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Research on the neural substrates of emotion has found evidence for cortical asymmetries for aspects of emotion. A recent article by Nicholls et al. has used a new imaging method to interrogate facial movement in 3D to assess possible asymmetrical action during expressions of happiness and sadness. Greater left-sided movement, particularly during expressions of sadness was observed. These findings have implications for understanding hemispheric differences in emotion and lend support to the notion that aspects of emotion processing might be differentially localized in the two hemispheres.
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<p>In the past two decades, the familiar experience of attention - the emphasis on a particular mental activity so that it "fills the mind" - has been subjected to much scientific inquiry. David LaBerge now provides a systematic view of the attention process as it occurs in everyday perception, thinking, and action. Drawing from a variety of research methods and findings from cognitive psychology, neurobiology, and computer science, he presents a masterful synthesis of what is understood about attentional processing. LaBerge explores how we are able to restrict the input of extraneous and confusing information, or prepare to process a future stimulus, in order to take effective action. As well as describing the pathways in the cortex presumed to be involved in attentional processing, he examines the hypothesis that two subcortical structures, the superior colliculus and the thalamus, contain circuit mechanisms that embody an algorithm of attention. In addition, he takes us through various ways of posing the problem, from an information-processing description of how attention works to a consideration of some of the cognitive and behavioral consequences of the brain's computations, such as desiring, judging, imaging, and remembering. Attentional Processing is a highly sophisticated integration of contributions from several fields of neuroscience. It brings together the latest efforts to solve the puzzle of attention: how it works, how it is modulated, what its benefits are, and how it is expressed in the brain.</p>

Meditation can be conceptualized as a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory training regimes developed for various ends, including the cultivation of well-being and emotional balance. Among these various practices, there are two styles that are commonly studied. One style, focused attention meditation, entails the voluntary focusing of attention on a chosen object. The other style, open monitoring meditation, involves nonreactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment. The potential regulatory functions of these practices on attention and emotion processes could have a long-term impact on the brain and behavior.

We conducted assessments of 28 children with impaired vision (VI group), with ages ranging from 12 to 17 years, and an equal number of age-matched, normal-sighted children (NS group). The VI group had significantly higher rates of breathing, heart rates, and diastolic blood pressure values compared to the NS group (Mann–Whitney U test). Twenty-four of the VI group formed pairs matched for age and degree of blindness, and we randomly assigned members of the pairs to two groups, viz., yoga and physical activity. Both groups spent an hour each day practicing yoga or working in the garden, depending on their group. After 3 weeks, the yoga group showed a significant decrease in breath rate (Wilcoxon paired signed ranks test). There was no change after the physical activity program. The results showed that children with visual impairment have higher physiological arousal than children with normal sight, with a marginal reduction in arousal following yoga.

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.
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<p>Drawing its main source of inspiration from a naturalized interpretation of Husserlian phenomenology, On Becoming Aware: A Pragmatics of Experiencing attempts to examine closely the nature of experience and how we may become aware of our own mental life. The authors also focus on how this project fits into the larger context of cognitive science, psychology, neurosciences, and philosophy. Additional partners in the effort to better understand experience are the contemplative systems of the world's spiritual or wisdom traditions, including particularly that of Buddhism. The book includes three separate glossaries of technical terms in phenomenology, the cognitive sciences, and Tibetan Buddhism. The book On Becoming Aware seeks a disciplined and practical approach to exploring human experience. While much of the book draws its inspiration from the phenomenological theories of Husserl, other approaches to the direct study of experience are also explored in depth. One of these approaches is embodied by the world's spiritual or wisdom or contemplative traditions such as Sufism, Buddhism, the Philokalia tradition, and others. Collectively, these traditions have come upon a variety of their own insights and methods for understanding experience, or, to use words from the phenomenological tradition, has developed its own ways of phenomenological reduction Amongst the various wisdom traditions, the authors focus mainly on Buddhism. The authors give an introduction to Buddhist theory and history, followed by an in-depth discussion of the Buddhist contemplative practices of mindfulness, śamatha, vipaśyanā, tonglen (gtong len), lojong (blo sbyong), dzokchen (rdzogs chen), and mahāmudrā. The authors then relate this discussion to themes from philosophy and phenomenology explored earlier in the book, paricularly Husserl's concept of épochè. (Zach Rowinski 2005-01-17) Publisher's description: This book searches for the sources and means for a disciplined practical approach to exploring human experience. The spirit of this book is pragmatic and relies on a Husserlian phenomenology primarily understood as a method of exploring our experience. The authors do not aim at a neo-Kantian a priori ‘new theory’ of experience but instead they describe a concrete activity: how we examine what we live through, how we become aware of our own mental life. The range of experiences of which we can become aware is vast: all the normal dimensions of human life (perception, motion, memory, imagination, speech, everyday social interactions), cognitive events that can be precisely defined as tasks in laboratory experiments (e.g., a protocol for visual attention), but also manifestations of mental life more fraught with meaning (dreaming, intense emotions, social tensions, altered states of consciousness). The central assertion in this work is that this immanent ability is habitually ignored or at best practiced unsystematically, that is to say, blindly. Exploring human experience amounts to developing and cultivating this basic ability through specific training. Only a hands-on, non-dogmatic approach can lead to progress, and that is what animates this book.</p>

Many of us go through our daily lives on autopilot, not fully aware of our conscious experiences. In a discussion moderated by Steve Paulson, executive producer and host of To the Best of Our Knowledge, neuroscientists Richard Davidson and Amishi Jha and clinical mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn explore the role of consciousness in mental and physical health, how we can train our minds to be more flexible and adaptable, and cutting-edge neuroscience findings about the transformation of consciousness through mindfulness and contemplative practice. The following is an edited transcript of the discussion that occurred February 6, 2013, 7:00-8:15 PM, at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City.

Many of us go through our daily lives on autopilot, not fully aware of our conscious experiences. In a discussion moderated by Steve Paulson, executive producer and host of To the Best of Our Knowledge, neuroscientists Richard Davidson and Amishi Jha and clinical mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn explore the role of consciousness in mental and physical health, how we can train our minds to be more flexible and adaptable, and cutting-edge neuroscience findings about the transformation of consciousness through mindfulness and contemplative practice. The following is an edited transcript of the discussion that occurred February 6, 2013, 7:00-8:15 PM, at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City.
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<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>

BACKGROUND: Studies using electroencephalogram (EEG) measures of activation asymmetry have reported differences in anterior asymmetry between depressed and nondepressed subjects. Several studies have suggested reciprocal relations between measures of anterior and posterior activation asymmetries. We hypothesized that depressed subjects would fail to show the normal activation of posterior right hemisphere regions in response to an appropriate cognitive challenge. METHODS: EEG activity was recorded from 11 depressed and 19 nondepressed subjects during the performance of psychometrically matched verbal (word finding) and spatial (dot localization) tasks. Band power was extracted from all epochs of artifact-free data and averaged within each condition. Task performance was also assessed. RESULTS: Depressed subjects showed a specific deficit in the performance of the spatial task, whereas no group differences were evident on verbal performance. In posterior scalp regions, nondepressed controls had a pattern of relative left-sided activation during the verbal task and relative right-sided activation during the spatial task. In contrast, depressed subjects failed to show activation in posterior right hemisphere regions during spatial task performance. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that deficits in right posterior functioning underlie the observed impairments in spatial functioning among depressed subjects.
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BACKGROUND: The frontal lobe has been crucially involved in the neurobiology of major depression, but inconsistencies among studies exist, in part due to a failure of considering modulatory variables such as symptom severity, comorbidity with anxiety, and distinct subtypes, as codeterminants for patterns of brain activation in depression. METHODS: Resting electroencephalogram was recorded in 38 unmedicated subjects with major depressive disorder and 18 normal comparison subjects, and analyzed with a tomographic source localization method that computes the cortical three-dimensional distribution of current density for standard electroencephalogram frequency bands. Symptom severity and anxiety were measured via self-report and melancholic features via clinical interview. RESULTS: Depressed subjects showed more excitatory (beta3, 21.5-30.0 Hz) activity in the right superior and inferior frontal lobe (Brodmann's area 9/10/11) than comparison subjects. In melancholic subjects, this effect was particularly pronounced for severe depression, and right frontal activity correlated positively with anxiety. Depressed subjects showed posterior cingulate and precuneus hypoactivity. CONCLUSIONS: While confirming prior results implicating right frontal and posterior cingulate regions, this study highlights the importance of depression severity, anxiety, and melancholic features in patterns of brain activity accompanying depression.
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Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most commonly known genetic disorder associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Overlapping features in these populations include gaze aversion, communication deficits, and social withdrawal. Although the association between FXS and ASD has been well documented at the behavioral level, the underlying neural mechanisms associated with the social/emotional deficits in these groups remain unclear. We collected functional brain images and eye-gaze fixations from 9 individuals with FXS and 14 individuals with idiopathic ASD, as well as 15 typically developing (TD) individuals, while they performed a facial-emotion discrimination task. The FXS group showed a similar yet less aberrant pattern of gaze fixations compared with the ASD group. The FXS group also showed fusiform gyrus (FG) hypoactivation compared with the TD control group. Activation in FG was strongly and positively associated with average eye fixation and negatively associated with ASD characteristics in the FXS group. The FXS group displayed significantly greater activation than both the TD control and ASD groups in the left hippocampus (HIPP), left superior temporal gyrus (STG), right insula (INS), and left postcentral gyrus (PCG). These group differences in brain activation are important as they suggest unique underlying face-processing neural circuitry in FXS versus idiopathic ASD, largely supporting the hypothesis that ASD characteristics in FXS and idiopathic ASD reflect partially divergent impairments at the neural level, at least in FXS individuals without a co-morbid diagnosis of ASD.
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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.
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Biological systems are particularly prone to variation, and the authors argue that such variation must be regarded as important data in its own right. The authors describe a method in which individual differences are studied within the framework of a general theory of the population as a whole and illustrate how this method can be used to address three types of issues: the nature of the mechanisms that give rise to a specific ability, such as mental imagery; the role of psychological or biological mediators of environmental challenges, such as the biological bases for differences in dispositional mood; and the existence of processes that have nonadditive effects with behavioral and physiological variables, such as factors that modulate the response to stress and its effects on the immune response.
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<p>Professor George has ventured into a comparatively unchartered area seeking, as he does, to explore the art and concept of performance in Buddhism -- more specially in the context of Buddhist meditation and theatre. Spelling out the epistemology of performance in all its different connotations and definitional nuances, his study opens out an astonishingly vast panorama of the Buddhist theatrical practices in Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Nepal, Tibet . . . and goes on to demonstrate how, within this panorama, three kinds of theatrical practice can be identified, each corresponding to one of the three paths open to a Buddhist: the karma path, the Bodhisattva option, and enlightenment, and each representative of one of the three main cultures of Buddhism -- the Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana. Supported by extensive endnotes and bibliographic references, Dr. George's book also carries a range of case studies of the art of performance in Buddhism, with definitive examples, among others, of the Sri Lankan Kandy dance and Karma drama, Tibetan Chams and Chod, and Japanese Noh.</p>

Despite the call for multilevel observation of negative affect, including multiple physiological systems, too little empirical research has been conducted in infants and young children, and physiology-affect associations are not consistently reported. We examined changes in heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and preejection period in 24-month-olds across four increasingly challenging, emotion-eliciting tasks. We predicted that changes in cardiac reactivity would be systematically related to changes in negative affect. Results largely support the predictions with one important exception. With increasing distress across the tasks, HR increased and RSA decreased. However, no significant changes in PEP were observed. HR was associated with negative affect during all tasks, and changes in HR were related to changes in negative affect. PEP and negative affect were associated, but only marginally so. Within-subject analyses confirmed the predicted associations. Finally, the associations between physiology and negative affect were different for boys and girls. We discuss these results in the context of implications for future research on cardiac-affect associations in young children.
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The anterior medial prefrontal (AMPFC) and retrosplenial (RSC) cortices are active during self-referential decision-making tasks such as when participants appraise traits and abilities, or current affect. Other appraisal tasks requiring an evaluative decision or mental representation, such as theory of mind and perspective-taking tasks, also involve these regions. In many instances, these types of decisions involve a subjective opinion or preference, but also a degree of ambiguity in the decision, rather than a strictly veridical response. However, this ambiguity is generally not controlled for in studies that examine self-referential decision-making. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment with 17 healthy adults, we examined neural processes associated with subjective decision-making with and without an overt self-referential component. The task required subjective decisions about colors-regarding self-preference (internal subjective decision) or color similarity (external subjective decision) under conditions where there was no objectively correct response. Results indicated greater activation in the AMPFC, RSC, and caudate nucleus during internal subjective decision-making. The findings suggest that self-referential processing, rather than subjective judgments among ambiguous response alternatives, accounted for the AMPFC and RSC response.
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