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Considerable evidence exists to support an association between psychological states and immune function. However, the mechanisms by which such states are instantiated in the brain and influence the immune system are poorly understood. The present study investigated relations among physiological measures of affective style, psychological well being, and immune function. Negative and positive affect were elicited by using an autobiographical writing task. Electroencephalography and affect-modulated eye-blink startle were used to measure trait and state negative affect. Participants were vaccinated for influenza, and antibody titers after the vaccine were assayed to provide an in vivo measure of immune function. Higher levels of right-prefrontal electroencephalographic activation and greater magnitude of the startle reflex reliably predicted poorer immune response. These data support the hypothesis that individuals characterized by a more negative affective style mount a weaker immune response and therefore may be at greater risk for illness than those with a more positive affective style.
OBJECTIVE: High-density EEG recording offers increased spatial resolution but requires careful consideration of how the density of electrodes affects the potentials being measured. Power differences as a function of electrode density and electrolyte spreading were examined and a method for correcting these differences was tested. METHODS: Separate EEG recordings from 8 participants were made using a high-density electrode net, first with 6 of 128 electrodes active followed by recordings with all electrodes active. For a subset of 4 participants measurements were counterbalanced with recordings made in the reversed order by drying the hair after the high-density recordings and using a fresh dry electrode net of the same size for the low-density recordings. Mean power values over 6 resting eyes open/closed EEG recordings at the 6 active electrodes common to both recording conditions were compared. Evidence for possible electrolyte spreading or bridging between electrodes was acquired by computing Hjorth electrical distances. Spherical spline interpolation was tested for correcting power values at electrodes affected by electrolyte spreading for these participants and for a subset of participants from a larger previous study. RESULTS: For both the complete set and the counterbalanced subset, significant decreases in power at the 6 common electrodes for the high-density recordings were observed across the range of the standard EEG bands (1-44 Hz). The number of bridges or amount of electrolyte spreading towards the reference electrode as evidenced by small Hjorth electrical distances served as a predictor of this power decrease. Spherical spline interpolation increased the power values at electrodes affected by electrolyte spreading and by a significant amount for the larger number of participants in the second group. CONCLUSIONS: Understanding signal effects caused by closely spaced electrodes, detecting electrolyte spreading and correcting its effects are important considerations for high-density EEG recordings. A combination of scalp maps of power density and plots of small Hjorth electrical distances can be used to identify electrodes affected by electrolyte spreading. Interpolation using spherical splines offers a method for correcting the potentials measured at these electrodes.
It is well known that the eating patterns that restrain chronic dieters (restrained eaters) can be disinhibited by anxiety, which in turn has been associated with relative right frontal brain activity in independent electroencephalographic (EEG) studies. Combining these two lines of evidence, the authors tested the hypothesis that chronic restrained eating is associated with relative right frontal asymmetry. Resting anterior brain asymmetry and self-reported measures of anxiety and depression were collected in 23 restrained and 32 unrestrained eaters. As hypothesized, groups differed in tonic frontal activity, with restrained eaters showing more relative right frontal activity. Furthermore, relative right frontal activity was associated with greater self-reported restraint. Right-sided prefrontal asymmetry may thus represent a diathesis associated with increased vulnerability toward restrained eating.
Despite the vast literature that has implicated asymmetric activation of the prefrontal cortex in approach-withdrawal motivation and emotion, no published reports have directly explored the neural correlates of well-being. Eighty-four right-handed adults (ages 57-60) completed self-report measures of eudaimonic well-being, hedonic well-being, and positive affect prior to resting electroencephalography. As hypothesized, greater left than right superior frontal activation was associated with higher levels of both forms of well-being. Hemisphere-specific analyses documented the importance of goal-directed approach tendencies beyond those captured by approach-related positive affect for eudaimonic but not for hedonic well-being. Appropriately engaging sources of appetitive motivation, characteristic of higher left than right baseline levels of prefrontal activation, may encourage the experience of well-being.
Lesion and neuroimaging studies suggest the amygdala is important in the perception and production of negative emotion; however, the effects of emotion regulation on the amygdalar response to negative stimuli remain unknown. Using event-related fMRI, we tested the hypothesis that voluntary modulation of negative emotion is associated with changes in neural activity within the amygdala. Negative and neutral pictures were presented with instructions to either "maintain" the emotional response or "passively view" the picture without regulating the emotion. Each picture presentation was followed by a delay, after which subjects indicated how they currently felt via a response keypad. Consistent with previous reports, greater signal change was observed in the amygdala during the presentation of negative compared to neutral pictures. No significant effect of instruction was found during the picture presentation component of the trial. However, a prolonged increase in signal change was observed in the amygdala when subjects maintained the negative emotional response during the delay following negative picture offset. This increase in amygdalar signal due to the active maintenance of negative emotion was significantly correlated with subjects' self-reported dispositional levels of negative affect. These results suggest that consciously evoked cognitive mechanisms that alter the emotional response of the subject operate, at least in part, by altering the degree of neural activity within the amygdala.
Despite growing interest in emotion regulation, the degree to which psychophysiological measures of emotion regulation are stable over time remains unknown. We examined four-week test-retest reliability of corrugator electromyographic and eyeblink startle measures of negative emotion and its regulation. Both measures demonstrated similar sensitivity to the emotion manipulation, but only individual differences in corrugator modulation and regulation showed adequate reliability. Startle demonstrated diminished sensitivity to the regulation instructions across assessments and poor reliability. This suggests that corrugator represents a trait-like measure of voluntary emotion regulation, whereas startle should be used with caution for assessing individual differences. The data also suggest that corrugator and startle might index partially dissociable constructs and underscore the need to collect multiple measures of emotion.