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To test the effects of cortisol on affective experience, the authors orally administered a placebo, 20 mg cortisol, or 40 mg cortisol to 85 men. Participants' affective responses to negative and neutral stimuli were measured. Self-reported affective state was also assessed. Participants in the 40-mg group (showing extreme cortisol elevations within the physiological range) rated neutral stimuli as more highly arousing than did participants in the placebo and 20-mg groups. Furthermore, within the 20-mg group, individuals with higher cortisol elevations made higher arousal ratings of neutral stimuli. However, cortisol was unrelated to self-reported affective state. Thus, findings indicate that acute cortisol elevations cause heightened arousal in response to objectively nonarousing stimuli, in the absence of effects on mood.
Many investigators have hypothesized that brain response to cortisol is altered in depression. However, neural activation in response to exogenously manipulated cortisol elevations has not yet been directly examined in depressed humans. Animal research shows that glucocorticoids have robust effects on hippocampal function, and can either enhance or suppress neuroplastic events in the hippocampus depending on a number of factors. We hypothesized that depressed individuals would show 1) altered hippocampal response to exogenous administration of cortisol, and 2) altered effects of cortisol on learning. In a repeated-measures design, 19 unmedicated depressed and 41 healthy individuals completed two fMRI scans. Fifteen mg oral hydrocortisone (i.e., cortisol) or placebo (order randomized and double-blind) was administered 1 h prior to encoding of emotional and neutral words during fMRI scans. Data analysis examined the effects of cortisol administration on 1) brain activation during encoding, and 2) subsequent free recall for words. Cortisol affected subsequent recall performance in depressed but not healthy individuals. We found alterations in hippocampal response to cortisol in depressed women, but not in depressed men (who showed altered response to cortisol in other regions, including subgenual prefrontal cortex). In both depressed men and women, cortisol's effects on hippocampal function were positively correlated with its effects on recall performance assessed days later. Our data provide evidence that in depressed compared to healthy women, cortisol's effects on hippocampal function are altered. Our data also show that in both depressed men and women, cortisol's effects on emotional memory formation and hippocampal function are related.
In a test of the effects of cortisol on emotional memory, 90 men were orally administered placebo or 20 or 40 mg cortisol and presented with emotionally arousing and neutral stimuli. On memory tests administered within 1 hr of stimulus presentation, cortisol elevations caused a reduction in the number of errors committed on free-recall tasks. Two evenings later, when cortisol levels were no longer manipulated, inverted-U quadratic trends were found for recognition memory tasks, reflecting memory facilitation in the 20-mg group for both negative and neutral information. Results suggest that the effects of cortisol on memory do not differ substantially for emotional and neutral information. The study provides evidence of beneficial effects of acute cortisol elevations on explicit memory in humans.
In this study, we tested the validity of 2 popular assumptions about empathy: (a) empathy can be enhanced by oxytocin, a neuropeptide known to be crucial in affiliative behavior, and (b) individual differences in prosocial behavior are positively associated with empathic brain responses. To do so, we measured brain activity in a double-blind placebo-controlled study of 20 male participants either receiving painful stimulation to their own hand (self condition) or observing their female partner receiving painful stimulation to her hand (other condition). Prosocial behavior was measured using a monetary economic interaction game with which participants classified as prosocial (N = 12) or selfish (N = 6), depending on whether they cooperated with another player. Empathy-relevant brain activation (anterior insula) was neither enhanced by oxytocin nor positively associated with prosocial behavior. However, oxytocin reduced amygdala activation when participants received painful stimulation themselves (in the nonsocial condition). Surprisingly, this effect was driven by "selfish" participants. The results suggest that selfish individuals may not be as rational and unemotional as usually suggested, their actions being determined by their feeling anxious rather than by reason.
Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in using neural oscillations to characterize the mechanisms supporting cognition and emotion. Oftentimes, oscillatory activity is indexed by mean power density in predefined frequency bands. Some investigators use broad bands originally defined by prominent surface features of the spectrum. Others rely on narrower bands originally defined by spectral factor analysis (SFA). Presently, the robustness and sensitivity of these competing band definitions remains unclear. Here, a Monte Carlo-based SFA strategy was used to decompose the tonic ("resting" or "spontaneous") electroencephalogram (EEG) into five bands: delta (1-5Hz), alpha-low (6-9Hz), alpha-high (10-11Hz), beta (12-19Hz), and gamma (>21Hz). This pattern was consistent across SFA methods, artifact correction/rejection procedures, scalp regions, and samples. Subsequent analyses revealed that SFA failed to deliver enhanced sensitivity; narrow alpha sub-bands proved no more sensitive than the classical broadband to individual differences in temperament or mean differences in task-induced activation. Other analyses suggested that residual ocular and muscular artifact was the dominant source of activity during quiescence in the delta and gamma bands. This was observed following threshold-based artifact rejection or independent component analysis (ICA)-based artifact correction, indicating that such procedures do not necessarily confer adequate protection. Collectively, these findings highlight the limitations of several commonly used EEG procedures and underscore the necessity of routinely performing exploratory data analyses, particularly data visualization, prior to hypothesis testing. They also suggest the potential benefits of using techniques other than SFA for interrogating high-dimensional EEG datasets in the frequency or time-frequency (event-related spectral perturbation, event-related synchronization/desynchronization) domains.
We discuss preliminary findings from a study that investigated the effectiveness of a Holistic Arts-Based Group Program (HAP) for the development of resilience in children in need. The HAP teaches mindfulness using arts-based methods, and aims to teach children how to understand their feelings and develop their strengths. We assessed the effectiveness of the HAP by using comparison and control groups, and standardized measures. We hypothesized that children who participated in the HAP would have better scores on resilience and self-concept compared with children who took part in an Arts and Crafts group (the comparison group), and children who were waiting to attend the HAP (the control group). A total of 36 children participated in the study; 20 boys aged 8–13 years and 16 girls aged 8–14 years. A mixed-designed MANOVA was conducted using scores from 21 participants. We found evidence that the HAP program was beneficial for the children in that they self-reported lower emotional reactivity (a resilience measure) post-intervention. No changes were noted for perceptions of self-concept. Consideration should be given to how we can attend to young people’s needs in relevant ways as resilience is a condition of a community’s ability to provide resources as much as it is part of an individual’s capacity for growth. Programs such as the HAP can engage children in a creative and meaningful process that is enjoyable and strengths-based.
Little is known about placebo effects with scientific precision. Poor methodology has confounded our understanding of the magnitude and even the existence of the placebo effect. Investigating placebo effects presents special research challenges including: the design of appropriate controls for studying placebo effects including separating such effects from natural history and regression to the mean, the need for large sample sizes to capture expected small effects, and the need to understand such potential effects from a patient's perspective. This article summarizes the methodology of an ongoing NIH-funded randomized controlled trial aimed at investigating whether the placebo effect in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) exists and whether the magnitude of such an effect can be manipulated to vary in a manner analogous to “dose dependence.” The trial also uses an innovative combination of quantitative and qualitative methods.
BACKGROUND: Anhedonia, a reduced ability to experience pleasure, is a chief symptom of major depressive disorder and is related to reduced frontostriatal connectivity when attempting to upregulate positive emotion. The present study examined another facet of positive emotion regulation associated with anhedonia-namely, the downregulation of positive affect-and its relation to prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity. METHODS: Neuroimaging data were collected from 27 individuals meeting criteria for major depressive disorder as they attempted to suppress positive emotion during a positive emotion regulation task. Their PFC activation pattern was compared with the PFC activation pattern exhibited by 19 healthy control subjects during the same task. Anhedonia scores were collected at three time points: at baseline (time 1), 8 weeks after time 1 (i.e., time 2), and 6 months after time 1 (i.e., time 3). Prefrontal cortex activity at time 1 was used to predict change in anhedonia over time. Analyses were conducted utilizing hierarchical linear modeling software. RESULTS: Depressed individuals who could not inhibit positive emotion-evinced by reduced right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activity during attempts to dampen their experience of positive emotion in response to positive visual stimuli-exhibited a steeper anhedonia reduction slope between baseline and 8 weeks of treatment with antidepressant medication (p < .05). Control subjects showed a similar trend between baseline and time 3. CONCLUSIONS: To reduce anhedonia, it may be necessary to teach individuals how to counteract the functioning of an overactive pleasure-dampening prefrontal inhibitory system.
In this article, I argue that educators can utilize mindfulness practices to enhance the efficacy of anti-oppressive pedagogy. The philosophies of Wittgenstein and Nagarjuna provide a holistic human ontology and show that learning affects students at all levels: mind, body, emotion, and spirit. My analysis of the phenomenology of thinking reveals the modes of relationship to ideation. I have proposed mindfulness practice as a proven technique to address the non-cognitive forms of attachment to ideation that may remain in force despite the most thorough-going intellectual change. /// Dans cet article, l'auteure fait valoir que les enseignants peuvent utiliser des pratiques attentionnées pour augmenter l'efficacité de la pédagogie libertaire. Les philosophies de Wittgenstein et de Nagarjuna permettent une ontologie humaine holistique et démontrent que l'apprentissage affecte les étudiants sur tous les plans: l'intelligence, le corps, les émotions et l'esprit. Les analyses de la phénoménologie de la pensée révèlent les types de relation à l'idéation. La pratique attentionnée est proposée comme une technique qui a fait ses preuves pour traiter les formes d'attachement hors du champ cognitif à l'idéation qui demeure active malgré le plus profond changement intellectuel.