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A variety of recent research indicates that when subjects are induced to experience certain negative emotions, there is greater suppression of alpha power in the right than left frontal region, while during the experience of positive emotion, alpha power asymmetry in this region shows the opposite pattern. We have conceptualized this assymetry as reflecting specialization for approach and withdrawal processes in the left and right frontal regions, respectively. In this experiment, reward and punishment contingencies were directly manipulated to produce approach and withdrawal response motional states. In addition, subjects responded to imperative stimuli using either an approach response (finger press) or a withdrawal response (finger lift). EEG was recorded from multiple scalp locations. During the foreperiod prior to the response to the imperative stimuli, the EEG was extracted, Fourier-transformed and power computed in the theta, alpha and beta frequency bands. In addition, the contingent negative variation (CNV) was derived from the identical epoch. Reward trials were associated with greater left frontal alpha power suppression than punishment trials, while during the latter trials, there was greater right-sided frontal alpha power suppression than during reward trials. There was also some evidence to indicate that withdrawal responses were associated with greater right-sided alpha power suppression in the temporo-parietal region compared with approach responses. Power in the theta and beta bands did not systematically vary with condition. The CNV was larger during trials on which subjects responded quickly compared with slow trials, but did not differentiate between reward and punishment contingencies. The findings support the hypothesis that approach-related processes can be differentiated from withdrawal-related processes on the basis of asymmetrical shifts in alpha power in the frontal region. They also indicate that the CNV and spectral power estimates from the identical epochs reflect different neural processes.
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We recently reported the presence of reliable asymmetries in frontal-brain electrical activity in infants that distinguished between certain positive- and negative-affect elicitors. In order to explore the degree to which these asymmetries in brain activity are associated with individual differences in affective response, 35 ten-month-old female infants were presented with a stranger-approach, mother-approach, and maternal-separation experience while an electroencephalogram (EEG) from the left- and right-frontal and left- and right-parietal scalp regions was recorded and facial and other behavioral responses were videotaped. Changes in frontal-EEG asymmetry reflected behavioral changes between conditions. In addition, individual differences in affective response to separation were related to differences in frontal-brain asymmetries. These findings indicate that lawful changes exist in asymmetries of frontal-brain activation during the expression of certain emotions in the first year of life and that individual differences in emotional responsivity are related to these measures of brain activity.
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The relation between brain activity and the immune system was evaluated by assessing immune responses in 20 healthy women who manifested extreme differences in the asymmetry of frontal cortex activation. One group showed extreme and stable left frontal activation; the other group showed extreme and stable right frontal activation. As predicted, women with extreme right frontal activation had significantly lower levels of natural killer cell activity (at effector:target cell ratios of 33:1 and 11:1) than did left frontally activated individuals. This difference did not extend to two other immune measures, lymphocyte proliferation and T-cell subsets. However, higher immunoglobulin levels of the M class were observed in the right frontal group. In this study, the immune patterns could not be accounted for by plasma cortisol levels, anxiety- and depression-related symptomatology, or recent health histories. These findings support the hypothesis that there is a specific association between frontal brain asymmetry and certain immune responses.
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Freezing is an adaptive defensive behavior that is expressed in response to an imminent threat. In prior studies with rhesus monkeys, stable individual differences in animals' propensities to freeze have been demonstrated. To understand the factors associated with these individual differences, freezing behavior was examined in infant rhesus monkeys and their mothers, in conjunction with levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol. In both mothers and infants, basal cortisol levels were positively correlated with freezing duration. Additionally, the number of offspring a mother had was negatively correlated with her infant's cortisol level. These findings suggest a link between basal cortisol levels and an animal's propensity to freeze, as well as a mechanism by which maternal experience may affect infants' cortisol levels.
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Based upon suggestions that the two cerebral hemispheres may be differentially involved in the perception and regulation of autonomic activity, three studies were designed to explore differences in the relationship between left versus right hand finger tapping and the heartbeat. In each study, right-handed subjects were asked to tap with either their left versus right forefingers regularly at the rate of approximately once per second. When the time from the R-spike immediately preceding their tap to the tap was examined, a significant difference between the two hands was obtained in two of the studies, with the left hand tapping closer to the last R-spike compared with the right. A variety of additional conditions in the experiments suggest that this effect may depend upon tapping rhythmically. The implications of these findings for the differential role of the left and right hemispheres in the perception and regulation of cardiac activity are considered.
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Based on previous findings in humans and rhesus monkeys suggesting that diazepam has asymmetrical effects on frontal lobe activity and other literature supporting a role for the benzodiazepine system in the mediation of individual differences in anxiety and fearfulness, the relation between asymmetrical changes in scalp-recorded regional brain activity in response to diazepam and the temperamental dimension of behavioral inhibition indexed by freezing time in 9 rhesus monkeys was examined. Animals showed greater relative left-sided frontal activation in response to diazepam compared with the preceding baseline. The magnitude of this shift was strongly correlated with an aggregate measure of freezing time (r = .82). The implications of these findings for understanding the role of regional differences in the benzodiazepine system in mediating individual differences in fearfulness are discussed.
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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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Practitioners understand “meditation,” or mental training, to be a process of familiarization with one's own mental life leading to long-lasting changes in cognition and emotion. Little is known about this process and its impact on the brain. Here we find that long-term Buddhist practitioners self-induce sustained electroencephalographic high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations and phase-synchrony during meditation. These electroencephalogram patterns differ from those of controls, in particular over lateral frontoparietal electrodes. In addition, the ratio of gamma-band activity (25-42 Hz) to slow oscillatory activity (4-13 Hz) is initially higher in the resting baseline before meditation for the practitioners than the controls over medial frontoparietal electrodes. This difference increases sharply during meditation over most of the scalp electrodes and remains higher than the initial baseline in the postmeditation baseline. These data suggest that mental training involves temporal integrative mechanisms and may induce short-term and long-term neural changes.
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Reviews selective behavioral, psychophysiological, and neuropsychological research bearing on how affective space should be parsed. Neither facial expression nor autonomic nervous system activity is found to provide unique markers for particular discrete emotions. The dimensions of approach and withdrawal are introduced as fundamental systems relevant to differentiating affective space. The role of frontal and anterior temporal asymmetries in mediating approach- and withdrawal-related emotion is considered. Individual differences in tonic anterior activation asymmetry are present and are relatively stable over time. Such differences are associated with an individual's propensity to display different types of emotion, mood, and psychopathology. The conceptual and methodological implications of this perspective are considered.
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Objective To investigate the effect of mindfulness training on pain tolerance, psychological well-being, physiological activity, and the acquisition of mindfulness skills. Methods Forty-two asymptomatic University students participated in a randomized, single-blind, active control pilot study. Participants in the experimental condition were offered six (1-h) mindfulness sessions; control participants were offered two (1-h) Guided Visual Imagery sessions. Both groups were provided with practice CDs and encouraged to practice daily. Pre–post pain tolerance (cold pressor test), mood, blood pressure, pulse, and mindfulness skills were obtained. Results Pain tolerance significantly increased in the mindfulness condition only. There was a strong trend indicating that mindfulness skills increased in the mindfulness condition, but this was not related to improved pain tolerance. Diastolic blood pressure significantly decreased in both conditions. Conclusion Mindfulness training did increase pain tolerance, but this was not related to the acquisition of mindfulness skills.

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.
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