Mindfulness is defined as paying attention in the present moment. We investigate the hypothesis that mindfulness training may alter or enhance specific aspects of attention. We examined three functionally and neuroanatomically distinct but overlapping attentional subsystems: alerting, orienting, and conflict monitoring. Functioning of each subsystem was indexed by performance on the Attention Network Test. Two types of mindfulness training (MT) programs were examined, and behavioral testing was conducted on participants before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) training. One training group consisted of individuals naive to mindfulness techniques who participated in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course that emphasized the development of concentrative meditation skills. The other training group consisted of individuals experienced in concentrative meditation techniques who participated in a 1-month intensive mindfulness retreat. Performance of these groups was compared with that of control participants who were meditation naive and received no MT. At Time 1, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated improved conflict monitoring performance relative to those in the MBSR and control groups. At Time 2, the participants in the MBSR course demonstrated significantly improved orienting in comparison with the control and retreat participants. In contrast, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated altered performance on the alerting component, with improvements in exogenous stimulus detection in comparison with the control and MBSR participants. The groups did not differ in conflict monitoring performance at Time 2. These results suggest that mindfulness training may improve attention-related behavioral responses by enhancing functioning of specific subcomponents of attention. Whereas participation in the MBSR course improved the ability to endogenously orient attention, retreat participation appeared to allow for the development and emergence of receptive attentional skills, which improved exogenous alerting-related process.
Lesion and neuroimaging studies suggest the amygdala is important in the perception and production of negative emotion; however, the effects of emotion regulation on the amygdalar response to negative stimuli remain unknown. Using event-related fMRI, we tested the hypothesis that voluntary modulation of negative emotion is associated with changes in neural activity within the amygdala. Negative and neutral pictures were presented with instructions to either "maintain" the emotional response or "passively view" the picture without regulating the emotion. Each picture presentation was followed by a delay, after which subjects indicated how they currently felt via a response keypad. Consistent with previous reports, greater signal change was observed in the amygdala during the presentation of negative compared to neutral pictures. No significant effect of instruction was found during the picture presentation component of the trial. However, a prolonged increase in signal change was observed in the amygdala when subjects maintained the negative emotional response during the delay following negative picture offset. This increase in amygdalar signal due to the active maintenance of negative emotion was significantly correlated with subjects' self-reported dispositional levels of negative affect. These results suggest that consciously evoked cognitive mechanisms that alter the emotional response of the subject operate, at least in part, by altering the degree of neural activity within the amygdala.
Although there is much evidence demonstrating muscle tension changes during mental work, there are few data concerning muscle tension patterns during effortful attention to simple sensory stimuli. In the present study, sensory attention was evoked by a pitch discrimination task at three levels of difficulty, with a digit retention task administered for comparison. Twenty-four females each performed both tasks at all levels of difficulty, while the EKG, and the corrugator supercilii, frontalis, lip, jaw, chin, and forearm area EMG were recorded. As expected, heart rate decreased significantly with increasing difficulty of the pitch task. A pattern of facial EMG responses accompanied the pitch task, which included significant increases in corrugator and frontalis, and decreases in the jaw as a function of difficulty, and time within trials. The tension pattern observed during sensory intake is discussed in terms of its relation to emotional expressions and motor theories of attention.
The nature of the affective deficit that characterizes social anhedonia is not well understood. Emotionally evocative visual stimuli were presented to undergraduates identified as anhedonic or normal, based on their scores on the revised Social Anhedonia Scale. The affective stimuli were chosen to elicit positive and negative emotion; a subset of slides were specifically chosen to include social-interpersonal content. In the acoustic startle paradigm, participants were administered startle probes (50-ms 95 dB white noise bursts) while viewing images from the International Affective Picture System. Socially anhedonic individuals did not differ from normally hedonic individuals in terms of their physiological response to the stimuli, regardless of the nature of the content of the stimuli. However, on the self-report measures of trait affectivity, the socially anhedonic individuals reported significantly lower levels of positive affect and higher levels of negative affect. These findings suggest that the affective deficits reported by socially anhedonic individuals are not global in nature.
There is mounting evidence that prefrontal cortex (PFC) is activated during mnemonic operations such as working memory maintenance and also during response-related operations. In the current study, we examine the neural organization of mnemonic and response operations with respect to each other within PFC. Stimulus-evoked and sustained functional MRI activity was recorded during performance of a mental calculation task. The presence or absence of mnemonic and response demands was manipulated in a 2 x 2 factorial design with conditions requiring: (1) memory encoding and maintenance (M+); (2) response selection and execution (R+); (3) encoding, maintenance, and response execution (M+R+); (4) neither mnemonic nor response-related processes (M-R-). The first step of the analyses identified PFC voxels exhibiting differential activity during (M+) vs. (R+) trials. Within these voxels, we then examined activity during multiple phases of (M+R+) trials. Greater stimulus-evoked and sustained activity was observed within the anterior extent of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (BA 46) during R+ vs. M+ trials. In contrast, greater activity was observed in the posterior extent of dorsolateral PFC during M+ vs. R+ trials. Importantly, both regions were activated during (M+R+) trials. Activity levels during all of these conditions exceeded levels observed during (M-R-) control trials. These results suggest that integrative functions of PFC that allow past information to guide future actions may emerge from communication between discrete subregions supporting mnemonic and response operations.
Davidson and Schwartz (1) have proposed a psychobiological analysis of anxiety that emphasizes the patterning of multiple processes in the generation and self-regulation of this state. The present article specifically reviews recent research on cognitive and somatic components of anxiety. A dual component scale which separately assesses cognitive and somatic trait anxiety is described and applied to the study of the differential effects of a somatic (physical exercise) and a cognitive (meditation) relaxation procedure. A total of 77 subjects was employed; 44 regularly practiced physical exercise and 33 regularly practiced meditation for comparable periods of time. As predicted, subjects practicing physical exercise reported relatively less somatic and more cognitive anxiety than meditators. These data suggest that specific subcomponents of anxiety may be differentially associated with relaxation techniques engaging primarily cognitive versus somatic subsystems. It is proposed that relaxation consists of (1) a generalized reduction to multiple physiological systems (termed the relaxation response by Benson) and (2) a more specific pattern of changes superimposed upon this general reduction, which is elicited by the particular techniques employed. The data from this retrospective study need to be followed up by prospective studies to establish the precise mechanisms for these effects.
Our outside world changes continuously, for example, when driving through traffic. An important question is how our brain deals with this constant barrage of rapidly changing sensory input and flexibly selects only newly goal-relevant information for further capacity-limited processing in working memory. The challenge our brain faces is experimentally captured by the attentional blink (AB): an impairment in detecting the second of two target stimuli presented in close temporal proximity among distracters. Many theories have been proposed to explain this deficit in processing goal-relevant information, with some attributing the AB to capacity limitations related to encoding of the first target and others assigning a critical role to on-line selection mechanisms that control access to working memory. The current study examined the role of striatal dopamine in the AB, given its known role in regulating the contents of working memory. Specifically, participants performed an AB task and their basal level of dopamine D2-like receptor binding was measured using PET and [F-18]fallypride. As predicted, individual differences analyses showed that greater D2-like receptor binding in the striatum was associated with a larger AB, implicating striatal dopamine and mechanisms that control access to working memory in the AB. Specifically, we propose that striatal dopamine may determine the AB by regulating the threshold for working memory updating, providing a testable physiological basis for this deficit in gating rapidly changing visual information. A challenge for current models of the AB lies in connecting more directly to these neurobiological data.
Increasing research indicates that concepts are represented as distributed circuits of property information across the brain's modality-specific areas. The current study examines the distributed representation of an important but under-explored category, foods. Participants viewed pictures of appetizing foods (along with pictures of locations for comparison) during event-related fMRI. Compared to location pictures, food pictures activated the right insula/operculum and the left orbitofrontal cortex, both gustatory processing areas. Food pictures also activated regions of visual cortex that represent object shape. Together these areas contribute to a distributed neural circuit that represents food knowledge. Not only does this circuit become active during the tasting of actual foods, it also becomes active while viewing food pictures. Via the process of pattern completion, food pictures activate gustatory regions of the circuit to produce conceptual inferences about taste. Consistent with theories that ground knowledge in the modalities, these inferences arise as reenactments of modality-specific processing.
Temperamentally anxious individuals can be identified in childhood and are at risk to develop anxiety and depressive disorders. In addition, these individuals tend to have extreme asymmetric right prefrontal brain activity. Although common and clinically important, little is known about the pathophysiology of anxious temperament. Regardless, indirect evidence from rodent studies and difficult to interpret primate studies is used to support the hypothesis that the amygdala plays a central role. In previous studies using rhesus monkeys, we characterized an anxious temperament endophenotype that is associated with excessive anxiety and fear-related responses and increased electrical activity in right frontal brain regions. To examine the role of the amygdala in mediating this endophenotype and other fearful responses, we prepared monkeys with selective fiber sparing ibotenic acid lesions of the amygdala. Unconditioned trait-like anxiety-fear responses remained intact in monkeys with >95% bilateral amygdala destruction. In addition, the lesions did not affect EEG frontal asymmetry. However, acute unconditioned fear responses, such as those elicited by exposure to a snake and to an unfamiliar threatening conspecific were blunted in monkeys with >70% lesions. These findings demonstrate that the primate amygdala is involved in mediating some acute unconditioned fear responses but challenge the notion that the amygdala is the key structure underlying the dispositional behavioral and physiological characteristics of anxious temperament.
Several different models postulate that depression is associated with decreased approach-related behavior. Relatively little has been done to date to specifically investigate this issue. In the present study, a signal-detection analysis was used to examine the response biases of dysphoric and nondysphoric female undergraduates during 3 payoff conditions: neutral, reward, and punishment. As predicted, the dysphoric subjects had a smaller change in bias from the neutral to the reward condition compared with the nondysphoric group. The 2 groups did not differ during the neutral and punishment conditions. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the left frontal hypoactivation observed in depression reflects a deficit in approach-related behavior.
<p>Subregional analyses of the hippocampus have suggested a selective role for the CA1 subregion in intermediate/long-term spatial memory and consolidation, but not short-term acquisition or encoding processes. It remains unclear how the direct cortical projection to CA1 via the perforant path (pp) contributes to these CA1-dependent processes. It has been suggested that dopamine selectively modulates the pp projection to CA1 while having little to no effect on the Schaffer collateral (SC) projection to CA1. This series of behavioral and electrophysiological experiments takes advantage of this pharmacological dissociation to demonstrate that the direct pp inputs to CA1 are critical in CA1-dependent intermediate-term retention and retrieval function. Here we demonstrate that local infusion of the nonselective dopamine agonist, apomorphine (10, 15 microg), into the CA1 subregion of awake animals produces impairments in between-day retention and retrieval, sparing within-day encoding of a modified Hebb-Williams maze and contextual conditioning of fear. In contrast, apomorphine produces no deficits when infused into the CA3 subregion. To complement the behavioral analyses, electrophysiological data was collected. In anesthetized animals, local infusion of the same doses of apomorphine significantly modifies evoked responses in the distal dendrites of CA1 following angular bundle stimulation, but produces no significant effects in the more proximal dendritic layer following stimulation of the SC. These results support a modulatory role for dopamine in the EC-CA1, but not CA3-CA1 circuitry, and suggest the possibility of a more fundamental role for EC-CA1 synaptic transmission in terms of intermediate-term, but not short-term spatial memory.</p>
Selective attention has been shown to bias sensory processing in favor of relevant stimuli and against irrelevant or distracting stimuli in perceptual tasks. Increasing evidence suggests that selective attention plays an important role during working memory maintenance, possibly by biasing sensory processing in favor of to-be-remembered items. In the current study, we investigated whether selective attention may also support working memory by biasing processing against irrelevant and potentially distracting information. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while subjects (n = 22) performed a delayed-recognition task for faces and shoes. The delay period was filled with face or shoe distractors. Behavioral performance was impaired when distractors were congruent with the working memory domain (e.g., face distractor during working memory for faces) relative to when distractors were incongruent with the working memory domain (e.g., face distractor during shoe working memory). If attentional biasing against distractor processing is indeed functionally relevant in supporting working memory maintenance, perceptual processing of distractors is predicted to be attenuated when distractors are more behaviorally intrusive relative to when they are nonintrusive. As such, we predicted that perceptual processing of distracting faces, as measured by the face-sensitive N170 ERP component, would be reduced in the context of congruent (face) working memory relative to incongruent (shoe) working memory. The N170 elicited by distracting faces demonstrated reduced amplitude during congruent versus incongruent working memory. These results suggest that perceptual processing of distracting faces may be attenuated due to attentional biasing against sensory processing of distractors that are most behaviorally intrusive during working memory maintenance.
<p>Studied the different effects of yoga and psychomotor activity on a coding task, with 34 children referred to a learning center as Ss. They received a baseline period, a control period involving a fine motor task, an experimental treatment, another control period, a treatment reversal, and a control period. The results indicate that order of treatment had no effect on the results. Furthermore, coding scores in the 2nd half of the experiment were higher than those in the 1st half. There was no difference in the effect on performance of yoga and gross motor activities. Irrespective of which treatment was given, scores after treatment were significantly higher than those during the control periods. There are implications for physical education programming in elementary schools.</p>
Despite the prominence of emotional dysfunction in psychopathology, relatively few experiments have explicitly studied emotion regulation in adults. The present study examined one type of emotion regulation: voluntary regulation of short-term emotional responses to unpleasant visual stimuli. In a sample of 48 college students, both eyeblink startle magnitude and corrugator activity were sensitive to experimental manipulation. Instructions to suppress negative emotion led to both smaller startle eyeblinks and decreased corrugator activity. Instructions to enhance negative emotion led to larger startle eyeblinks and increased corrugator activity. Several advantages of this experimental manipulation are discussed, including the use of both a suppress and an enhance emotion condition, independent measurement of initial emotion elicitation and subsequent regulation of that emotion, the use of a completely within-subjects design, and the use of naturalistic emotion regulation strategies.
<p>Background Mindfulness meditation (MM) practices constitute an important group of meditative practices that have received growing attention. The aim of the present paper was to systematically review current evidence on the neurobiological changes and clinical benefits related to MM practice in psychiatric disorders, in physical illnesses and in healthy subjects.</p>
In the present study, we examined the stability of one measure of emotion, the emotion-modulated acoustic startle response, in an undergraduate sample. Using the acoustic startle paradigm on two different occasions, we measured stability of affective modulation of the startle response during and following the presentation of pictures selected to be of positive, negative, or neutral emotional valence. The two assessments were separated by 4 weeks. Two groups of subjects were compared: one group that viewed the same pictures at each assessment and a second group that viewed different pictures at the second assessment. We found that viewing different pictures at two assessments separated by 4 weeks yielded moderate stability of the emotion modulation of startle magnitude, whereas subjects who viewed the same pictures at both assessments showed poor stability. Furthermore, this difference was due to the stability of responses to high versus low arousal pictures, not to differences in valence.
The information processing capacity of the human mind is limited, as is evidenced by the attentional blink-a deficit in identifying the second of two targets (T1 and T2) presented in close succession. This deficit is thought to result from an overinvestment of limited resources in T1 processing. We previously reported that intensive mental training in a style of meditation aimed at reducing elaborate object processing, reduced brain resource allocation to T1, and improved T2 accuracy [Slagter, H. A., Lutz, A., Greischar, L. L., Francis, A. D., Nieuwenhuis, S., Davis, J., et al. Mental training affects distribution of limited brain resources. PloS Biology, 5, e138, 2007]. Here we report EEG spectral analyses to examine the possibility that this reduction in elaborate T1 processing rendered the system more available to process new target information, as indexed by T2-locked phase variability. Intensive mental training was associated with decreased cross-trial variability in the phase of oscillatory theta activity after successfully detected T2s, in particular, for those individuals who showed the greatest reduction in brain resource allocation to T1. These data implicate theta phase locking in conscious target perception, and suggest that after mental training the cognitive system is more rapidly available to process new target information. Mental training was not associated with changes in the amplitude of T2-induced responses or oscillatory activity before task onset. In combination, these findings illustrate the usefulness of systematic mental training in the study of the human mind by revealing the neural mechanisms that enable the brain to successfully represent target information.
Planned and reflexive behaviors often occur in the presence of emotional stimuli and within the context of an individual's acute emotional state. Therefore, determining the manner in which emotion and attention interact is an important step toward understanding how we function in the real world. Participants in the current investigation viewed centrally displayed, task-irrelevant, face distractors (angry, neutral, happy) while performing a lateralized go/no-go continuous performance task. Lateralized go targets and no-go lures that did not spatially overlap with the faces were employed to differentially probe processing in the left (LH) and right (RH) cerebral hemispheres. There was a significant interaction between expression and hemisphere, with an overall pattern such that angry distractors were associated with relatively more RH inhibitory errors than neutral or happy distractors and happy distractors with relatively more LH inhibitory errors than angry or neutral distractors. Simple effects analyses confirmed that angry faces differentially interfered with RH relative to LH inhibition and with inhibition in the RH relative to happy faces. A significant three-way interaction further revealed that state anxiety moderated relations between emotional expression and hemisphere. Under conditions of low cognitive load, more intense anxiety was associated with relatively greater RH than LH impairment in the presence of both happy and threatening distractors. By contrast, under high load, only angry distractors produced greater RH than LH interference as a function of anxiety.
OBJECTIVES: Affective neuroscience research that investigates core symptoms of pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) may be effective in differentiating PBD phenotypes. The current study used affect-modulated startle to examine potential differences in reactivity to emotional stimuli (reward and punishment) in narrow and broad phenotype PBD and controls. METHODS: Thirty children meeting DSM-IV bipolar disorder criteria (i.e. narrow phenotype PBD with defined manic episodes with elevated/expansive mood), 19 children meeting criteria for severe mood dysregulation (i.e. broad phenotype with chronic irritability, hyper-reactivity, and hyperarousal), and 19 controls completed a lottery startle paradigm involving reward (money) and punishment (loud noise). Startle probes were presented during anticipation of the emotional stimulus, immediately following the presentation of the stimulus, or during return to baseline following the stimulus. RESULTS: By self-report, patients and controls found the putative punishment to be preferable to the neutral condition. In the reward condition, patient samples reported greater arousal than did controls, but no between-group differences were found on the magnitude of startle response during the reward, punishment, or neutral conditions. CONCLUSIONS: The failure to find differences in affect-modulated startle between control children and those with narrow or broad PBD phenotypes speaks to the methodological challenges associated with studying reward mechanisms in PBD. Alternative paradigms that focus on different aspects of reward mechanisms are discussed.