March 29, 2011

Being rejected a real pain, brain images show

From CBC News:

The pain of rejection is more than just a figure of speech: regions of the brain that respond to physical pain overlap with those that react to social rejection, a brain imaging study shows.

The study used brain imaging on people involved in romantic breakups.

“These results give new meaning to the idea that rejection ‘hurts,”‘ wrote psychology professor Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan and his colleagues. Their findings are reported in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author Edward Smith of Columbia University explained that the research shows that psychological or social events can affect regions of the brain that scientists thought were dedicated to physical pain.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Click here for full access to the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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February 17, 2011

Emotional processing in anterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex

A. Etkinsend, T. Egner, R. Kalisch
Article in Trends in Cognitive Sciences

Negative emotional stimuli activate a broad network of brain regions, including the medial prefrontal (mPFC) and anterior cingulate (ACC) cortices. An early influential view dichotomized these regions into dorsal–caudal cognitive and ventral–rostral affective subdivisions. In this review, we examine a wealth of recent research on negative emotions in animals and humans, using the example of fear or anxiety, and conclude that, contrary to the traditional dichotomy, both subdivisions make key contributions to emotional processing. Specifically, dorsal–caudal regions of the ACC and mPFC are involved in appraisal and expression of negative emotion, whereas ventral–rostral portions of the ACC and mPFC have a regulatory role with respect to limbic regions involved in generating emotional responses. Moreover, this new framework is broadly consistent with emerging data on other negative and positive emotions.

Click here for the full article.

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February 15, 2011

The Brain Signature of Love

emotions,fMRI — alice @ 10:04 pm

From The Dana Foundation:

Study the literature of the world and you will find one theme that transcends both time and culture: that of love. Whether you are reading Shakespeare or Rumi, the manner in which love is described shows remarkable similarity. Those similarities go far beyond the page: Neuroscientists are now demonstrating that romantic love is also represented by a unique pattern of activation in the brain.

The neuroimaging of love

In the past six years, several groups of researchers have sought to localize romantic love in the brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques. Though some have criticized the attempt as nothing more than modern day phrenology, those who seek the neural correlates of love believe it an essential avenue of study.

“The study of love is important so we might bring some rationality to a complex and emotional phenomenon,” says Stephanie Ortigue, a neuroscientist at Syracuse University. “These studies allow scientists to show that love is not a drug or a pathology but something that has a unique signature in the healthy brain.”

Read the entire article.

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December 15, 2010

Breathe In, Breathe Out, Fall in Love

emotions,meditation — alice @ 2:54 pm

From: In the front hall of the Victorian house was a laminated sign that said “Shoes,” and underneath it a row of Birkenstocks and Danskos stretched along the wall. I could hear voices coming from the meditation hall upstairs, so I figured people were already finding their seats. I sat down and pulled off my motorcycle boots, wishing every object had its own little sign. If only my ex-boyfriend had worn a sign the night before that said “ex-boyfriend,” I would not have slept with him.

I crept upstairs and tried to open the door soundlessly. Inside, two dozen people were perched on pillows. They were the same kind of people you find at a bookstore — a lot of spectacles, lumpy sweaters, laptop bags. A few were still whispering, but I sensed the room was about to fall into a trance of majestic silence. So I hurried to join them.

Sitting cross-legged, my hands cupped upward, I began to struggle with the basics of Vipassana meditation, trying to pay attention to my breath as it tickled my nostrils. “Vipassana” comes from the Pali word for “insight,” but here in Cambridge, Mass., the term connotes something else — a certain East Coast, over-educated style of sitting on a pillow.

On the dais, the teacher lounged on his meditation bench in a weathered Patagonia hoodie, his gray hair tied in a knot. “For the next eight hours, you will not say a word,” he told us brightly. “Did everyone remember to bring a bag lunch?”

At that point in my life I had never attempted a full day of meditation.

Click here for entire article.

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November 6, 2010

Long-term Memories The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

From The Dana Foundation

Editor’s note: Traumatic memories haunt the lives of people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and other illnesses. Fortunately, recent research into the changeability of long-term memories may someday develop into treatments for such individuals. But before this can happen, writes Cristina Alberini, Ph.D., of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, researchers must determine just how effectively the fear associated with older memories—especially those involved in PTSD—can be reduced and for how long. Researchers must also address the ethical issues that go hand in hand with modifying memory.

For more than a century, clinicians, psychologists, and biologists have worked to understand the mechanisms underlying the formation and storage of long-term memories. Recently, scientists found that when a stored memory is recalled, it becomes sensitive to disruption for a limited time.1,2 This finding indicates that it might be possible to weaken or even erase memories of traumatic experiences that become uncontrollably intrusive in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This possibility has drawn great interest from scientific and clinical communities, as well as from nonscientists, who became interested in its potential clinical applications; furthermore, it raised ethical concerns.

Many ethical questions and debates about treatments designed to weaken memories may reflect the still poor understanding of how memory recall or reactivation results in memory fragility and the many unknowns surrounding its temporal boundaries. Whereas the study of animal models and healthy humans has provided some knowledge about post-recall memory disruption, data on the use of such disruption to treat PTSD symptoms are still conflicting. The strengthening of memory with the passage of time, the resilience of strong memories to disruption, and the specific aspects of memory that become sensitive to disruption raise questions about the limitations of this approach and warrant more research. Here, we will look at how we form memories of an emotional event and how these memories become fragile after recall. That will help us consider the potential, limitations, and ethics of disrupting memories of emotion.

Read the entire article

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November 2, 2010

Fear in Love: Attachment, Abuse, and the Developing Brain

From: The Dana Foundation

Editor’s note: Why do abused children attach and remain attached to abusive parents? In this article, Dr. Regina Sullivan explains how her research with rat pups has led to greater understanding of the infant brain, and how negative early experiences can cause long-term genetic, brain, behavioral, and hormonal changes that can affect not only the abuse victim but also the victim’s descendants.

Many parents have absolute faith that, with the right kind of stimulation, they can give their child an educational advantage. Conscientious mothers play Mozart to the baby in the womb, take their toddlers to Mommy and Me dance classes, and work their way through preschool applications as daunting as those for medical school. Yet even with the wide range of advantages available for infants today, many people are still surprised when I tell them that the way they treat their children will actually change the structure and circuitry of the child’s brain.

Click here to read the entire article

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February 16, 2009

When Your Gain is My Pain and Your Pain is My Gain: Neural Correlates of Envy and Schadenfreude

We often make social comparisons to evaluate others and ourselves.  In a recent study in Science, Takahashi and colleagues investigated the neurocognitive mechanisms of envy and schadenfreude (pleasure at another’s misfortune) using fMRI.  The researchers found that envy and schadenfreude are associated with different parts of the brain.  Whereas envy was associated with the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, schadenfreude was associated with the ventral striatum. The dorsal anterior cingulate is involved in the processing of cognitive conflicts; envy-related activation in this region was greater when the envied person had superior and more self-relevant characteristics.  The ventral striatum is involved in processing reward and the schadenfreude-related activity in this region was stronger when misfortune befell an envied person more so than a neutral person.  Additionally, envy-related activity in the anterior cingulate predicted schadenfreude-related activity in the ventral striatum.  Takahashi and colleagues suggest that their findings document mechanisms of painful emotion, envy, and a rewarding reaction, schadenfreude.

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October 26, 2008

Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation

attention,emotions,meditation,reviews — alice @ 12:41 am

Antoine Lutz, Heleen A. Slagter, John D. Dunne and Richard J. Davidson
Review article in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, click here for full article

Meditation can be conceptualized as a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory training regimes developed for various ends, including the cultivation of well-being and emotional balance. Among these various practices, there are two styles that are commonly studied. One style, focused attention meditation, entails the voluntary focusing of attention on a chosen object. The other style, open monitoring meditation, involves nonreactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment. The potential regulatory functions of these practices on attention and emotion processes could have a long-term impact on the brain and behavior.

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October 19, 2008

Mood state effects of chocolate

emotions,meds — alice @ 2:31 am

Gordon Parker, Isabella Parker and Heather Brotchie
Article in Journal of Affective Disorders

Background: Chocolate consumption has long been associated with enjoyment and pleasure. Popular claims confer on chocolate the properties of being a stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic and antidepressant. The last claim stimulated this review.

Method: We review chocolate’s properties and the principal hypotheses addressing its claimed mood altering propensities. We distinguish between food craving and emotional eating, consider their psycho-physiological underpinnings, and examine the likely ‘positioning’ of any effect of chocolate to each concept.

Results: Chocolate can provide its own hedonistic reward by satisfying cravings but, when consumed as a comfort eating or emotional eating strategy, is more likely to be associated with prolongation rather than cessation of a dysphoric mood.

Limitations: This review focuses primarily on clarifying the possibility that, for some people, chocolate consumption may act as an antidepressant self-medication strategy and the processes by which this may occur.

Conclusions: Any mood benefits of chocolate consumption are ephemeral.

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March 27, 2008

Neuroeconomics conference Copenhagen, May 2008

A unique opportunity to learn about contemporary neuroeconomics

We are writing to you in connection with the Conference on Neuroeconomics (ConNEcs 2008), which is going to take place at the Copenhagen Business School May 14-16, 2008. The conference is arranged by Center for Marketing Communication in cooperation with Hilke Plassmann (CalTech, US) and Peter Kenning (Zeppelin University, Germany).


The primary goal of the conference is to establish an international discussion forum for research on Neuroeconomics. Also the conference aims to look into how decision neuroscience can inform consumer and business research, and to illuminate how consumer behaviour is represented in the brain. We expect 150 participants comprising international researchers as well as various organisations and industries.

This unique conference gives you the opportunity to meet members of the most advanced, international research community working with neuromarketing, neuroeconomics and decision neuroscience research.

At CBS we are developing a Decision neuroscience project in corporation with Hvidovre Hospital. At the conference you will also learn about this research.

We recommend you to sign up for the conference.

Attached you will find a more detailed description of the conference including the conference program and registration form. You are also more than welcome to contact us for further information.

We look forward to hearing from you and please feel free to distribute the programme to interested parties.

Kind regards,

ConNEcs 2008 Organizing Committee:

  • Flemming Hansen,
  • Peter Kenning,
  • Hilke Plassmann and
  • Majken L. Møller

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March 5, 2008

Gene variants may increase risk of anxiety disorders

anx.jpegFrom physorg: Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers – in collaboration with scientists at the University of California at San Diego and Yale University – have discovered perhaps the strongest evidence yet linking variation in a particular gene with anxiety-related traits. In the March issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, the team describes finding that particular versions of a gene that affects the activity of important neurotransmitter receptors were more common in both children and adults assessed as being inhibited or introverted and also were associated with increased activity of brain regions involved in emotional processing.

“We found that variations in this gene were associated with shy, inhibited behavior in children, introverted personality in adults and the reactivity of brain regions involved in processing fear and anxiety,” says Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, of the MGH Department of Psychiatry, the report’s lead author. “Each of these traits appears to be a risk factor for social anxiety disorder, the most common type of anxiety disorder in the U.S.”

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January 9, 2008

Cheap drugs against aggression don’t work

Study shows placebos as good as antipsychotics for the intellectually disabled.

Scientists have discovered that taking a sugar pill is more effective than routine medications in treating aggression in people with intellectual disabilities. Until now, patients with intellectual disabilities have been prescribed antipsychotic drugs — normally given to people with a psychiatric disease like schizophrenia — to treat aggressive behaviour such as head banging. But evidence for the drugs’ effectiveness has been thin.

“Antipsychotic drugs are widely used because they are cheap and at high doses they sedate people,” says Eric Emerson at Lancaster University, an expert in the behaviour of intellectually disabled people.

Peter Tyrer, based at Imperial College London, led an international research project looking at 86 people with intellectual disability at clinics across England, Wales and at one centre in Australia. Patients being treated for aggressive behaviour randomly received one of two antipsychotic drugs — respiridone or haloperidol — or a placebo.

Nature News

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December 14, 2007

Cognition & Emotion new issue

A new issue of Cognition & Emotion is out, including articles on emotional memory and awareness, music and emotions, and anger-induction methods.

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December 11, 2007

Belief, disbelief and uncertainty activate distinct brain regions

The capacity of the human mind to believe or disbelieve a statement is a powerful force for controlling both behavior and emotion, but the basis of these states in the brain is not yet understood. A new study found that belief, disbelief and uncertainty activate distinct regions of the brain, with belief/disbelief affecting areas associated with the pleasantness/unpleasantness of tastes and odors. The study will publish online in the Annals of Neurology, the official journal of the American Neurological Association.

Led by Sam Harris of the University of California, Los Angeles, the study involved 14 adults who underwent functional MRI scans during which they were presented with short statements that they had to evaluate as true, false or undecided. Each participant underwent three scans while they evaluated statements from a broad variety of categories such as mathematical, geographical, autobiographical, religious and factual. The statements were designed to be clearly true, false or undecidable.

Contrasting belief and disbelief trials yielded increased signal in the (VMPFC), which is involved in linking factual knowledge with emotion. “The involvement of the VMPFC in belief processing suggests an anatomical link between the purely cognitive aspects of belief and human emotion and reward,” the authors state. The fact that ethical belief showed a similar pattern of activation to mathematical belief suggests that the physiological difference between belief and disbelief is not related to content or emotional associations, they note.

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December 7, 2007

How emotions colour our perception of time

emotions,perception — thomasr @ 6:39 am

Our sense of time is altered by our emotions to such an extent that time seems to fly when we are having fun and drags when we are bored. Recent studies using standardized emotional material provide a unique opportunity for understanding the neurocognitive mechanisms that underlie the effects of emotion on timing and time perception in the milliseconds-to-hours range.

We outline how these new findings can be explained within the framework of internal-clock models and describe how emotional arousal and valence interact to produce both increases and decreases in attentional time sharing and clock speed. The study of time and emotion is at a crossroads, and we outline possible examples for future directions

Article by Sylvie Droit-Volet & Warren H. Meck in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 11, Issue 12, December 2007, Pages 504-513

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December 2, 2007

New issue: Emotion

emotions,journal — thomasr @ 2:42 am

A new issue of Emotion is now out, including articles on audition and time perception, distraction and emotional bias, mood and cognition, and emotioms over time. Here, we bring the table of contents.

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Subjective values

Neuroimaging studies of decision-making have generally related neural activity to objective measures (such as reward magnitude, probability or delay), despite choice preferences being subjective. However, economic theories posit that decision-makers behave as though different options have different subjective values.

Here we use functional magnetic resonance imaging to show that neural activity in several brain regions—particularly the ventral striatum, medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex—tracks the revealed subjective value of delayed monetary rewards.

This similarity provides unambiguous evidence that the subjective value of potential rewards is explicitly represented in the human brain.

Joseph W Kable & Paul W Glimcher, The neural correlates of subjective value during intertemporal choice. Nature Neuroscience 10, 1625 – 1633 (2007)

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November 18, 2007

Call for papers: Psychophysiology — cognitive and affective processes

cognitive neuroscience,emotions,journal — thomasr @ 3:46 pm

Psychophysiology was the first journal dedicated to the publication of research on relationships between the physiological and psychological aspects of brain and behavior, and it remains the most well-established journal in this field. This prestigious international journal continues to play a key role in advancing psychophysiological science and human neuroscience. Psychophysiology reports on new theoretical, empirical, and methodological advances that inform psychology and psychiatry, cognitive science, cognitive and affective neuroscience, social science, health science and behavioral medicine, biomedical engineering, and signal processing and statistics.

Since its inception in 1964, Psychophysiology has published seminal papers relevant to the role of regional brain specialization in perceptual, cognitive, and emotional function. The journal’s commitment to brain imaging has been continuously evident as the field has both specialized and expanded, encompassing a wide variety of techniques and tools including high-density EEG, MEG, magnetic source imaging (MEG + MRI), and near-infrared spectroscopy. Psychophysiology continues this publication tradition by featuring papers that employ functional MRI (fMRI). Indeed, fMRI is the quintessential psychophysiological measure, revealing fundamental relationships between psychological processes and physiological measures of their neural substrate.

We are interested in papers that expand the application of fMRI to illuminate a wide variety of psychological phenomena, both normative and clinical. Given Psychophysiology’s long tradition of publishing innovative methodological and statistical papers, we also welcome manuscripts reporting innovative techniques for fMRI.

Manuscripts should be submitted electronically at Submissions should include a brief cover letter indicating that informed consent was obtained from human subjects and that human or infrahuman subjects were treated in accordance with appropriate ethical guidelines. Manuscripts must conform to the specifications of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th edition.

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November 9, 2007

Brain Chemicals Involved In Aggression Identified

From ScienceDaily (Nov. 7, 2007) — School shootings. Muggings. Murder. Road rage. After decreasing for more than a decade, the rate of violent crime in the United States has begun to inch up again. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, violent crime rose 2.3 percent in 2005 and 1.9 percent in 2006, the first steady increase since 1993.

And new studies are helping scientists gain deeper insight into the neurobiology of aggression and violence. One analysis of brain imaging studies has revealed that brain structures involved in making moral judgments are often damaged in violent individuals. Another study involving teenage boys suggests that disruptions in a brain region linked to impulsive, aggressive behavior may underlie a certain type of violent, reactive behavior.

Still other research has shed new light on the role that certain brain chemicals play in aggressive behavior, including in maternal aggression. And new animal studies reveal that aggressive encounters cause changes in the brains of aggressors as well as their victims that increase vulnerability to depression and immune-related illnesses.

“Violence in our society is a major concern, indeed, a national health problem,” says Craig Ferris, PhD, of Northeastern University in Boston. “Understanding the confluence of events, both environmental and biological, that trigger a violent act has been the focus of educators, health professionals, and scientists for decades.

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October 24, 2007

To determine election outcomes, study says snap judgments are sufficient

A split-second glance at two candidates’ faces is often enough to determine which one will win an election, according to a Princeton University study.

Princeton psychologist Alexander Todorov has demonstrated that quick facial judgments can accurately predict real-world election returns. Todorov has taken some of his previous research that showed that people unconsciously judge the competence of an unfamiliar face within a tenth of a second, and he has moved it to the political arena. His lab tests show that a rapid appraisal of the relative competence of two candidates’ faces was sufficient to predict the winner in about 70 percent of the races for U.S. senator and state governor in the 2006 elections.

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