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The cholinergic system has consistently been implicated in Pavlovian fear conditioning. Considerable work has been done to localize specific nicotinic receptor subtypes in the hippocampus and determine their functional importance; however, the specific function of many of these subtypes has yet to be determined. An alpha7 nicotinic antagonist methyllycaconitine (MLA) (35 microg), and a broad spectrum non-alpha7 nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine (35 microg) was injected directly into the dorsal hippocampus or overlying cortex either 15 min pre-, 1 min post-, or 6h post-fear conditioning. One week after conditioning, retention of contextual and cue (tone) conditioning were assessed. A significant impairment in retention of contextual fear was observed when mecamylamine was injected 15 min pre- and 1 min post-conditioning. No significant impairment was observed when mecamylamine was injected 6h post-conditioning. Likewise, a significant impairment in retention of contextual fear was observed when MLA was injected 1 min post-conditioning; however, in contrast, MLA did not show any significant impairments when injected 15 min pre-conditioning, but did show a significant impairment when injected 6h post-conditioning. There were no significant impairments observed when either drug was injected into overlying cortex. No significant impairments were observed in cue conditioning for either drug. In general, specific temporal dynamics involved in nicotinic receptor function were found relative to time of receptor dysfunction. The results indicate that the greatest deficits in long-term retention (1 week) of contextual fear are produced by central infusion of MLA minutes to hours post-conditioning or mecamylamine within minutes of conditioning.
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First described for use in mapping the human visual cortex in 1991, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is based on blood-oxygen level dependent (BOLD) changes in cortical regions that occur during specific tasks. Typically, an overabundance of oxygenated (arterial) blood is supplied during activation of brain areas. Consequently, the venous outflow from the activated areas contains a higher concentration of oxyhemoglobin, which changes the paramagnetic properties of the tissue that can be detected during a T2-star acquisition. fMRI data can be acquired in response to specific tasks or in the resting state. fMRI has been widely applied to studying physiologic and pathophysiologic diseases of the brain. This review will discuss the most common current clinical applications of fMRI as well as emerging directions.
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Subregional analyses of the hippocampus suggest CA1-dependent memory processes rely heavily upon interactions between the CA1 subregion and entorhinal cortex. There is evidence that the direct perforant path (pp) projection to CA1 is selectively modulated by dopamine while having little to no effect on the Schaffer collateral (SC) projection to CA1. The current study takes advantage of this pharmacological dissociation to demonstrate that local infusion of the non-selective dopamine agonist, apomorphine (10, 15 µg), into the CA1 subregion of awake animals produces impairments in working memory at intermediate (5 min), but not short-term (10 sec) delays within a delayed nonmatch-to-place task on a radial arm maze. Sustained impairments were also found in a novel context with similar object-space relationships. Infusion of apomorphine into CA1 is also shown here to produce deficits in spatial, but not non-spatial novelty detection within an object exploration paradigm. In contrast, apomorphine produces no behavioral deficits when infused into the CA3 subregion or overlying cortex. These behavioral studies are supported by previous electrophysiological data that demonstrate local infusion of the same doses of apomorphine significantly modifies evoked responses in the distal dendrites of CA1 following angular bundle stimulation, but produces no significant effects in the proximal dendritic layer following stimulation of the SC. These results support a modulatory role for dopamine in EC-CA1, but not CA3-CA1 circuitry, and suggest the possibility of a fundamental role for EC-CA1 synaptic transmission in terms of detection of spatial novelty, and intermediate-term, but not short-term spatial working memory or object-novelty detection.
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Cultivation of mindfulness, the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment, produces beneficial effects on well-being and ameliorates psychiatric and stress-related symptoms. Mindfulness meditation has therefore increasingly been incorporated into psychotherapeutic interventions. Although the number of publications in the field has sharply increased over the last two decades, there is a paucity of theoretical reviews that integrate the existing literature into a comprehensive theoretical framework. In this article, we explore several components through which mindfulness meditation exerts its effects: (a) attention regulation, (b) body awareness, (c) emotion regulation (including reappraisal and exposure, extinction, and reconsolidation), and (d) change in perspective on the self. Recent empirical research, including practitioners’ self-reports and experimental data, provides evidence supporting these mechanisms. Functional and structural neuroimaging studies have begun to explore the neuroscientific processes underlying these components. Evidence suggests that mindfulness practice is associated with neuroplastic changes in the anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, fronto-limbic network, and default mode network structures. The authors suggest that the mechanisms described here work synergistically, establishing a process of enhanced self-regulation. Differentiating between these components seems useful to guide future basic research and to specifically target areas of development in the treatment of psychological disorders.
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Neurosurgical treatment of psychiatric disorders has been influenced by evolving neurobiological models of symptom generation. The advent of functional neuroimaging and advances in the neurosciences have revolutionized understanding of the functional neuroanatomy of psychiatric disorders. This article reviews neuroimaging studies of depression from the last 3 decades and describes an emerging neurocircuitry model of mood disorders, focusing on critical circuits of cognition and emotion, particularly those networks involved in the regulation of evaluative, expressive and experiential aspects of emotion. The relevance of this model for neurotherapeutics is discussed, as well as the role of functional neuroimaging of psychiatric disorders.
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To better understand the neurobiological mechanisms by which mindfulness-based practices function in a psychotherapeutic context, this article details the definition, techniques, and purposes ascribed to mindfulness training as described by its Buddhist tradition of origin and by contemporary neurocognitive models. Included is theory of how maladaptive mental processes become habitual and automatic, both from the Buddhist and Western psychological perspective. Specific noting and labeling techniques in open monitoring meditation, described in the Theravada and Western contemporary traditions, are highlighted as providing unique access to multiple modalities of awareness. Potential explicit and implicit mechanisms are discussed by which such techniques can contribute to transforming maladaptive habits of mind and perceptual and cognitive biases, improving efficiency, facilitating integration, and providing the flexibility to switch between systems of self-processing. Finally, a model is provided to describe the timing by which noting and labeling practices have the potential to influence different stages of low- and high-level neural processing. Hypotheses are proposed concerning both levels of processing in relation to the extent of practice. Implications for the nature of subjective experience and self-processing as it relates to one's habits of mind, behavior, and relation to the external world, are also described.
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In light of a growing interest in contemplative practices such as meditation, the emerging field of contemplative science has been challenged to describe and objectively measure how these practices affect health and well-being. While “mindfulness” itself has been proposed as a measurable outcome of contemplative practices, this concept encompasses multiple components, some of which, as we review here, may be better characterized as equanimity. Equanimity can be defined as an even-minded mental state or dispositional tendency toward all experiences or objects, regardless of their origin or their affective valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral). In this article, we propose that equanimity be used as an outcome measure in contemplative research. We first define and discuss the inter-relationship between mindfulness and equanimity from the perspectives of both classical Buddhism and modern psychology and present existing meditation techniques for cultivating equanimity. We then review psychological, physiological, and neuroimaging methods that have been used to assess equanimity either directly or indirectly. In conclusion, we propose that equanimity captures potentially the most important psychological element in the improvement of well-being, and therefore should be a focus in future research studies.
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Subregional analyses of the hippocampus have suggested a selective role for the CA1 subregion in intermediate/long-term spatial memory and consolidation, but not short-term acquisition or encoding processes. It remains unclear how the direct cortical projection to CA1 via the perforant path (pp) contributes to these CA1-dependent processes. It has been suggested that dopamine selectively modulates the pp projection to CA1 while having little to no effect on the Schaffer collateral (SC) projection to CA1. This series of behavioral and electrophysiological experiments takes advantage of this pharmacological dissociation to demonstrate that the direct pp inputs to CA1 are critical in CA1-dependent intermediate-term retention and retrieval function. Here we demonstrate that local infusion of the nonselective dopamine agonist, apomorphine (10, 15 microg), into the CA1 subregion of awake animals produces impairments in between-day retention and retrieval, sparing within-day encoding of a modified Hebb-Williams maze and contextual conditioning of fear. In contrast, apomorphine produces no deficits when infused into the CA3 subregion. To complement the behavioral analyses, electrophysiological data was collected. In anesthetized animals, local infusion of the same doses of apomorphine significantly modifies evoked responses in the distal dendrites of CA1 following angular bundle stimulation, but produces no significant effects in the more proximal dendritic layer following stimulation of the SC. These results support a modulatory role for dopamine in the EC-CA1, but not CA3-CA1 circuitry, and suggest the possibility of a more fundamental role for EC-CA1 synaptic transmission in terms of intermediate-term, but not short-term spatial memory.
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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.

Mindfulness-as a state, trait, process, type of meditation, and intervention has proven to be beneficial across a diverse group of psychological disorders as well as for general stress reduction. Yet, there remains a lack of clarity in the operationalization of this construct, and underlying mechanisms. Here, we provide an integrative theoretical framework and systems-based neurobiological model that explains the mechanisms by which mindfulness reduces biases related to self-processing and creates a sustainable healthy mind. Mindfulness is described through systematic mental training that develops meta-awareness (self-awareness), an ability to effectively modulate one's behavior (self-regulation), and a positive relationship between self and other that transcends self-focused needs and increases prosocial characteristics (self-transcendence). This framework of self-awareness, -regulation, and -transcendence (S-ART) illustrates a method for becoming aware of the conditions that cause (and remove) distortions or biases. The development of S-ART through meditation is proposed to modulate self-specifying and narrative self-networks through an integrative fronto-parietal control network. Relevant perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral neuropsychological processes are highlighted as supporting mechanisms for S-ART, including intention and motivation, attention regulation, emotion regulation, extinction and reconsolidation, prosociality, non-attachment, and decentering. The S-ART framework and neurobiological model is based on our growing understanding of the mechanisms for neurocognition, empirical literature, and through dismantling the specific meditation practices thought to cultivate mindfulness. The proposed framework will inform future research in the contemplative sciences and target specific areas for development in the treatment of psychological disorders.
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Rats were implanted bilaterally with cannulae into the dorsal hippocampus and trained in a Pavlovian fear-conditioning paradigm. Four groups of rats were infused intra-cranially with 1-(5'-isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-methylpiperazine (H7-dihydrochloride), a potent inhibitor of both protein kinase C (PKC) and cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), at different time intervals in order to examine their involvement in the acquisition and consolidation of contextual fear memory. We demonstrate a significant consolidation deficit of long-term contextual fear-conditioning memory that is maximal when PKA and PKC are inhibited at 90 min post-training. These results suggest the existence of a critical time window, during which these enzymes must be activated for the consolidation of long-term memories.
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