Blog Archives

Emotional self reference: Brain structures involved in the processing of words describing one’s own emotions

The present functional magnetic resonance imaging study investigated the role of emotion-related (e.g., amygdala) and self-related brain structures (MPFC in particular) in the processing of emotional words varying in stimulus reference. Healthy subjects (N = 22) were presented with emotional (pleasant or unpleasant) or neutral words in three different conditions: 1) self (e.g., my fear), 2) other (e.g., his fear) and 3) no reference (e.g., the fear). Processing of unpleasant words was associated with increased amygdala and also insula activation across all conditions. Pleasant stimuli were specifically associated with increased activation of amygdala and insula when related to the self (vs. other and no reference). Activity in the MPFC (vMPFC in particular) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) was preferentially increased during processing of self-related emotional words (vs. other and no reference). These results demonstrate that amygdala activation in response to emotional stimuli is modulated by stimulus reference and that brain structures implicated in emotional and self-related processing might be important for the subjective experience of one’s own emotions.

from Neuropsychología


The Specificity of Age-Related Decline in Interpretation of Emotion Cues From Prosody

Older adults are not as good as younger adults at decoding prosodic emotions. We sought to determine the specificity of this finding. Performance of older and younger adults was compared on a prosodic emotion task, a “pure” prosodic emotion task, a linguistic prosody task, and a “pure” linguistic prosody task. Older adults were less accurate at interpreting prosodic emotion cues and nonemotional contours, concurrent semantic processing worsened interpretation, and performance was further degraded when identifying negative emotions and questions. Older adults display a pervasive problem interpreting prosodic cues, but further study is required to clarify the stage at which performance declines.

from Psychology and Aging

The effects of subjectively significant stimuli on subsequent cognitive brain activity

The results indicate an effect of subjectively significant distracters on subsequent brain activity with an interaction between cognitive and emotional processes.

from Physiology and Behavior

Are Effects of Emotion in Single Words Non-Lexical? Evidence from Event-Related Brain Potentials.

Emotional meaning impacts word processing. However, it is unclear, at which functional locus this influence occurs and whether and how it depends on word class. These questions were addressed by recording event-related potentials (ERPs) in a lexical decision task with written adjectives, verbs, and nouns of positive, negative, and neutral emotional valence. In addition, word frequency (high vs. low) was manipulated. The early posterior negativity (EPN) in ERPs started earlier for emotional nouns and adjectives than for verbs. Depending on word class, EPN onsets coincided with or followed the lexicality effects. Main ERP effects of emotion overlapped with effects of word frequency between 300 and 550 ms but interacted with them only after 500 ms. These results indicate that in all three word class examined, emotional evaluation as represented by the EPN has a post-lexical locus, starting already after a minimum of lexical access.

from Neuropsychologia

Sex-dependent modulation of activity in the neural networks engaged during emotional speech comprehension

Studies using event related potentials have shown that men are more likely than women to rely on semantic cues when understanding emotional speech. In a previous functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) study, using an affective sentence classification task, we were able to separate areas involved in semantic processing and areas involved in the processing of affective prosody (Beaucousin et al., 2007). Here we searched for sex-related differences in the neural networks active during emotional speech processing in groups of men and women. The ortholinguistic abilities of the participants did not differ when evaluated with a large battery of tests. Although the neural networks engaged by men and women during emotional sentence classification were largely overlapping, sex-dependent modulations were detected during emotional sentence classification, but not during grammatical sentence classification. Greater activity was observed in men, compared with women, in inferior frontal cortical areas involved in emotional labeling and in attentional areas. In conclusion, at equivalent linguistic abilities and performances, men activate semantic and attentional cortical areas to a larger extent than women during emotional speech processing.

from Brain Research

Emotion Perception in Music in High-Functioning Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) succeed at a range of musical tasks. The ability to recognize musical emotion as belonging to one of four categories (happy, sad, scared or peaceful) was assessed in high-functioning adolescents with ASD (N = 26) and adolescents with typical development (TD, N = 26) with comparable performance IQ, auditory working memory, and musical training and experience. When verbal IQ was controlled for, there was no significant effect of diagnostic group. Adolescents with ASD rated the intensity of the emotions similarly to adolescents with TD and reported greater confidence in their responses when they had correctly (vs. incorrectly) recognized the emotions. These findings are reviewed within the context of the amygdala theory of autism.

from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Verbal short-term memory reflects the organization of long-term memory: Further evidence from short-term memory for emotional words

Many studies suggest that long-term lexical–semantic knowledge is an important determinant of verbal short-term memory (STM) performance. This study explored the impact of emotional valence on word immediate serial recall as a further lexico-semantic long-term memory (LTM) effect on STM. This effect is particularly interesting for the study of STM–LTM interactions since emotional words not only activate specific lexico-semantic LTM features but also capture attentional resources, and hence allow for the study of both LTM and attentional factors on STM tasks. In Experiments 1 and 2, we observed a robust effect of emotional valence on pure list recall in both young and elderly adults, with higher recall performance for emotional lists as opposed to neutral lists, as predicted by increased LTM support for emotional words. In Experiments 3 and 4 however, using mixed lists, it was the lists containing a minority of emotional words which led to higher recall performance over lists containing a majority of emotional words. This was predicted by a weak version of the attentional capture account. These data add new evidence to the theoretical position that LTM knowledge is a critical determinant of STM performance, with further, list type dependent intervention of attentional factors.

from the Journal of Memory and Language

Type-D personality, psychosomatic symptoms and voice handicap in female voice patients: A perspective on vocal communication

Conclusions: Apparently, the well-being of females with a voice problem is more at risk in type-D than in non-type-D personalities. These results lead to the suspicion that voice patients with a type-D personality are especially at risk because they are prone to be involved in a circular negatively reinforcing process. This process influences the vocal problem in such a way that a detrimental course of vocal communication possibly occurs.

from Audiological Medicine

Reading emotional words within sentences: The impact of arousal and valence on event-related potentials

Effects of emotional word meaning have been studied exclusively for words in isolation but not in the context of sentences. We addressed this question within the framework of two-dimensional models of affect, conceiving emotion as a function of valence and arousal. Negative and neutral target verbs, embedded within sentences, were presented while event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and the activity of the Corrugator muscle were recorded. Twenty-one participants performed a semantic decision task on the target verbs. In contrast to single word studies no early posterior negativity was present. However, emotion effects in ERPs were evident in a late positive complex (LPC) for negative, high-arousal words in comparison to neutral words. Interestingly, the LPC was unaffected by pure arousal variation when valence was controlled for, indicating the importance of valence for this emotion-related ERP effect.<p><p>from the <a href=””><em>International Journal of Psychophysiolo

Auditory adaptation in vocal affect perception

Previous research has demonstrated perceptual aftereffects for emotionally expressive faces, but the extent to which they can also be obtained in a different modality is unknown. In two experiments we show for the first time that adaptation to affective, non-linguistic vocalisations elicits significant auditory aftereffects. Adaptation to angry vocalisations caused voices drawn from an anger–fear morphed continuum to be perceived as less angry and more fearful, while adaptation to fearful vocalisations elicited opposite aftereffects (Experiment 1). We then tested the link between these aftereffects and the underlying acoustics by using caricatured adaptors. Although caricatures exaggerated the acoustical and affective properties of the vocalisations, the caricatured adaptors resulted in aftereffects which were comparable to those obtained with natural vocalisations (Experiment 2). Our findings suggest that these aftereffects cannot be solely explained by low-level adaptation to acoustical characteristics of the adaptors but are likely to depend on higher-level adaptation of neural representations of vocal affect.

from Cognition

False Recollection of Emotional Pictures in Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) can reduce the effects of emotional content on memory for studied pictures, but less is known about false memory. In healthy adults, emotionally arousing pictures can be more susceptible to false memory effects than neutral pictures, potentially because emotional pictures share conceptual similarities that cause memory confusions. We investigatedthese effects in AD patients and healthy controls. Participants studied pictures and their verbal labels, and then picture recollection was tested using verbal labels as retrieval cues. Some of the test labels had been associated with a picture at study, whereas other had not. On this picture recollection test, we found that both AD patients and controlsincorrectly endorsed some of the test labels that had not been studiedwith pictures. These errors were associated with medium to high levels of confidence, indicating some degree of false recollection. Critically, these false recollection judgments were greater for emotionalcompared to neutral items, especially for positively valenced items, in both AD patients and controls. Dysfunction of the amygdala and hippocampusin early AD may impairrecollection, but ADdid not disrupt the effect of emotion on false recollection judgments.

from Neuropsychology

Clinical effects of insular damage in humans

Multiple disturbances following lesions of the insula are reviewed in the present article, including those related to autonomic function; gustatory, olfactory, auditory, somatosensory, and multimodal perception, as well as body awareness; the emotion of disgust; mood and willed action, addiction behavior, and language. Given the multiple and varied nature of the impairments revealed by lesion studies, we suggest that the insula, as a multimodal area, has a major role as a convergence zone implicated in the coordination between internal and external information through emotional subjective awareness. Methodological issues are discussed with attention paid to lesion etiology, and lesions involving adjacent areas to the insular cortex.

from Brain Structure and Function

Intonation and Emotion: Influence of Pitch Levels and Contour Type on Creating Emotions

Intonation is a vehicle for communication, which sometimes contributes greater meaning than the semantic content of speech itself. This prosodic element lends the message linguistic and paralinguistic meaning, which carries a highly significant communicative value when conveying emotional states. For this reason, this article analyses the use of intonation as an instrument for arousing various sensations in the listener. The aim was to verify which elements of intonation are more decisive to generate a specific sensation. Experimental research is conducted, in which certain pitch patterns (pitch levels and contour type) are assigned different emotions (joy, anxiety, sadness, and calmness) and are then listened to and assessed using a questionnaire with a bipolar scale of opposed pairs, by a sample audience comprising 100 individuals. The main conclusion drawn is that, although both the variables analyzed—pitch level and contour type—are representative of expressing emotions, contour type is more decisive. In all the models analyzed, contour type has been highly significant and constitutes the variable that has been determined as the final component for recognizing various emotions.

from the Journal of Voice

Evidence for a link among cognition, language and emotion in cerebellar malformations

We compared the neurobehavioral profiles of children with Joubert syndrome (JS participants), a rare autosomal recessive condition characterized on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) by hypoplasia of the cerebellar vermis and midbrain–hindbrain malformations, and children with malformations confined to the cerebellar vermis and one or both hemispheres (Cerebellar malformations – CM participants). We aimed at investigating the influence of anatomo-clinical similarities (vermian malformation) and differences (intact cerebellar hemispheres vs sparing of the pons, respectively) with respect to cognitive, linguistic and emotional development, assuming as a reference framework the Cerebellar Cognitive Affective Syndrome (CCAS). Results show that severe to moderate mental retardation is infrequent in JS children, while it is present in more than half the sample of CM children. Affect development was generally preserved in JS, in high-functioning CM individuals and also in some of the CM children with moderate mental retardation, which raised questions as to the role of a cerebellar vermis lesion in determining affect disorders. Further, cognitive and linguistic profiles on both intellectual and neuropsychological evaluations provided evidence for distinct patterns of peaks and valleys in the two groups, with JS children being significantly more impaired in language and verbal working memory and CM individuals showing a significant impairment of executive functions and emotional development. The overall evidence provides support for an important role of cerebellar structures per se in shaping emotional, cognitive and linguistic development, when vermian lesions are associated to cerebellar hemispheric lesions. Cerebellar vermis and brainstem lesions instead appear to have a major impact on motor-related skills, including oro-motor abilities and verbal working memory.

from Cortex

Biased Recognition of Positive Faces in Aging and Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment

We investigated age differences in biased recognition of happy, neutral, or angry faces in 4 experiments. Experiment 1 revealed increased true and false recognition for happy faces in older adults, which persisted even when changing each face’s emotional expression from study to test in Experiment 2. In Experiment 3, we examined the influence of reduced memory capacity on the positivity-induced recognition bias, which showed the absence of emotion-induced memory enhancement but a preserved recognition bias for positive faces in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment compared with older adults with normal memory performance. In Experiment 4, we used semantic differentials to measure the connotations of happy and angry faces. Younger and older participants regarded happy faces as more familiar than angry faces, but the older group showed a larger recognition bias for happy faces. This finding indicates that older adults use a gist-based memory strategy based on a semantic association between positive emotion and familiarity. Moreover, older adults’ judgments of valence were more positive for both angry and happy faces, supporting the hypothesis of socioemotional selectivity. We propose that the positivity-induced recognition bias might be based on fluency, which in turn is based on both positivity-oriented emotional goals and on preexisting semantic associations.

from Psychology and Aging