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Concept: Anterior cingulate cortex


Liberals and conservatives exhibit different cognitive styles and converging lines of evidence suggest that biology influences differences in their political attitudes and beliefs. In particular, a recent study of young adults suggests that liberals and conservatives have significantly different brain structure, with liberals showing increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, and conservatives showing increased gray matter volume in the in the amygdala. Here, we explore differences in brain function in liberals and conservatives by matching publicly-available voter records to 82 subjects who performed a risk-taking task during functional imaging. Although the risk-taking behavior of Democrats (liberals) and Republicans (conservatives) did not differ, their brain activity did. Democrats showed significantly greater activity in the left insula, while Republicans showed significantly greater activity in the right amygdala. In fact, a two parameter model of partisanship based on amygdala and insula activations yields a better fitting model of partisanship than a well-established model based on parental socialization of party identification long thought to be one of the core findings of political science. These results suggest that liberals and conservatives engage different cognitive processes when they think about risk, and they support recent evidence that conservatives show greater sensitivity to threatening stimuli.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognition, Cerebrum, Mind, Centre-right, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex


How does witnessing a hateful person in pain compare to witnessing a likable person in pain? The current study compared the brain bases for how we perceive likable people in pain with those of viewing hateful people in pain. While social bonds are built through sharing the plight and pain of others in the name of empathy, viewing a hateful person in pain also has many potential ramifications. In this functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) study, Caucasian Jewish male participants viewed videos of (1) disliked, hateful, anti-Semitic individuals, and (2) liked, non-hateful, tolerant individuals in pain. The results showed that, compared with viewing liked people, viewing hateful people in pain elicited increased responses in regions associated with observation of physical pain (the insular cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and the somatosensory cortex), reward processing (the striatum), and frontal regions associated with emotion regulation. Functional connectivity analyses revealed connections between seed regions in the left ACC and right insular cortex with reward regions, the amygdala, and frontal regions associated with emotion regulation. These data indicate that regions of the brain active while viewing someone in pain may be more active in response to the danger or threat posed by witnessing the pain of a hateful individual more so than the desire to empathize with a likable person’s pain.

Concepts: Brain, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cerebrum, Pain, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Cingulate cortex, Insular cortex


It has been proposed that self-awareness (SA), a multifaceted phenomenon central to human consciousness, depends critically on specific brain regions, namely the insular cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Such a proposal predicts that damage to these regions should disrupt or even abolish SA. We tested this prediction in a rare neurological patient with extensive bilateral brain damage encompassing the insula, ACC, mPFC, and the medial temporal lobes. In spite of severe amnesia, which partially affected his “autobiographical self”, the patient’s SA remained fundamentally intact. His Core SA, including basic self-recognition and sense of self-agency, was preserved. His Extended SA and Introspective SA were also largely intact, as he has a stable self-concept and intact higher-order metacognitive abilities. The results suggest that the insular cortex, ACC and mPFC are not required for most aspects of SA. Our findings are compatible with the hypothesis that SA is likely to emerge from more distributed interactions among brain networks including those in the brainstem, thalamus, and posteromedial cortices.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Limbic system, Frontal lobe, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Insular cortex


The capacity to deceive others is a complex mental skill that requires the ability to suppress truthful information. The polygraph is widely used in countries such as the USA to detect deception. However, little is known about the effects of emotional processes (such as the fear of being found guilty despite being innocent) on the physiological responses that are used to detect lies. The aim of this study was to investigate the time course and neural correlates of untruthful behavior by analyzing electrocortical indexes in response to visually presented neutral and affective questions. Affective questions included sexual, shameful or disgusting topics. A total of 296 questions that were inherently true or false were presented to 25 subjects while ERPs were recorded from 128 scalp sites. Subjects were asked to lie on half of the questions and to answer truthfully on the remaining half. Behavioral and ERP responses indicated an increased need for executive control functions, namely working memory, inhibition and task switching processes, during deceptive responses. Deceptive responses also elicited a more negative N400 over the prefrontal areas and a smaller late positivity (LP 550-750 ms) over the prefrontal and frontal areas. However, a reduction in LP amplitude was also elicited by truthful affective responses. The failure to observe a difference in LP responses across conditions likely results from emotional interference. A swLORETA inverse solution was computed on the N400 amplitude (300-400 ms) for the dishonest - honest contrast. These results showed the activation of the superior, medial, middle and inferior frontal gyri (BA9, 11, 47) and the anterior cingulate cortex during deceptive responses. Our results conclude that the N400 amplitude is a reliable neural marker of deception.

Concepts: Psychology, Cerebrum, Emotion, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Cingulate cortex, Lie, Deception


Attentional control ensures that neuronal processes prioritize the most relevant stimulus in a given environment. Controlling which stimulus is attended thus originates from neurons encoding the relevance of stimuli, i.e. their expected value, in hand with neurons encoding contextual information about stimulus locations, features, and rules that guide the conditional allocation of attention. Here, we examined how these distinct processes are encoded and integrated in macaque prefrontal cortex (PFC) by mapping their functional topographies at the time of attentional stimulus selection. We find confined clusters of neurons in ventromedial PFC (vmPFC) that predominantly convey stimulus valuation information during attention shifts. These valuation signals were topographically largely separated from neurons predicting the stimulus location to which attention covertly shifted, and which were evident across the complete medial-to-lateral extent of the PFC, encompassing anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and lateral PFC (LPFC). LPFC responses showed particularly early-onset selectivity and primarily facilitated attention shifts to contralateral targets. Spatial selectivity within ACC was delayed and heterogeneous, with similar proportions of facilitated and suppressed responses during contralateral attention shifts. The integration of spatial and valuation signals about attentional target stimuli was observed in a confined cluster of neurons at the intersection of vmPFC, ACC, and LPFC. These results suggest that valuation processes reflecting stimulus-specific outcome predictions are recruited during covert attentional control. Value predictions and the spatial identification of attentional targets were conveyed by largely separate neuronal populations, but were integrated locally at the intersection of three major prefrontal areas, which may constitute a functional hub within the larger attentional control network.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebrum, Limbic system, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Prefrontal cortex, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Cingulate cortex


Self-control problems commonly manifest as temper outbursts and repetitive/rigid/impulsive behaviors, in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which often contributes to learning difficulties and caregiver burden. The present study aims to compare the effect of a traditional Chinese Chan-based mind-body exercise, Nei Yang Gong, with that of the conventional Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) technique in enhancing the self-control of children with ASD. Forty-six age- and IQ-matched ASD children were randomly assigned to receive group training in Nei Yang Gong (experimental group) or PMR (control group) twice per week for four weeks. The participants' self-control was measured by three neuropsychological tests and parental rating on standardized questionnaires, and the underlying neural mechanism was assessed by the participants' brain EEG activity during an inhibitory-control task before and after intervention. The results show that the experimental group demonstrated significantly greater improvement in self-control than the control group, which concurs with the parental reports of reduced autistic symptoms and increased control of temper and behaviors. In addition, the experimental group showed enhanced EEG activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region that mediates self-control, whereas the PMR group did not. The present findings support the potential application of Chinese Chan-based mind-body exercises as a form of neuropsychological rehabilitation for patients with self-control problems. Chinese Clinical Trial Registry; Registration No.: ChiCTR-TRC-12002561; URL:

Concepts: Psychology, Experimental design, Autism, Neuropsychology, Autism spectrum, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Cingulate cortex


Although typically identified in early childhood, the social communication symptoms and adaptive behavior deficits that are characteristic of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) persist throughout the lifespan. Despite this persistence, even individuals without cooccurring intellectual disability show substantial heterogeneity in outcomes. Previous studies have found various behavioral assessments [such as intelligence quotient (IQ), early language ability, and baseline autistic traits and adaptive behavior scores] to be predictive of outcome, but most of the variance in functioning remains unexplained by such factors. In this study, we investigated to what extent functional brain connectivity measures obtained from resting-state functional connectivity MRI (rs-fcMRI) could predict the variance left unexplained by age and behavior (follow-up latency and baseline autistic traits and adaptive behavior scores) in two measures of outcome-adaptive behaviors and autistic traits at least 1 y postscan (mean follow-up latency = 2 y, 10 mo). We found that connectivity involving the so-called salience network (SN), default-mode network (DMN), and frontoparietal task control network (FPTCN) was highly predictive of future autistic traits and the change in autistic traits and adaptive behavior over the same time period. Furthermore, functional connectivity involving the SN, which is predominantly composed of the anterior insula and the dorsal anterior cingulate, predicted reliable improvement in adaptive behaviors with 100% sensitivity and 70.59% precision. From rs-fcMRI data, our study successfully predicted heterogeneity in outcomes for individuals with ASD that was unaccounted for by simple behavioral metrics and provides unique evidence for networks underlying long-term symptom abatement.

Concepts: Autism, Pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum, PDD-NOS, Anterior cingulate cortex


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic and disabling disorder with poor response to pharmacological treatments. Converging evidences suggest that OCD patients suffer from dysfunction of the cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical (CSTC) circuit, including in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC).

Concepts: Medicine, Brain, Cerebrum, Limbic system, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Cingulate cortex, Obsessive–compulsive disorder


A hallmark feature of chronic pain is its ability to impact other sensory and affective experiences. It is notably associated with hypersensitivity at the site of tissue injury. It is less clear, however, if chronic pain can also induce a generalized site-nonspecific enhancement in the aversive response to nociceptive inputs. Here, we showed that chronic pain in one limb in rats increased the aversive response to acute pain stimuli in the opposite limb, as assessed by conditioned place aversion. Interestingly, neural activities in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) correlated with noxious intensities, and optogenetic modulation of ACC neurons showed bidirectional control of the aversive response to acute pain. Chronic pain, however, altered acute pain intensity representation in the ACC to increase the aversive response to noxious stimuli at anatomically unrelated sites. Thus, chronic pain can disrupt cortical circuitry to enhance the aversive experience in a generalized anatomically nonspecific manner.

Concepts: Cerebrum, Pain, Nociception, Nociceptor, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Cingulate cortex, Insular cortex


Insidious declines in normal aging are well-established. Emerging evidence suggests that non-pharmacological interventions, specifically cognitive and physical training, may counter diminishing age-related cognitive and brain functions. This randomized trial compared effects of two training protocols: cognitive training (CT) vs. physical training (PT) on cognition and brain function in adults 56-75 years. Sedentary participants (N = 36) were randomized to either CT or PT group for 3 h/week over 12 weeks. They were assessed at baseline-, mid-, and post-training using neurocognitive, MRI, and physiological measures. The CT group improved on executive function whereas PT group’s memory was enhanced. Uniquely deploying cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebral vascular reactivity (CVR) MRI, the CT cohort showed increased CBF within the prefrontal and middle/posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) without change to CVR compared to PT group. Improvements in complex abstraction were positively associated with increased resting CBF in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). Exercisers with higher CBF in hippocampi bilaterally showed better immediate memory. The preliminary evidence indicates that increased cognitive and physical activity improves brain health in distinct ways. Reasoning training enhanced frontal networks shown to be integral to top-down cognitive control and brain resilience. Evidence of increased resting CBF without changes to CVR implicates increased neural health rather than improved vascular response. Exercise did not improve cerebrovascular response, although CBF increased in hippocampi of those with memory gains. Distinct benefits incentivize testing effectiveness of combined protocols to strengthen brain health.

Concepts: Better, Psychology, Brain, Cognition, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex