<p>Humans often judge others egocentrically, assuming that they feel or think similarly to themselves. Emotional egocentricity bias (EEB) occurs in situations when others feel differently to oneself. Using a novel paradigm, we investigated the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying the developmental capacity to overcome such EEB in children compared with adults. We showed that children display a stronger EEB than adults and that this correlates with reduced activation in right supramarginal gyrus (rSMG) as well as reduced coupling between rSMG and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (lDLPFC) in children compared with adults. Crucially, functional recruitment of rSMG was associated with age-related differences in cortical thickness of this region. Although in adults the mere presence of emotional conflict occurs between self and other recruited rSMG, rSMG-lDLPFC coupling was only observed when implementing empathic judgements. Finally, resting state analyses comparing connectivity patterns of rSMG with that of right temporoparietal junction suggested a unique role of rSMG for self-other distinction in the emotional domain for adults as well as for children. Thus, children’s difficulties in overcoming EEB may be due to late maturation of regions distinguishing between conflicting socio-affective information and relaying this information to regions necessary for implementing accurate judgments.</p>
OBJECTIVE: The underlying changes in biological processes that are associated with reported changes in mental and physical health in response to meditation have not been systematically explored. We performed a randomized, controlled study on the effects on brain and immune function of a well-known and widely used 8-week clinical training program in mindfulness meditation applied in a work environment with healthy employees. METHODS: We measured brain electrical activity before and immediately after, and then 4 months after an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation. Twenty-five subjects were tested in the meditation group. A wait-list control group (N = 16) was tested at the same points in time as the meditators. At the end of the 8-week period, subjects in both groups were vaccinated with influenza vaccine. RESULTS: We report for the first time significant increases in left-sided anterior activation, a pattern previously associated with positive affect, in the meditators compared with the nonmeditators. We also found significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine among subjects in the meditation compared with those in the wait-list control group. Finally, the magnitude of increase in left-sided activation predicted the magnitude of antibody titer rise to the vaccine. CONCLUSIONS: These findings demonstrate that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. These findings suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways and underscore the need for additional research.
BACKGROUND: Autism is a syndrome of unknown cause, marked by abnormal development of social behavior. Attempts to link pathological features of the amygdala, which plays a key role in emotional processing, to autism have shown little consensus. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate amygdala volume in individuals with autism spectrum disorders and its relationship to laboratory measures of social behavior to examine whether variations in amygdala structure relate to symptom severity. DESIGN: We conducted 2 cross-sectional studies of amygdala volume, measured blind to diagnosis on high-resolution, anatomical magnetic resonance images. Participants were 54 males aged 8 to 25 years, including 23 with autism and 5 with Asperger syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, recruited and evaluated at an academic center for developmental disabilities and 26 age- and sex-matched community volunteers. The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised was used to confirm diagnoses and to validate relationships with laboratory measures of social function. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Amygdala volume, judgment of facial expressions, and eye tracking. RESULTS: In study 1, individuals with autism who had small amygdalae were slowest to distinguish emotional from neutral expressions (P=.02) and showed least fixation of eye regions (P=.04). These same individuals were most socially impaired in early childhood, as reported on the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (P<.04). Study 2 showed smaller amygdalae in individuals with autism than in control subjects (P=.03) and group differences in the relation between amygdala volume and age. Study 2 also replicated findings of more gaze avoidance and childhood impairment in participants with autism with the smallest amygdalae. Across the combined sample, severity of social deficits interacted with age to predict different patterns of amygdala development in autism (P=.047). CONCLUSIONS: These findings best support a model of amygdala hyperactivity that could explain most volumetric findings in autism. Further psychophysiological and histopathological studies are indicated to confirm these findings.
This article presents an overview of the author's recent electrophysiological studies of anterior cerebral asymmetries related to emotion and affective style. A theoretical account is provided of the role of the two hemispheres in emotional processing. This account assigns a major role in approach- and withdrawal-related behavior to the left and right frontal and anterior temporal regions of two hemispheres, respectively. Individual differences in approach- and withdrawal-related emotional reactivity and temperament are associated with stable differences in baseline measures of activation asymmetry in these anterior regions. Phasic state changes in emotion result in shifts in anterior activation asymmetry which are superimposed upon these stable baseline differences. Future directions for research in this area are discussed.
OBJECTIVE: The anticipation of adverse outcomes, or worry, is a cardinal symptom of generalized anxiety disorder. Prior work with healthy subjects has shown that anticipating aversive events recruits a network of brain regions, including the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex. This study tested whether patients with generalized anxiety disorder have alterations in anticipatory amygdala function and whether anticipatory activity in the anterior cingulate cortex predicts treatment response. METHOD: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was employed with 14 generalized anxiety disorder patients and 12 healthy comparison subjects matched for age, sex, and education. The event-related fMRI paradigm was composed of one warning cue that preceded aversive pictures and a second cue that preceded neutral pictures. Following the fMRI session, patients received 8 weeks of treatment with extended-release venlafaxine. RESULTS: Patients with generalized anxiety disorder showed greater anticipatory activity than healthy comparison subjects in the bilateral dorsal amygdala preceding both aversive and neutral pictures. Building on prior reports of pretreatment anterior cingulate cortex activity predicting treatment response, anticipatory activity in that area was associated with clinical outcome 8 weeks later following treatment with venlafaxine. Higher levels of pretreatment anterior cingulate cortex activity in anticipation of both aversive and neutral pictures were associated with greater reductions in anxiety and worry symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: These findings of heightened and indiscriminate amygdala responses to anticipatory signals in generalized anxiety disorder and of anterior cingulate cortex associations with treatment response provide neurobiological support for the role of anticipatory processes in the pathophysiology of generalized anxiety disorder.
<p>Interest in mindfulness-based interventions for children and adolescents is burgeoning, bringing with it the need for validated instruments to assess mindfulness in youths. The present studies were designed to validate among adolescents a measure of mindfulness previously validated for adults (e.g., Brown & Ryan, 2003), which we herein call the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale—Adolescent (MAAS–A). In 2 large samples of healthy 14- to 18-year-olds (N = 595), Study 1 supported a single-factor MAAS–A structure, along with acceptably high internal consistency, test–retest reliability, and both concurrent and incremental validity. In Study 2, with a sample of 102 psychiatric outpatient adolescents age 14–18 years, participants randomized to a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention showed significant increases in MAAS–A scores from baseline to 3-month follow-up, relative to nonsignificant score changes among treatment-as-usual participants. Increases in MAAS–A scores among mindfulness-based stress reduction participants were significantly related to beneficial changes in numerous mental health indicators. The findings support the reliability and validity of the MAAS–A in normative and mixed psychiatric adolescent populations and suggest that the MAAS–A has utility in mindfulness intervention research.</p>
<p>This article presents 4 studies (N = 1,413) describing the development and validation of the Child and Adolescent Mindfulness Measure (CAMM). In Study 1 (n = 428), the authors determined procedures for item development and examined comprehensibility of the initial 25 items. In Study 2 (n = 334), they reduced the initial item pool from 25 to 10 items through exploratory factor analysis. Study 3 (n = 332) evaluated the final 10-item measure in a cross-validation sample, and Study 4 (n = 319) determined validity coefficients for the CAMM using bivariate and partial correlations with relevant variables. Results suggest that the CAMM is a developmentally appropriate measure with adequate internal consistency. As expected, CAMM scores were positively correlated with quality of life, academic competence, and social skills and negatively correlated with somatic complaints, internalizing symptoms, and externalizing behavior problems. Correlations were reduced but generally still significant after controlling for the effects of 2 overlapping processes (thought suppression and psychological inflexibility). Overall, results suggest that the CAMM may be a useful measure of mindfulness skills for school-aged children and adolescents.</p>
Thirty-two participants were tested for both resting electroencephalography (EEG) and neuropsychological function. Eight one-minute trials of resting EEG were recorded from 14 channels referenced to linked ears, which was rederived to an average reference. Neuropsychological tasks included Verbal Fluency, the Tower of London, and Corsi's Recurring Blocks. Asymmetries in EEG alpha activity were correlated with performance on these tasks. Similar patterns were obtained for delta and theta bands. Factor analyses of resting EEG asymmetries over particular regions suggested that asymmetries over anterior scalp regions may be partly independent from those over posterior scalp regions. These results support the notions that resting EEG asymmetries are specified by multiple mechanisms along the rostral/caudal plane, and that these asymmetries predict task performance in a manner consistent with lesion and neuroimaging studies.
Background Early life stress (ELS) can compromise development, with higher amounts of adversity linked to behavioral problems. To understand this linkage, a growing body of research has examined two brain regions involved with socioemotional functioning—amygdala and hippocampus. Yet empirical studies have reported increases, decreases, and no differences within human and nonhuman animal samples exposed to different forms of ELS. This divergence in findings may stem from methodological factors, nonlinear effects of ELS, or both. Methods We completed rigorous hand-tracing of the amygdala and hippocampus in three samples of children who experienced different forms of ELS (i.e., physical abuse, early neglect, or low socioeconomic status). Interviews were also conducted with children and their parents or guardians to collect data about cumulative life stress. The same data were also collected in a fourth sample of comparison children who had not experienced any of these forms of ELS. Results Smaller amygdala volumes were found for children exposed to these different forms of ELS. Smaller hippocampal volumes were also noted for children who were physically abused or from low socioeconomic status households. Smaller amygdala and hippocampal volumes were also associated with greater cumulative stress exposure and behavioral problems. Hippocampal volumes partially mediated the relationship between ELS and greater behavioral problems. Conclusions This study suggests ELS may shape the development of brain areas involved with emotion processing and regulation in similar ways. Differences in the amygdala and hippocampus may be a shared diathesis for later negative outcomes related to ELS.
<p>Mindfulness is an attribute of consciousness long believed to promote well-being. This research provides a theoretical and empirical examination of the role of mindfulness in psychological well-being. The development and psychometric properties of the dispositional Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) are described. Correlational, quasi-experimental, and laboratory studies then show that the MAAS measures a unique quality of consciousness that is related to a variety of well-being constructs, that differentiates mindfulness practitioners from others, and that is associated with enhanced self-awareness. An experience-sampling study shows that both dispositional and state mindfulness predict self-regulated behavior and positive emotional states. Finally, a clinical intervention study with cancer patients demonstrates that increases in mindfulness over time relate to declines in mood disturbance and stress.</p>
Previous research indicates that lower-class individuals experience elevated negative emotions as compared with their upper-class counterparts. We examine how the environments of lower-class individuals can also promote greater compassionate responding-that is, concern for the suffering or well-being of others. In the present research, we investigate class-based differences in dispositional compassion and its activation in situations wherein others are suffering. Across studies, relative to their upper-class counterparts, lower-class individuals reported elevated dispositional compassion (Study 1), as well as greater self-reported compassion during a compassion-inducing video (Study 2) and for another person during a social interaction (Study 3). Lower-class individuals also exhibited heart rate deceleration-a physiological response associated with orienting to the social environment and engaging with others-during the compassion-inducing video (Study 2). We discuss a potential mechanism of class-based influences on compassion, whereby lower-class individuals' are more attuned to others' distress, relative to their upper-class counterparts.
Chaotic conditions are a prevalent and threatening feature of social life. Five studies examined whether social class underlies divergent responses to perceptions of chaos in one's social environments and outcomes. The authors hypothesized that when coping with perceptions of chaos, lower class individuals tend to prioritize community, relative to upper class individuals, who instead tend to prioritize material wealth. Consistent with these predictions, when personally confronting chaos, lower class individuals were more communally oriented (Study 1), more connected with their community (Study 2), and more likely to volunteer for a community-building project (Study 3), compared to upper class individuals. In contrast, perceptions of chaos caused upper class individuals to express greater reliance on wealth (Study 4) and prefer financial gain over membership in a close-knit community (Study 5), relative to lower class individuals. These findings suggest that social class shapes how people respond to perceptions of chaos and cope with its threatening consequences.
We propose that cognition is more than a collection of independent processes operating in a modular cognitive system. Instead, we propose that cognition emerges from dependencies between all of the basic systems in the brain, including goal management, perception, action, memory, reward, affect, and learning. Furthermore, human cognition reflects its social evolution and context, as well as contributions from a developmental process. After presenting these themes, we illustrate their application to the process of anticipation. Specifically, we propose that anticipations occur extensively across domains (i.e., goal management, perception, action, reward, affect, and learning) in coordinated manners. We also propose that anticipation is central to situated action and to social interaction, and that many of its key features reflect the process of development.
<p>Background: Mindfulness is the development of a nonjudgmental accepting awareness of moment-by-moment experience. Intentionally attending to one’s ongoing stream of sensations, thoughts, and emotions as they arise has a number of benefits, including the ability to react with greater flexibility to events and sustain attention. Thus the teaching of mindfulness-based skills to children and their carers is a potential means of improving family relationships and helping children achieve more positive developmental outcomes through increased ability to sustain attention and manage emotions. We provide a review of recent studies evaluating mindfulness-based interventions targeting children, adolescents, and families in educational and clinical settings.Method: Searches were conducted of several databases (including Medline, PsychINFO and Cochrane Reviews) to identify studies that have evaluated mindfulness-based interventions targeting children, adolescents or families published since 2009.Results: Twenty-four studies were identified. We conclude that mindfulness-based interventions are an important addition to the repertoire of existing therapeutic techniques. However, large-scale, methodologically rigorous studies are lacking. The interventions used in treatment evaluations vary in both content and dose, the outcomes targeted have varied, and no studies have employed methodology to investigate mechanisms of change.Conclusions: There is increasing evidence that mindfulness-based therapeutic techniques can have a positive impact on a range of outcome variables. A greater understanding of the mechanisms of change is an important future direction of research. We argue that locating mindfulness-based therapies targeting children and families within the broader child and family field has greater promise in improving child and family functioning than viewing mindful parenting as an independent endeavor.</p>
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.
Raised in the tumult of Japan's industrial powerhouse, the eleven men and women profiled in this book have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives. They are today artists, philosophers, and farmers who reside deep in the mountains of rural Japan. Their lives may be simple, yet they are surrounded by the luxuries of nature, art, contemplation, delicious food, and an abundance of time. For example: Atsuko Watanabe is an environmentalist and home-schooler who explores Christian mysticism while raising her two daughters in an old farmhouseAkira Ito is an ex-petroleum engineer who has become a painter and children's book illustrator and explores the role of "chi" (life energy) in the universe through art and musicKogan Murata grows rice and crafts elegant bamboo flutes that he plays for alms in the surrounding villagesJinko Kaneko is a fine artist and fabric dyer who runs a Himalayan-style curry restaurant in the Japan AlpsBy presenting the journeys of these ordinary--yet exceptional--people, Andy Couturier shows how we too can travel a meaningful path of living simply, with respect for our communities and our natural resources. When we leave behind the tremendous burdens of wage labor, debt, stress, and daily busyness, we grow rich in a whole new way. These Japanese are pioneers in a sense; drawing on traditional Eastern spiritual wisdom, they have forged a new style of modernity, and in their success is a lesson for us all: live a life that matters.Andy Couturier is an essayist, poet, and writing teacher. He lived in Japan for four years where he taught, was a journalist, and worked on environmental causes. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Individuals who experience early adversity, such as child maltreatment, are at heightened risk for a broad array of social and health difficulties. However, little is known about how this behavioral risk is instantiated in the brain. Here we examine a neurobiological contribution to individual differences in human behavior using methodology appropriate for use with pediatric populations paired with an in-depth measure of social behavior. We show that alterations in the orbitofrontal cortex among individuals who experienced physical abuse are related to social difficulties. These data suggest a biological mechanism linking early social learning to later behavioral outcomes.
Social comparison can elicit emotions such as envy, which can affect social interactions. The emergence and development of such social emotions through ontogeny, and their influence on social interaction, are unknown. We tested 182 children from 7 to 13 years of age with a novel monetary reward-and-punishment task measuring envy and Schadenfreude (i.e., gloating or taking delight in someone else’s misfortune). Children were either rewarded or punished in a trial-by-trial evaluation of their performance on a speeded reaction time task. In a social condition, feedback of their own and a competitor’s performance was given for each trial. Afterward, children rated how they felt about the outcome. The ratings suggest that when children won, they felt better if the competitor lost instead of winning (i.e., Schadenfreude). Conversely, when children lost, they felt worse if the competitor won instead of losing (i.e., envy). Crucially, levels of envy and Schadenfreude decreased with age. We also studied how these emotions relate to social decisions made separately during three resource allocation paradigms. In each, children chose between two options that differed in the distribution of valuable tokens between themselves and an anonymous other. The combination of choices allowed the measurement of inequity aversion (i.e., equality for all) and spite (i.e., self-profit to maximal disadvantage of the other). We found an age-related increase in inequity aversion and decrease in spite. Crucially, age-related changes in both envy and Schadenfreude predicted the developmental change in equity-related decisions. These findings shed light on the development of social emotions and demonstrate their importance in the development of prosocial behavior in children.
We investigated the impact of mindfulness training (MT) on working memory capacity (WMC) and affective experience. WMC is used in managing cognitive demands and regulating emotions. Yet, persistent and intensive demands, such as those experienced during high-stress intervals, may deplete WMC and lead to cognitive failures and emotional disturbances. We hypothesized that MT may mitigate these deleterious effects by bolstering WMC. We recruited 2 military cohorts during the high-stress predeployment interval and provided MT to 1 (MT, n = 31) but not the other group (military control group, MC, n = 17). The MT group attended an 8-week MT course and logged the amount of out-of-class time spent practicing formal MT exercises. The operation span task was used to index WMC at 2 testing sessions before and after the MT course. Although WMC remained stable over time in civilians (n = 12), it degraded in the MC group. In the MT group, WMC decreased over time in those with low MT practice time, but increased in those with high practice time. Higher MT practice time also corresponded to lower levels of negative affect and higher levels of positive affect (indexed by the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule). The relationship between practice time and negative, but not positive, affect was mediated by WMC, indicating that MT-related improvements in WMC may support some but not all of MT's salutary effects. Nonetheless, these findings suggest that sufficient MT practice may protect against functional impairments associated with high-stress contexts.
Although individuals experience embarrassment as an unpleasant, negative emotion, the authors argue that expressions of embarrassment serve vital social functions, signaling the embarrassed individual's prosociality and fostering trust. Extending past research on embarrassment as a nonverbal apology and appeasement gesture, the authors demonstrate that observers recognize the expression of embarrassment as a signal of prosociality and commitment to social relationships. In turn, observers respond with affiliative behaviors toward the signaler, including greater trust and desire to affiliate with the embarrassed individual. Five studies tested these hypotheses and ruled out alternative explanations. Study 1 demonstrated that individuals who are more embarrassable also reported greater prosociality and behaved more generously than their less embarrassable counterparts. Results of Studies 2-5 revealed that observers rated embarrassed targets as being more prosocial and less antisocial relative to targets who displayed either a different emotion or no emotion. In addition, observers were more willing to give resources and express a desire to affiliate with these targets, and these effects were mediated by perceptions of the targets as prosocial.