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The primary taste cortex consists of the insula and operculum. Previous work has indicated that neurons in the primary taste cortex respond solely to sensory input from taste receptors and lingual somatosensory receptors. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we show here that expectancy modulates these neural responses in humans. When subjects were led to believe that a highly aversive bitter taste would be less distasteful than it actually was, they reported it to be less aversive than when they had accurate information about the taste and, moreover, the primary taste cortex was less strongly activated. In addition, the activation of the right insula and operculum tracked online ratings of the aversiveness for each taste. Such expectancy-driven modulation of primary sensory cortex may affect perceptions of external events.
The experience of aversion is shaped by multiple physiological and psychological factors including one's expectations. Recent work has shown that expectancy manipulation can alter perceptions of aversive events and concomitant brain activation. Accruing evidence indicates a primary role of altered expectancies in the placebo effect. Here, we probed the mechanism by which expectation attenuates sensory taste transmission by examining how brain areas activated by misleading information during an expectancy period modulate insula and amygdala activation to a highly aversive bitter taste. In a rapid event-related fMRI design, we showed that activations in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to a misleading cue that the taste would be mildly aversive predicted decreases in insula and amygdala activation to the highly aversive taste. OFC and rACC activation to the misleading cue were also associated with less aversive ratings of that taste. Additional analyses revealed consistent results demonstrating functional connectivity among the OFC, rACC, and insula. Altering expectancies of upcoming aversive events are shown here to depend on robust functional associations among brain regions implicated in prior work on the placebo effect.
The capacity to anticipate aversive circumstances is central not only to successful adaptation but also to understanding the abnormalities that contribute to excessive worry and anxiety disorders. Forecasting and reacting to aversive events mobilize a host of affective and cognitive capacities and corresponding brain processes. Rapid event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 21 healthy volunteers assessed the overlap and divergence in the neural instantiation of anticipating and being exposed to aversive pictures. Brain areas jointly activated by the anticipation of and exposure to aversive pictures included the dorsal amygdala, anterior insula, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and right posterior orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Anticipatory processes were uniquely associated with activations in rostral ACC, a more superior sector of the right DLPFC, and more medial sectors of the bilateral OFC. Activation of the right DLPFC in anticipation of aversion was associated with self-reports of increased negative affect, whereas OFC activation was associated with increases in both positive and negative affect. These results show that anticipation of aversion recruits key brain regions that respond to aversion, thereby potentially enhancing adaptive responses to aversive events.
Three studies illustrate that mindful attention prevents impulses toward attractive food. Participants received a brief mindfulness procedure in which they observed their reactions to external stimuli as transient mental events rather than subjectively real experiences. Participants then applied this procedure to viewing pictures of highly attractive and neutral food items. Finally, reactions to food stimuli were assessed with an implicit approach-avoidance task. Across experiments, spontaneous approach reactions elicited by attractive food were fully eliminated in the mindful attention condition compared to the control condition, in which participants viewed the same items without mindful attention. These effects were maintained over a 5-minute distraction period. Our findings suggest that mindful attention to one’s own mental experiences helps to control impulsive responses and thus suggest mindfulness as a potentially powerful method for facilitating self-regulation.
Mindful individuals orient to ongoing events and experiences in a receptive, attentive manner. This experiential mode of processing suggests implications for the perception of and response to stress situations. Using laboratory-based, longitudinal, and daily diary designs, four studies examined the role of mindfulness on appraisals of and coping with stress experiences in college students, and the consequences of such stress processing for well-being. Across the four studies (n’s = 65 − 141), results demonstrated that mindful individuals made more benign stress appraisals, reported less frequent use of avoidant coping strategies, and in two studies, reported higher use of approach coping. In turn, more adaptive stress responses and coping partially or fully mediated the relation between mindfulness and well-being. Implications for the role of mindfulness in stress and well-being are discussed.
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.
The current study investigated the effects of an 8-week mindfulness-based meditation training (MMT) intervention on attentional bias, engagement and disengagement of pain-related threat in fibromyalgia patients as compared to an age-matched control group. A well validated dot-probe task was used to explore early versus later stages of attentional processing through the use of two stimulus exposure durations (100, 500 ms) of pain-related threat words. The enduring effects of MMT were assessed 6-months after completion of MMT. Preliminary results suggest that MMT reduces avoidance of pain-related threat at early levels of processing, and facilitates disengagement from threat at later stages of processing. Furthermore, it appears that effects of MMT on early attentional threat processing do not remain stable after long-term follow-up.