most of the scanning period covertly attending to 'left' hand movements that they were about to make. Activity in this first condition was compared with a second condition with identical stimuli and movement responses but lacking motor attention periods. Comparison of the conditions revealed that motor attention-related activity was almost exclusively restricted to the 'left' hemisphere despite the fact that subjects only ever made ipsilateral, left-hand responses. Left parietal activity was prominent in this comparison, within the parietal lobe the critical region for motor attention was the supramarginal gyrus and the adjacent anterior intraparietal sulcus (AIP), a region anterior to the posterior parietal cortex identified with orienting attention. In a second part of the experiment we compared a condition in which subjects covertly rehearsed verbal responses with a condition in which they made verbal responses immediately without rehearsal. A comparison of the two conditions revealed verbal rehearsal-related activity in several anterior left hemisphere areas including Broca's area. The lack of verbal rehearsal-related activity in the left supra-marginal gyrus confirms that this area plays a direct role in motor attention that cannot be attributed to any strategy of verbal mediation. The results also provide evidence concerning the importance of ventral premotor (PMv) and Broca's area in motor attention and language processes.
Article
Mounting evidence indicates that social support is associated with better outcomes of cardiovascular disease and reduced all-cause mortality. Much less is known about the specific contribution of marital functioning to these outcomes, and the potential prognostic significance of marital quality for congestive heart failure (CHF) has not been explored. Interview and observational measures of marital quality obtained from 189 patients with CHF (139 men and 50 women) and their spouses were examined as predictors of patient survival up to 48 months after assessment and compared with prediction based on illness severity (New York Heart Association [NYHA] class). Four-year survival rates were 52.5% and 68% for male patients and female patients, respectively. In Cox regression analyses, a composite measure of marital quality predicted 4-year survival as well as the patient's concurrent NYHA class did (both p <0.001). Adjusting for CHF severity did not diminish the prognostic significance of marital functioning, and prediction of survival from marital quality appeared stronger for female than for male patients. Thus, when marital quality and NYHA class are considered jointly, they both make independent, statistically significant contributions to the prediction of patient mortality.
Article
Current models propose that the experience of pain includes both sensory and affective components. Our purpose was to use functional MR imaging to determine areas of the brain engaged by the affective dimension of pain. Twelve healthy adults underwent functional MR imaging using a gradient-echo echoplanar technique while a cold pressor test, consisting of cold and pain tasks, was applied first to one foot and then to the other. The cold task involved the application of cold water (14-20 degrees C) that was not at a painful level. For the pain task, the water temperature was then lowered to a painful temperature (8-14 degrees C) and subsequently to the pain threshold (3-8 degrees C). Images acquired at room temperature before the cold and pain tasks served as a baseline task. Composite maps of brain activation were generated by comparing the baseline task with the cold task and the cold task with the pain task. The significance of signal changes was estimated by randomization of individual activation maps. Cold-related activation (p < 0.01) was found in the postcentral gyrus bilaterally, laterally, and inferiorly to the primary motor-sensory area of the foot and at a site near the second somatosensory site. Activation also occurred in the frontal lobe (the bilateral middle frontal gyri and the right inferior frontal gyrus), the left anterior insula, the left thalamus, and the superior aspect of the anterior cingulate gyrus (seen at one slice location). Pain-related activation (p < 0.01) included the anterior cingulate gyrus (seen at four slice locations); the superior frontal gyrus, especially on the right; and the right cuneus. Compared with the basic sensory processing of pain, the affective dimension of pain activates a cortical network that includes the right superior frontal gyrus, the right cuneus, and a large area of the anterior cingulate gyrus.
Article
Marriage is the central relationship for most adults and has beneficial effects for health. At the same time, troubled marriages have negative health consequences. This review outlines the physiological pathways through which marital relationships influence health based on a stress/social support model. In addition, we review recent findings suggesting that unhappy marriages are associated with morbidity and mortality. We then turn to studies of marital interaction that include assessment of physiological pathways through which marital functioning influences health: the cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems. Across these studies, negative and hostile behaviors during marital conflict discussions are related to elevations in cardiovascular activity, alterations in hormones related to stress, and dysregulation of immune function. Using recent conceptualizations of the physiological impact of chronic stress, we illustrate how physiological changes associated with marital functioning in these studies have long-term implications for health outcomes. Finally, we discuss future implications of current research for understanding the relationships among marital functioning, physiology, and health.
Article
Social interactions can profoundly affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Although most research on social modulation of glucocorticoid concentrations has focused on the consequences of exposure to stressful social stimuli, there is a growing body of literature which suggests that social support in humans and affiliative behaviors in some animals can provide a buffer against stress and have a positive impact on measures of health and well-being. This review will compare HPA axis activity among individuals for whom social relationships are maintained through aggressive displays, such as dominance hierarchies, vs. individuals engaging in high levels of prosocial behavior. We also will examine oxytocin, a neuropeptide that is well known for promoting social behavior, as the physiological link between positive social interactions and suppression of the HPA axis. Despite many examples of social interaction modulating the HPA axis and improving health outcomes, there is relatively little known regarding the underlying mechanisms through which social behavior can provide a buffer against stress-related disease.
Article
We examined whether consciously undetected fear signals engage a collateral brainstem pathway to the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in the intact human brain, using functional neuroimaging. 'Blindsight' lesion patients can respond to visual fear signals independently from conscious experience, suggesting that these signals reach the amygdala via a direct pathway that bypasses the primary visual cortex. Electrophysiological evidence points to concomitant involvement of prefrontal regions in automatic orienting to subliminal signals of fear, which may reflect innervation arising from brainstem arousal systems. To approximate blindsight in 22 healthy subjects, facial signals of fear were presented briefly (16.7 ms) and masked such that conscious detection was prevented. Results revealed that subliminal fear signals elicited activity in the brainstem region encompassing the superior colliculus and locus coeruleus, pulvinar and amygdala, and in fronto-temporal regions associated with orienting. These findings suggest that crude sensory input from the superior colliculo-pulvinar visual pathway to the amygdala may allow for sufficient appraisal of fear signals to innervate the locus coeruleus. The engagement of the locus coeruleus could explain the observation of diffuse fronto-temporal cortical activity, given its role in evoking collateral ascending noradrenergic efferents to the subcortical amygdala and prefrontal cortex. This network may represent an evolutionary adaptive neural 'alarm' system for rapid alerting to sources of threat, without the need for conscious appraisal.