[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Facial expressions aid social transactions and serve as socialization tools, with smiles signaling approval and reward, and angry faces signaling disapproval and punishment. The present study examined whether the subjective experience of positive vs. negative facial expressions differs between children and adults. Specifically, we examined age-related differences in biases toward happy and angry facial expressions. Young children (5-7 years) and young adults (18-29 years) rated the intensity of happy and angry expressions as well as levels of experienced arousal. Results showed that young children-but not young adults-rated happy facial expressions as both more intense and arousing than angry faces. This finding, which we replicated in two independent samples, was not due to differences in the ability to identify facial expressions, and suggests that children are more tuned to information in positive expressions. Together these studies provide evidence that children see unambiguous adult emotional expressions through rose-colored glasses, and suggest that what is emotionally relevant can shift with development.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated the neural correlates of remote traumatic reexperiencing in survivors of a life-threatening incident: the near crash of Air Transat (AT) Flight 236. Survivors’ brain activity was monitored during video-cued recollection of the AT disaster, September 11, 2001 (9/11), and a comparatively nonemotional (neutral) event. Passengers showed a robust memory enhancement effect for the AT incident relative to the 9/11 and neutral events. This traumatic memory enhancement was associated with activation in the amygdala, medial temporal lobe, anterior and posterior midline, and visual cortex in passengers. This brain–behavior relationship also held in relation to 9/11, which had elevated significance for passengers given its temporal proximity to the AT disaster. This pattern was not observed in a comparison group of nontraumatized individuals who were also scanned. These findings suggest that remote traumatic memory is mediated by amygdalar activity, which likely enhances vividness via influence
No preview · Article · Jun 2015 · Clinical Psychological Science
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The substantial health burden associated with major depressive disorder (MDD) is a product of both its high prevalence and the significant risk of relapse, recurrence, and chronicity. Establishing recurrence vulnerability factors (VFs) could improve the long-term management of MDD by identifying the need for further intervention in seemingly recovered patients. We present a model of sensitization in depression vulnerability, with an emphasis on the integration of behavioral and neural systems accounts. Evidence suggests that VFs fall into 2 categories: dysphoric attention and dysphoric elaboration. Dysphoric attention is driven by fixation on negative life events, and is characterized behaviorally by reduced executive control, and neurally by elevated activity in the brain's salience network. Dysphoric elaboration is driven by rumination that promotes overgeneral self- and contextual appraisals, and is characterized behaviorally by dysfunctional attitudes, and neurally by elevated connectivity within normally distinct prefrontal brain networks. Although few prospective VF studies exist from which to catalogue a definitive neurobehavioral account, extant data support the value of the proposed 2-factor model. Measuring the continued presence of these 2 VFs during recovery may more accurately identify remitted patients who would benefit from targeted prophylactic intervention. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Journal of Abnormal Psychology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The processing of emotional as compared to neutral information is associated with different patterns in eye movement and neural activity. However, the 'emotionality' of a stimulus can be conveyed not only by its physical properties, but also by the information that is presented with it. There is very limited work examining the how emotional information may influence the immediate perceptual processing of otherwise neutral information. We examined how presenting an emotion label for a neutral face may influence subsequent processing by using eye movement monitoring (EMM) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) simultaneously. Participants viewed a series of faces with neutral expressions. Each face was followed by a unique negative or neutral sentence to describe that person, and then the same face was presented in isolation again. Viewing of faces paired with a negative sentence was associated with increased early viewing of the eye region and increased neural activity between 600 and 1200 ms in emotion processing regions such as the cingulate, medial prefrontal cortex, and amygdala, as well as posterior regions such as the precuneus and occipital cortex. Viewing of faces paired with a neutral sentence was associated with increased activity in the parahippocampal gyrus during the same time window. By monitoring behavior and neural activity within the same paradigm, these findings demonstrate that emotional information alters subsequent visual scanning and the neural systems that are presumably invoked to maintain a representation of the neutral information along with its emotional details.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The hedonic principle maintains that humans strive to maximize pleasant feelings and avoid unpleasant feelings. Surprisingly, and contrary to hedonic logic, previous experiments have demonstrated a relationship between picture viewing time and arousal (activation) but not with valence (pleasure vs. displeasure), suggesting that arousal rather than the hedonic principle accounts for how individuals choose to spend their time. In 2 experiments we investigated the arousal and hedonic principles underlying viewing time behavior while controlling for familiarity with stimuli, picture complexity, and demand characteristics. Under ad libitum conditions of picture viewing, we found strong relationships between viewing time, valence, and facial corrugator electomyographic (EMG) activity with familiar but not novel pictures. Viewing time of novel stimuli was largely associated with arousal and visual complexity. We conclude that only after initial information about the stimulus is gathered, where we choose to spend our time is guided by the hedonic principle. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It remains unclear how the brain represents external objective sensory events alongside our internal subjective impressions of them-affect. Representational mapping of population activity evoked by complex scenes and basic tastes in humans revealed a neural code supporting a continuous axis of pleasant-to-unpleasant valence. This valence code was distinct from low-level physical and high-level object properties. Although ventral temporal and anterior insular cortices supported valence codes specific to vision and taste, both the medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortices (OFC) maintained a valence code independent of sensory origin. Furthermore, only the OFC code could classify experienced affect across participants. The entire valence spectrum was represented as a collective pattern in regional neural activity as sensory-specific and abstract codes, whereby the subjective quality of affect can be objectively quantified across stimuli, modalities and people.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Nature Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Here we examined with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) whether advanced age affects 2 mechanisms of attention that are widely thought to enhance signal processing in the sensory neocortex: gain and tuning. Healthy young and older adults discriminated faces under varying levels of object competition while fMRI was acquired. In young adults, cortical response magnitude to attended faces was maintained despite increasing competition, consistent with gain. Cortical response selectivity, indexed from repetition suppression, also increased only for attended faces despite increasing competition, consistent with tuning. Older adults exhibited intact gain, but altered tuning, with extrastriate cortical tuning determined by object salience rather than attention. Moreover, the magnitude of this susceptibility to stimulus-driven processing was associated with a redistribution of attention-driven competitive processes to the frontal cortices. These data indicate that although both gain and tuning are modulated by increased perceptual competition, they are functionally dissociable in the extrastriate cortices, exhibit differential susceptibility to advanced aging, and spare the frontal cortices a considerable processing burden through early selection.
Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Neurobiology of Aging
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although there is an emerging consensus that disgust plays a role in human morality, it remains unclear whether this role is limited to transgressions that contain elements of physical disgust (e.g., gory murders, sexual crimes), or whether disgust is also involved in "pure" forms of morality. To address this issue, we examined the relationship between individual differences in the tendency to experience disgust toward physical stimuli (i.e., trait physical disgust) and reactions to pure moral transgressions. Across two studies, individuals higher in trait physical disgust judged moral transgressions to be more wrong than did their low-disgust counterparts, and were also more likely to moralize violations of social convention. Controlling for gender, trait anxiety, trait anger, and social conservatism did not eliminate trait disgust effects. These results suggest that disgust's role in morality is not limited to issues of purity or bodily norms, and that disgust may play a role in setting the boundaries of the moral domain. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) are particularly effective treatment approaches in terms of alleviating depressive symptoms and preventing relapse once remission has been achieved. Although engaging in mindfulness practice is an essential element of both treatments; it is unclear whether informal or formal practices differentially impact on symptom alleviation. The current study utilizes a correlational design to examine data provided by thirty-two previously depressed, remitted outpatients who received either MBCT or MBSR treatment. Outpatients in the MBCT group received treatment as part of a previously published randomized efficacy trial (Segal et al. in Arch Gen Psychiatry 67:1256–1264, 2010), while those in the MBSR group received treatment as part of a separate, unpublished randomized clinical trial. Throughout treatment, clients reported on their use of formal and informal mindfulness practices. Results indicate that engaging in formal (but not informal) mindfulness practice was associated with decreased rumination, which was associated with symptom alleviation.
Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · Cognitive Therapy and Research
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Darwin theorized that emotional expressions originated as opposing functional adaptations for the expresser, not as distinct categories of social signals. Given that two thirds of the eye's refractive power comes from the cornea, we examined whether opposing expressive behaviors that widen the eyes (e.g., fear) or narrow the eyes (e.g., disgust) may have served as an optical trade-off, enhancing either sensitivity or acuity, thereby promoting stimulus localization ("where") or stimulus discrimination ("what"), respectively. An optical model based on eye apertures of posed fear and disgust expressions supported this functional trade-off. We then tested the model using standardized optometric measures of sensitivity and acuity. We demonstrated that eye widening enhanced stimulus detection, whereas eye narrowing enhanced discrimination, each at the expense of the other. Opposing expressive actions around the eye may thus reflect origins in an optical principle, shaping visual encoding at its earliest stage-how light is cast onto the retina.
No preview · Article · Jan 2014 · Psychological Science
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Emotionally arousing events reach awareness more easily and evoke greater visual cortex activation than more mundane events. Recent studies have shown that they are also perceived more vividly and that emotionally enhanced perceptual vividness predicts memory vividness. We propose that affect-biased attention (ABA) - selective attention to emotionally salient events - is an endogenous attentional system tuned by an individual's history of reward and punishment. We present the Biased Attention via Norepinephrine (BANE) model, which unifies genetic, neuromodulatory, neural and behavioural evidence to account for ABA. We review evidence supporting BANE's proposal that a key mechanism of ABA is locus coeruleus-norepinephrine (LC-NE) activity, which interacts with activity in hubs of affective salience networks to modulate visual cortex activation and heighten the subjective vividness of emotionally salient stimuli. We further review literature on biased competition and look at initial evidence for its potential as a neural mechanism behind ABA. We also review evidence supporting the role of the LC-NE system as a driving force of ABA. Finally, we review individual differences in ABA and memory including differences in sensitivity to stimulus category and valence. We focus on differences arising from a variant of the ADRA2b gene, which codes for the alpha2b adrenoreceptor as a way of investigating influences of NE availability on ABA in humans.
No preview · Article · Nov 2013 · Behavioural brain research
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Emotionally enhanced memory and susceptibility to intrusive memories after trauma have been linked to a deletion variant (i.e., a form of a gene in which certain amino acids are missing) of ADRA2B, the gene encoding subtype B of the α2-adrenergic receptor, which influences norepinephrine activity. We examined in 207 participants whether variations in this gene are responsible for individual differences in affective influences on initial encoding that alter perceptual awareness. We examined the attentional blink, an attentional impairment during rapid serial visual presentation, for negatively arousing, positively arousing, and neutral target words. Overall, the attentional blink was reduced for emotional targets for ADRA2B-deletion carriers and noncarriers alike, which reveals emotional sparing (i.e., reduction of the attentional impairment for words that are emotionally significant). However, deletion carriers demonstrated a further, more pronounced emotional sparing for negative targets. This finding demonstrates a contribution of genetics to individual differences in the emotional subjectivity of perception, which in turn may be linked to biases in later memory.
No preview · Article · Sep 2013 · Psychological Science
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The KIBRA gene has been associated with episodic memory in several recent reports; carriers of the T-allele show enhanced episodic memory performance relative to noncarriers. Gene expression studies in human and rodent species show high levels of KIBRA in the hippocampus, particularly in the subfields. The goal of the present study was to determine whether the KIBRA C→T polymorphism is also associated with volume differences in the human hippocampus and whether specific subfields are differentially affected by KIBRA genotype. High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (T2-weighted, voxel size = 0.4 × 0.4 mm, in-plane) was used to manually segment hippocampal cornu ammonis (CA) subfields, dentate gyrus (DG), and the subiculum as well as adjacent medial temporal lobe cortices in healthy carriers and noncarriers of the KIBRA T-allele (rs17070145). Overall, we found that T-carriers had a larger hippocampal volume relative to noncarriers. The structural differences observed were specific to the CA fields and DG regions of the hippocampus, suggesting a potential neural mechanism for the effects of KIBRA on episodic memory performance reported previously.
Full-text · Article · Aug 2013 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Language is a social act. We have previously argued that language remains embedded in sociality because the motivation to communicate exists only within a social context. Schilbach et al. underscore the importance of studying linguistic behavior from within the motivated, socially interactive frame in which it is learnt and used, as well as provide testable hypotheses for a participatory, second-person neuroscience approach to language learning.
No preview · Article · Aug 2013 · Behavioral and Brain Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We explored the attentional demands of unpleasant picture viewing and emotion regulation strategies. Participants received instructions to view, reappraise, or suppress their emotional experience to unpleasant and neutral pictures, while performing a concurrent auditory discrimination task, both during and after the picture presentation period. Reaction times (RTs) were slower during unpleasant than neutral pictures, which persisted into the post-picture period. RTs were also slower during reappraisal and suppression than viewing and for earlier than later tones following picture onset. An enduring effect of negative emotion was found in the picture and post picture period for suppression but not reappraisal. Findings suggest that both viewing emotional stimuli and regulating one’s emotions using either reappraisal or suppression draw upon common attentional resources, but with suppression resulting in the distinct cost of maintaining the effects of negative emotion.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2013 · Motivation and Emotion
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It is well-known that emotionally salient events are remembered more vividly than mundane ones. Our recent research has demonstrated that such memory vividness (Mviv) is due in part to the subjective experience of emotional events as more perceptually vivid, an effect we call emotionally enhanced vividness (EEV). The present study built on previously reported research in which fMRI data were collected while participants rated relative levels of visual noise overlaid on emotionally salient and neutral images. Ratings of greater EEV were associated with greater activation in the amygdala and visual cortex. In the present study, we measured BOLD activation that predicted recognition Mviv for these same images 1 week later. Results showed that, after controlling for differences between scenes in low-level objective features, hippocampus activation uniquely predicted subsequent Mviv. In contrast, amygdala and visual cortex regions that were sensitive to EEV were also modulated by subsequent ratings of Mviv. These findings suggest shared neural substrates for the influence of emotional salience on perceptual and mnemonic vividness, with amygdala and visual cortex activation at encoding contributing to the experience of both perception and subsequent memory.
Preview · Article · May 2013 · Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Facial expressions may have originated from a primitive sensory regulatory function that was then co-opted and further shaped for the purposes of social utility. In the research reported here, we tested such a hypothesis by investigating the functional origins of fear expressions for both the expresser and the observer. We first found that fear-based eye widening enhanced target discrimination in the available visual periphery of the expresser by 9.4%. We then found that fear-based eye widening enhanced observers' discrimination of expressers' gaze direction and facilitated observers' responses when locating eccentric targets. We present evidence that this benefit was driven by neither the perceived emotion nor attention but, rather, by an enhanced physical signal originating from greater exposure of the iris and sclera. These results highlight the coevolution of sensory and social regulatory functions of emotional expressions by showing that eye widening serves to enhance processing of important environmental events in the visual fields of both expresser and observer.
No preview · Article · Apr 2013 · Psychological Science