Distinctive amygdala subregions involved in emotion-modulated Stroop interference.
ABSTRACT: Despite the well-known role of the amygdala in mediating emotional interference during tasks requiring cognitive resources, no definite conclusion has yet been reached regarding the differential roles of functionally and anatomically distinctive subcomponents of the amygdala in such processes. In this study, we examined female participants and attempted to separate the neural processes for the detection of emotional information from those for the regulation of cognitive interference from emotional distractors by adding a temporal gap between emotional stimuli and a subsequent cognitive Stroop task. Reaction time data showed a significantly increased Stroop interference effect following emotionally negative stimuli compared with neutral stimuli, and functional magnetic resonance imaging data revealed that the anterior ventral amygdala (avAMYG) showed greater responses to negative stimuli compared with neutral stimuli. In addition, individuals who scored high in neuroticism showed greater posterior dorsal amygdala (pdAMYG) responses to incongruent compared with congruent Stroop trials following negative stimuli, but not following neutral stimuli. Taken together, the findings of this study demonstrated functionally distinctive contributions of the avAMYG and pdAMYG to the emotion-modulated Stroop interference effect and suggested that the avAMYG encodes associative values of emotional stimuli whereas the pdAMYG resolves cognitive interference from emotional distractors.
Project description:Among nicotine-dependent smokers, smoking abstinence disrupts multiple cognitive and affective processes including conflict resolution and emotional information processing (EIP). However, the neurobiological basis of abstinence effects on resolving emotional interference on cognition remains largely uncharacterized. In this study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to investigate smoking abstinence effects on emotion-cognition interactions.Smokers (n?=?17) underwent fMRI while performing an affective Stroop task (aST) over two sessions: once following 24-h abstinence and once following smoking as usual. The aST includes trials that serially present incongruent or congruent numerical grids bracketed by neutral or negative emotional distractors and view-only emotional image trials. Statistical analyses were conducted using a statistical threshold of p?<?0.05 cluster corrected.Smoking abstinence increased Stroop blood-oxygenation-level-dependent response in the right middle frontal and rostral anterior cingulate gyri. Moreover, withdrawal-induced negative affect was associated with less activation in frontoparietal regions during negative emotional information processing; whereas, during Stroop trials, negative affect predicted greater activation in frontal regions during negative, but not neutral emotional distractor trials.Hyperactivation in the frontal executive control network during smoking abstinence may represent a need to recruit additional executive resources to meet task demands. Moreover, abstinence-induced negative affect may disrupt cognitive control neural circuitry during EIP and place additional demands on frontal executive neural resources during cognitive demands when presented with emotionally distracting stimuli.
Project description:Emotional stimuli automatically recruit attentional resources. Although this usually brings more adaptive responses, it may suppose a disadvantage when emotional information is task-irrelevant and should be ignored. Previous studies have shown how emotional stimuli with a negative content exert a greater interference than neutral stimuli during a concurrent working memory (WM) task. However, the impact of positively valenced stimuli as interference has not been addressed to date. In three experiments and one re-analysis we explore the impact of pleasant and unpleasant emotional distractors during WM maintenance. The results suggest that our cognitive control can cope with the interference posed by pleasant distractors as well as with the interference posed by neutral stimuli. However, unpleasant distractors are harder to control in the context of WM maintenance. As unpleasant stimuli usually convey relevant information that we should not to ignore, our executive control seems to be less able to reallocate cognitive resources after unpleasant distraction.
Project description:The human brain has the capacity to integrate various sources of information and continuously adapts our behavior according to situational needs in order to allow a healthy functioning. Emotion-cognition interactions are a key example for such integrative processing. However, the neuronal correlates investigating the effects of emotion on cognition remain to be explored and replication studies are needed. Previous neuroimaging studies have indicated an involvement of emotion and cognition related brain structures including parietal and prefrontal cortices and limbic brain regions. Here, we employed whole brain event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during an affective number Stroop task and aimed at replicating previous findings using an adaptation of an existing task design in 30 healthy young adults. The Stroop task is an indicator of cognitive control and enables the quantification of interference in relation to variations in cognitive load. By the use of emotional primes (negative/neutral) prior to Stroop task performance, an emotional variation is added as well. Behavioral in-scanner data showed that negative primes delayed and disrupted cognitive processing. Trials with high cognitive demand furthermore negatively influenced cognitive control mechanisms. Neuronally, the emotional primes consistently activated emotion-related brain regions (e.g., amygdala, insula, and prefrontal brain regions) while Stroop task performance lead to activations in cognition networks of the brain (prefrontal cortices, superior temporal lobe, and insula). When assessing the effect of emotion on cognition, increased cognitive demand led to decreases in neural activation in response to emotional stimuli (negative > neutral) within prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and insular cortex. Overall, these results suggest that emotional primes significantly impact cognitive performance and increasing cognitive demand leads to reduced neuronal activation in emotion related brain regions, and therefore support previous findings investigating emotion-cognition interaction in healthy adults. Moreover, emotion and cognition seem to be tightly related to each other, as indicated by shared neural networks involved in both of these processes. Emotion processing, cognitive control, and their interaction are crucial for healthy functioning and a lack thereof is related to psychiatric disorders such as, disruptive behavior disorders. Future studies may investigate the neural characteristics of children and adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders.
Project description:Persistent pondering over negative self-related thoughts is a central feature of depressive psychopathology. In this study, we sought to investigate the neural correlates of abnormal negative self-referential processing (SRP) in patients with Major Depressive Disorder and its impact on subsequent cognitive control-related neuronal activation. We hypothesized aberrant activation dynamics during the period of negative and neutral SRP in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) and in the amygdala in patients with major depressive disorder. Additionally, we assumed abnormal activation in the fronto-cingulate network during Stroop task execution. 19 depressed patients and 20 healthy controls participated in the study. Using an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) design, negative, positive and neutral self-referential statements were displayed for 6.5 s and followed by incongruent or congruent Stroop conditions. The data were analyzed with SPM8. In contrast to controls, patients exhibited no significant valence-dependent rACC activation differences during SRP. A novel finding was the significant activation of the amygdala and the reward-processing network during presentation of neutral self-referential stimuli relative to baseline and to affective stimuli in patients. The fMRI analysis of the Stroop task revealed a reduced BOLD activation in the right fronto-parietal network of patients in the incongruent condition after negative SRP only. Thus, the inflexible activation in the rACC may correspond to the inability of depressed patients to shift their attention away from negative self-related stimuli. The accompanying negative affect and task-irrelevant emotional processing may compete for neuronal resources with cognitive control processes and lead thereby to deficient cognitive performance associated with decreased fronto-parietal activation.
Project description:This study sought to examine age-related differences in the influences of social (neutral, emotional faces) and non-social/non-emotional (shapes) distractor stimuli in children, adolescents, and adults. To assess the degree to which distractor, or task-irrelevant, stimuli of varying social and emotional salience interfere with cognitive performance, children (N = 12; 8-12y), adolescents (N = 17; 13-17y), and adults (N = 17; 18-52y) completed the Emotional Identification and Dynamic Faces (EIDF) task. This task included three types of dynamically-changing distractors: (1) neutral-social (neutral face changing into another face); (2) emotional-social (face changing from 0% emotional to 100% emotional); and (3) non-social/non-emotional (shapes changing from small to large) to index the influence of task-irrelevant social and emotional information on cognition. Results yielded no age-related differences in accuracy but showed an age-related linear reduction in correct reaction times across distractor conditions. An age-related effect in interference was observed, such that children and adults showed slower response times on correct trials with socially-salient distractors; whereas adolescents exhibited faster responses on trials with distractors that included faces rather than shapes. A secondary study goal was to explore individual differences in cognitive interference. Results suggested that regardless of age, low trait anxiety and high effortful control were associated with interference to angry faces. Implications for developmental differences in affective processing, notably the importance of considering the contexts in which purportedly irrelevant social and emotional information might impair, vs. improve cognitive control, are discussed.
Project description:Previous research has indicated that the amygdala is a critical neural substrate of the emotional modulation of attention. However, a recent case study suggests that the amygdala may not be essential for all types of emotion-attention interactions. In order to test this hypothesis, we assessed the visual-search performance of patients with unilateral amygdala lesions, matched controls, and medication-matched epilepsy patients with intact amygdalae. All participants completed a visual-search task consisting of trials in which (1) an emotional target was embedded among neutral distractors, (2) a neutral target was embedded among emotional distractors, or (3) a neutral target was embedded among neutral distractors. All participant groups, including those with amygdala lesions, detected emotional targets more efficiently than neutral targets. These data indicate that the amygdala is not necessary for emotion-guided visual search and suggest that other mechanisms beyond the amygdala help guide attention toward threatening stimuli.
Project description:Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) clinically exhibit a deficit in positive emotional processing and are often distracted by especially negative emotional stimuli. Such emotional-cognitive interference in turn hampers the cognitive abilities of patients in their ongoing task. While the psychological correlates of such emotional conflict have been well identified in healthy subjects, possible alterations of emotional conflict in depressed patients remain to be investigated. We conducted an exploratory psychological study to investigate emotional conflict in MDD. We also distinguished depression-related stimuli from negative stimuli in order to check whether the depression-related distractors will induce enhanced conflict in MDD.A typical word-face Stroop paradigm was adopted. In order to account for valence-specificities in MDD, we included positive and general negative as well as depression-related words in the study.MDD patients demonstrated a specific pattern of emotional conflict clearly distinguishable from the healthy control group. In MDD, the positive distractor words did not significantly interrupt the processing of the negative target faces, while they did in healthy subjects. On the other hand, the depression-related distractor words induced significant emotional conflict to the positive target faces in MDD patients but not in the healthy control group.Our findings demonstrated for the first time an altered valence-specific pattern in emotional conflict in MDD patients. The study sheds a novel and specific light on the affective mechanisms underlying the abnormal emotional-cognitive interference in MDD. Such emotional conflict bears important clinical relevance since it may trigger the widespread cognitive dysfunctions frequently observed in MDD. The present findings may have important clinical implications in both prediction and psychotherapy of MDD.
Project description:Our senses are constantly monitoring the environment for emotionally salient stimuli that are potentially relevant for survival. Because of our limited cognitive resources, emotionally salient distractors prolong reaction times (RTs) as compared to neutral distractors. In addition, many studies have reported fMRI blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) activation of both the amygdala and the anterior insula for similar valence contrasts. However, a direct correlation of trail-by-trial BOLD activity with RTs has not been shown, yet, which would be a crucial piece of evidence to relate the two observations. To investigate the role of the above two regions in the context of emotional distractor effects, we study here the correlation between BOLD activity and RTs for a simple attentional capture by emotional stimuli (ACES) choice reaction time task using a general linear subject-level model with a parametric RT regressor. We found significant regression coefficients in the anterior insula, supplementary motor cortex, medial precentral regions, sensory-motor areas and others, but not in the amygdala, despite activation of both insula and amygdala in the traditional valence contrast across trials (i.e., negative vs. neutral pictures). In addition, we found that subjects that exhibit a stronger RT distractor effect across trials also show a stronger BOLD valence contrast in the right anterior insula but not in the amygdala. Our results indicate that the current neuroimaging-based evidence for the involvement of the amygdala in RT slowing is limited. We advocate that models of emotional capture should incorporate both the amygdala and the anterior insula as separate entities.
Project description:Previous literature demonstrated that the processing of emotional stimuli can interfere with goal-directed behavior. This has been shown primarily in the context of working memory tasks, but "emotional distraction" may affect also other processes, such as the orienting of visuo-spatial attention. During fMRI, we presented human subjects with emotional stimuli embedded within complex everyday life visual scenes. Emotional stimuli could be either the current target to be searched for or task-irrelevant distractors. Behavioral and eye-movement data revealed faster detection of emotional than neutral targets. Emotional distractors were found to be fixated later and for a shorter duration than emotional targets, suggesting efficient top-down control in avoiding emotional distraction. The fMRI data demonstrated that negative (but not positive) stimuli were mandatorily processed by limbic/para-limbic regions (namely, the right amygdala and the left insula), irrespective of current task relevance: that is, these regions activated for both emotional targets and distractors. However, analyses of inter-regional connectivity revealed a functional coupling between the left insula and the right prefrontal cortex that increased specifically during search in the presence of emotional distractors. This indicates that increased functional coupling between affective limbic/para-limbic regions and control regions in the frontal cortex can attenuate emotional distraction, permitting the allocation of spatial attentional resources toward task-relevant neutral targets in the presence of distracting emotional signals.
Project description:Cognitive aging may be accompanied by increased prioritization of social and emotional goals that enhance positive experiences and emotional states. The socioemotional selectivity theory suggests this may be achieved by giving preference to positive information and avoiding or suppressing negative information. Although there is some evidence of a positivity bias in controlled attention tasks, it remains unclear whether a positivity bias extends to the processing of affective stimuli presented outside focused attention. In two experiments, we investigated age-related differences in the effects of to-be-ignored non-face affective images on target processing. In Experiment 1, 27 older (64-90 years) and 25 young adults (19-29 years) made speeded valence judgments about centrally presented positive or negative target images taken from the International Affective Picture System. To-be-ignored distractor images were presented above and below the target image and were either positive, negative, or neutral in valence. The distractors were considered task relevant because they shared emotional characteristics with the target stimuli. Both older and young adults responded slower to targets when distractor valence was incongruent with target valence relative to when distractors were neutral. Older adults responded faster to positive than to negative targets but did not show increased interference effects from positive distractors. In Experiment 2, affective distractors were task irrelevant as the target was a three-digit array and did not share emotional characteristics with the distractors. Twenty-six older (63-84 years) and 30 young adults (18-30 years) gave speeded responses on a digit disparity task while ignoring the affective distractors positioned in the periphery. Task performance in either age group was not influenced by the task-irrelevant affective images. In keeping with the socioemotional selectivity theory, these findings suggest that older adults preferentially process task-relevant positive non-face images but only when presented within the main focus of attention.