Although the systematic study of meditation is still in its infancy, research has provided evidence for meditation-induced improvements in psychological and physiological well-being. Moreover, meditation practice has been shown not only to benefit higher-order cognitive functions but also to alter brain activity. Nevertheless, little is known about possible links to brain structure. Using high-resolution MRI data of 44 subjects, we set out to examine the underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation with different regional specificity (i.e., global, regional, and local). For this purpose, we applied voxel-based morphometry in association with a recently validated automated parcellation approach. We detected significantly larger gray matter volumes in meditators in the right orbito-frontal cortex (as well as in the right thalamus and left inferior temporal gyrus when co-varying for age and/or lowering applied statistical thresholds). In addition, meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the right hippocampus. Both orbito-frontal and hippocampal regions have been implicated in emotional regulation and response control. Thus, larger volumes in these regions might account for meditators' singular abilities and habits to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and engage in mindful behavior. We further suggest that these regional alterations in brain structures constitute part of the underlying neurological correlate of long-term meditation independent of a specific style and practice. Future longitudinal analyses are necessary to establish the presence and direction of a causal link between meditation practice and brain anatomy.
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.
Most of the extant literature investigating the health effects of mindfulness interventions relies on wait-list control comparisons. The current article specifies and validates an active control condition, the Health Enhancement Program (HEP), thus providing the foundation necessary for rigorous investigations of the relative efficacy of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and for testing mindfulness as an active ingredient. 63 participants were randomized to either MBSR (n = 31) or HEP (n = 32). Compared to HEP, MBSR led to reductions in thermal pain ratings in the mindfulness- but not the HEP-related instruction condition (η(2) = .18). There were significant improvements over time for general distress (η(2) = .09), anxiety (η(2) = .08), hostility (η(2) = .07), and medical symptoms (η(2) = .14), but no effects of intervention. Practice was not related to change. HEP is an active control condition for MBSR while remaining inert to mindfulness. These claims are supported by results from a pain task. Participant-reported outcomes (PROs) replicate previous improvements to well-being in MBSR, but indicate that MBSR is no more effective than a rigorous active control in improving these indices. These results emphasize the importance of using an active control condition like HEP in studies evaluating the effectiveness of MBSR.
Muscle electrical activity, or "electromyogenic" (EMG) artifact, poses a serious threat to the validity of electroencephalography (EEG) investigations in the frequency domain. EMG is sensitive to a variety of psychological processes and can mask genuine effects or masquerade as legitimate neurogenic effects across the scalp in frequencies at least as low as the alpha band (8-13 Hz). Although several techniques for correcting myogenic activity have been described, most are subjected to only limited validation attempts. Attempts to gauge the impact of EMG correction on intracerebral source models (source "localization" analyses) are rarer still. Accordingly, we assessed the sensitivity and specificity of one prominent correction tool, independent component analysis (ICA), on the scalp and in the source-space using high-resolution EEG. Data were collected from 17 participants while neurogenic and myogenic activity was independently varied. Several protocols for classifying and discarding components classified as myogenic and non-myogenic artifact (e.g., ocular) were systematically assessed, leading to the exclusion of one-third to as much as three-quarters of the variance in the EEG. Some, but not all, of these protocols showed adequate performance on the scalp. Indeed, performance was superior to previously validated regression-based techniques. Nevertheless, ICA-based EMG correction exhibited low validity in the intracerebral source-space, likely owing to incomplete separation of neurogenic from myogenic sources. Taken with prior work, this indicates that EMG artifact can substantially distort estimates of intracerebral spectral activity. Neither regression- nor ICA-based EMG correction techniques provide complete safeguards against such distortions. In light of these results, several practical suggestions and recommendations are made for intelligently using ICA to minimize EMG and other common artifacts.
EEG and EEG source-estimation are susceptible to electromyographic artifacts (EMG) generated by the cranial muscles. EMG can mask genuine effects or masquerade as a legitimate effect-even in low frequencies, such as alpha (8-13 Hz). Although regression-based correction has been used previously, only cursory attempts at validation exist, and the utility for source-localized data is unknown. To address this, EEG was recorded from 17 participants while neurogenic and myogenic activity were factorially varied. We assessed the sensitivity and specificity of four regression-based techniques: between-subjects, between-subjects using difference-scores, within-subjects condition-wise, and within-subject epoch-wise on the scalp and in data modeled using the LORETA algorithm. Although within-subject epoch-wise showed superior performance on the scalp, no technique succeeded in the source-space. Aside from validating the novel epoch-wise methods on the scalp, we highlight methods requiring further development.
Recent neuroimaging and neuropsychological work has begun to shed light on how the brain responds to the viewing of facial expressions of emotion. However, one important category of facial expression that has not been studied on this level is the facial expression of pain. We investigated the neural response to pain expressions by performing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as subjects viewed short video sequences showing faces expressing either moderate pain or, for comparison, no pain. In alternate blocks, the same subjects received both painful and non-painful thermal stimulation. Facial expressions of pain were found to engage cortical areas also engaged by the first-hand experience of pain, including anterior cingulate cortex and insula. The reported findings corroborate other work in which the neural response to witnessed pain has been examined from other perspectives. In addition, they lend support to the idea that common neural substrates are involved in representing one's own and others' affective states.
Reputation systems promote cooperation and deter antisocial behavior in groups. Little is known, however, about how and why people share reputational information. Here, we seek to establish the existence and dynamics of prosocial gossip, the sharing of negative evaluative information about a target in a way that protects others from antisocial or exploitative behavior. We present a model of prosocial gossip and the results of 4 studies testing the model's claims. Results of Studies 1 through 3 demonstrate that (a) individuals who observe an antisocial act experience negative affect and are compelled to share information about the antisocial actor with a potentially vulnerable person, (b) sharing such information reduces negative affect created by observing the antisocial behavior, and (c) individuals possessing more prosocial orientations are the most motivated to engage in such gossip, even at a personal cost, and exhibit the greatest reduction in negative affect as a result. Study 4 demonstrates that prosocial gossip can effectively deter selfishness and promote cooperation. Taken together these results highlight the roles of prosocial motivations and negative affective reactions to injustice in maintaining reputational information sharing in groups. We conclude by discussing implications for reputational theories of the maintenance of cooperation in human groups.
Four experiments testing right-handed adult males examined interhemispheric transfer time (IHTT) estimation with visual evoked potentials (EPs) elicited in response to hemiretinal presentations of checkerboard-flash stimuli. Experiment 1 was a study of the relation between reaction time (RT) and EP measures of IHTT. EP measures provided more valid estimates than RT measures because more subjects showed IHTT in the direction of anatomical prediction. Experiment 2 showed that EPs derived from lateral occipital sites provided more valid and longer estimates of IHTT compared with EPs from medial occipital sites. Experiment 3 showed no difference between random versus blocked hemiretinal stimuli. Experiment 4 showed that IHTT derived with a linked-ears reference provided more valid estimates than IHTT derived with a mid-frontal reference and that small changes in stimulus eccentricity did not influence IHTT. The findings of these experiments indicate that noninvasive estimates of visual IHTT can be obtained in humans.
Studies of emotion signaling inform claims about the taxonomic structure, evolutionary origins, and physiological correlates of emotions. Emotion vocalization research has tended to focus on a limited set of emotions: anger, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise, happiness, and for the voice, also tenderness. Here, we examine how well brief vocal bursts can communicate 22 different emotions: 9 negative (Study 1) and 13 positive (Study 2), and whether prototypical vocal bursts convey emotions more reliably than heterogeneous vocal bursts (Study 3). Results show that vocal bursts communicate emotions like anger, fear, and sadness, as well as seldom-studied states like awe, compassion, interest, and embarrassment. Ancillary analyses reveal family-wise patterns of vocal burst expression. Errors in classification were more common within emotion families (e.g., 'self-conscious,' 'pro-social') than between emotion families. The three studies reported highlight the voice as a rich modality for emotion display that can inform fundamental constructs about emotion.
Facial expressions of pain are an important part of the pain response, signaling distress to others and eliciting social support. To evaluate how voluntary modulation of this response contributes to the pain experience, 29 subjects were exposed to thermal stimulation while making standardized pain, control, or relaxed faces. Dependent measures were self-reported negative effect (valence and arousal) as well as the intensity of nociceptive stimulation required to reach a given subjective level of pain. No direct social feedback was given by the experimenter. Although the amount of nociceptive stimulation did not differ across face conditions, subjects reported more negative effects in response to painful stimulation while holding the pain face. Subsequent analyses suggested the effects were not due to preexisting differences in the difficulty or unpleasantness of making the pain face. These results suggest that voluntary pain expressions have no positively reinforcing (pain attenuating) qualities, at least in the absence of external contingencies such as social reinforcement, and that such expressions may indeed be associated with higher levels of negative affect in response to similar nociceptive input. PERSPECTIVE: This study demonstrates that making a standardized pain face increases negative affect in response to nociceptive stimulation, even in the absence of social feedback. This suggests that exaggerated facial displays of pain, although often socially reinforced, may also have unintended aversive consequences.
We present a novel weighted Fourier series (WFS) representation for cortical surfaces. The WFS representation is a data smoothing technique that provides the explicit smooth functional estimation of unknown cortical boundary as a linear combination of basis functions. The basic properties of the representation are investigated in connection with a self-adjoint partial differential equation and the traditional spherical harmonic (SPHARM) representation. To reduce steep computational requirements, a new iterative residual fitting (IRF) algorithm is developed. Its computational and numerical implementation issues are discussed in detail. The computer codes are also available at http://www.stat.wisc.edu/-mchung/softwares/weighted.SPHARM/weighted-SPHARM.html. As an illustration, the WFS is applied i n quantifying the amount ofgray matter in a group of high functioning autistic subjects. Within the WFS framework, cortical thickness and gray matter density are computed and compared.
This commentary provides reflections on the current state of affairs in research on EEG frontal asymmetries associated with affect. Although considerable progress has occurred since the first report on this topic 25 years ago, research on frontal EEG asymmetries associated with affect has largely evolved in the absence of any serious connection with neuroscience research on the structure and function of the primate prefrontal cortex (PFC). Such integration is important as this work progresses since the neuroscience literature can help to understand what the prefrontal cortex is "doing" in affective processing. Data from the neuroscience literature on the heterogeneity of different sectors of the PFC are introduced and more specific hypotheses are offered about what different sectors of the PFC might be doing in affect. A number of methodological issues associated with EEG measures of functional prefrontal asymmetries are also considered.
Research on temporal-order judgments, reference frames, discrimination tasks, and links to oculomotor control suggest important differences between inhibition of return (IOR) and attentional costs and benefits. Yet, it is generally assumed that IOR is an attentional effect even though there is little supporting evidence. The authors evaluated this assumption by examining how several factors that are known to influence attentional costs and benefits affect the magnitude of IOR: target modality, target intensity, and response mode. Results similar to those previously reported for attention were observed: IOR was greater for visual than for auditory targets, showed an inverse relationship with target intensity, and was equivalent for manual and saccadic responses. Important parallels between IOR and attentional costs and benefits are indicated, suggesting that, like attention, IOR may in part affect sensory-perceptual processes.
It has been widely assumed that emotional avoidance during bereavement leads to either prolonged grief, delayed grief, or delayed somatic symptoms. To test this view, as well as a contrasting adaptive hypothesis, emotional avoidance was measured 6 months after a conjugal loss as negative verbal-autonomic response dissociation (low self-rated negative emotion coupled with heightened cardiovascular activity) and compared with grief measured at 6 and 14 months. The negative dissociation score evidenced reliability and validity but did not evidence the assumed link to severe grief. Rather, consistent with the adaptive hypothesis, negative dissociation at 6 months was associated with minimal grief symptoms across 14 months. Negative dissociation scores were also linked to initially high levels of somatic symptoms, which dropped to a low level by 14 months. Possible explanations for the initial cost and long-term adaptive quality of emotional avoidance during bereavement, as well as implications and limitations of the findings, are discussed.
For survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), verbal disclosure is often complex and painful. The authors examined the voluntary disclosure-nondisclosure of CSA in relation to nonverbal expressions of emotion in the face. Consistent with hypotheses derived from recent theorizing about the moral nature of emotion, CSA survivors who did not voluntarily disclose CSA showed greater facial expressions of shame, whereas CSA survivors who voluntarily disclosed CSA expressed greater disgust. Expressions of disgust also signaled sexual abuse accompanied by violence. Consistent with recent theorizing about smiling behavior, CSA nondisclosers made more polite smiles, whereas nonabused participants expressed greater genuine positive emotion. Discussion addressed the implications of these findings for the study of disclosure of traumatic events, facial expression, and the links between morality and emotion.
Who benefits most from making sacrifices for others? The current study provides one answer to this question by demonstrating the intrinsic benefits of sacrifice for people who are highly motivated to respond to a specific romantic partner's needs noncontingently, a phenomenon termed communal strength. In a 14-day daily-experience study of 69 romantic couples, communal strength was positively associated with positive emotions during the sacrifice itself, with feeling appreciated by the partner for the sacrifice, and with feelings of relationship satisfaction on the day of the sacrifice. Furthermore, feelings of authenticity for the sacrifice mediated these associations. Several alternative hypotheses were ruled out: The effects were not due to individuals higher in communal strength making qualitatively different kinds of sacrifices, being more positive in general, or being involved in happier relationships. Implications for research and theory on communal relationships and positive emotions are discussed.
BACKGROUND: Recent studies have highlighted the role of right-sided anterior temporal and prefrontal activation during anxiety, yet no study has been performed with social phobics that assesses regional brain and autonomic function. This study compared electroencephalograms (EEGs) and autonomic activity in social phobics and controls while they anticipated making a public speech. METHODS: Electroencephalograms from 14 scalp locations, heart rate, and blood pressure were recorded while 18 DSM-IV social phobics and 10 controls anticipated making a public speech, as well as immediately after the speech was made. Self-reports of anxiety and affect were also obtained. RESULTS: Phobics showed a significantly greater increase in anxiety and negative affect during the anticipation condition compared with controls. Heart rate was elevated in the phobics relative to the controls in most conditions. Phobics showed a marked increase in right-sided activation in the anterior temporal and lateral prefrontal scalp regions. These heart rate and EEG changes together accounted for > 48% of the variance in the increase in negative affect during the anticipation phase. CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the hypothesis of right-sided anterior cortical activation during anxiety and indicate that the combination of EEG and heart rate changes during anticipation account for substantial variance in reported negative affect.
One of the most important goals and outcomes of social life is to attain status in the groups to which we belong. Such face-to-face status is defined by the amount of respect, influence, and prominence each member enjoys in the eyes of the others. Three studies investigated personological determinants of status in social groups (fraternity, sorority, and dormitory), relating the Big Five personality traits and physical attractiveness to peer ratings of status. High Extraversion substantially predicted elevated status for both sexes. High Neuroticism, incompatible with male gender norms, predicted lower status in men. None of the other Big Five traits predicted status. These effects were independent of attractiveness, which predicted higher status only in men. Contrary to previous claims, women's status ordering was just as stable as men's but emerged later. Discussion focuses on personological pathways to attaining status and on potential mediators.
Working memory (WM) representations serve as templates that guide behavior, but the neural basis of these templates remains elusive. We tested the hypothesis that WM templates are maintained by biasing activity in sensoriperceptual neurons that code for features of items being held in memory. Neural activity was recorded using event-related potentials (ERPs) as participants viewed a series of faces and responded when a face matched a target face held in WM. Our prediction was that if activity in neurons coding for the features of the target is preferentially weighted during maintenance of the target, then ERP activity evoked by a nontarget probe face should be commensurate with the visual similarity between target and probe. Visual similarity was operationalized as the degree of overlap in visual features between target and probe. A face-sensitive ERP response was modulated by target-probe similarity. Amplitude was largest for probes that were similar to the target, and decreased monotonically as a function of decreasing target-probe similarity. These results indicate that neural activity is weighted in favor of visual features that comprise an actively held memory representation. As such, our findings support the notion that WM templates rely on neural populations involved in forming percepts of memory items.
Dynamic adjustments in cognitive control are well documented in conflict tasks, wherein competition from irrelevant stimulus attributes intensifies selection demands and leads to subsequent performance benefits. The current study investigated whether mnemonic demands, in a working memory (WM) task, can drive similar online control modifications. Demand levels (high vs. low) of WM maintenance (memory load of 2 items vs. 1 item) and delay-spanning distractor interference (confusable vs. not confusable with memoranda) were manipulated using a factorial design during a WM delayed-recognition task. Performance was best subsequent to trials in which both maintenance and distractor interference demands were high, followed by trials with high demand in either of these 2 control domains, and worst following trials with low demand in both domains. These results suggest that dynamic adjustments in cognitive control are not triggered exclusively by conflict-specific contexts but are also triggered by WM demands, revealing a putative mechanism by which this system configures itself for successful task performance.
We have developed a low dose Mindfulness-Based Intervention (MBI-ld) that reduces the time committed to meetings and formal mindfulness practice, while conducting the sessions during the workday. This reduced the barriers commonly mentioned for non-participation in mindfulness programs. In a controlled randomized trial we studied university faculty and staff (n=186) who were found to have an elevated CRP level,>3.0 mg/ml, and who either had, or were at risk for cardiovascular disease. This study was designed to evaluate if MBI-ld could produce a greater decrease in CRP, IL-6 and cortisol than an active control group receiving a lifestyle education program when measured at the end of the 2 month interventions. We found that MBI-ld significantly enhanced mindfulness by 2-months and it was maintained for up to a year when compared to the education control. No significant changes were noted between interventions in cortisol, IL-6 levels or self-reported measures of perceived stress, depression and sleep quality at 2-months. Although not statistically significant (p=.08), the CRP level at 2-months was one mg/ml lower in the MBI-ld group than in the education control group, a change which may have clinical significance (Ridker et al., 2000; Wassel et al., 2010). A larger MBI-ld effect on CRP (as compared to control) occurred among participants who had a baseline BMI <30 (-2.67 mg/ml) than for those with BMI >30 (-0.18 mg/ml). We conclude that MBI-ld should be more fully investigated as a low-cost self-directed complementary strategy for decreasing inflammation, and it seems most promising for non-obese subjects.
BACKGROUND: Although yoga and meditation have been used for stress reduction with reported improvement in inflammation, little is known about the biological mechanisms mediating such effects. The present study examined if a yogic meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral transcription control pathways that shape immune cell gene expression. METHODS: Forty-five family dementia caregivers were randomized to either Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM) or Relaxing Music (RM) listening for 12 min daily for 8 weeks and 39 caregivers completed the study. Genome-wide transcriptional profiles were collected from peripheral blood leukocytes sampled at baseline and 8-week follow-up. Promoter-based bioinformatics analyses tested the hypothesis that observed transcriptional alterations were structured by reduced activity of the pro-inflammatory nuclear factor (NF)-κB family of transcription factors and increased activity of Interferon Response Factors (IRFs; i.e., reversal of patterns previously linked to stress). RESULTS: In response to KKM treatment, 68 genes were found to be differentially expressed (19 up-regulated, 49 down-regulated) after adjusting for potentially confounded differences in sex, illness burden, and BMI. Up-regulated genes included immunoglobulin-related transcripts. Down-regulated transcripts included pro-inflammatory cytokines and activation-related immediate-early genes. Transcript origin analyses identified plasmacytoid dendritic cells and B lymphocytes as the primary cellular context of these transcriptional alterations (both p<.001). Promoter-based bioinformatic analysis implicated reduced NF-κB signaling and increased activity of IRF1 in structuring those effects (both p<.05). CONCLUSION: A brief daily yogic meditation intervention may reverse the pattern of increased NF-κB-related transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines and decreased IRF1-related transcription of innate antiviral response genes previously observed in healthy individuals confronting a significant life stressor.