Journal: Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience
Cardiac vagal tone (indexed via resting heart rate variability [HRV]) has been previously associated with superior executive functioning. Is HRV related to wiser reasoning and less biased judgments? Here we hypothesize that this will be the case when adopting a self-distanced (as opposed to a self-immersed) perspective, with self-distancing enabling individuals with higher HRV to overcome bias-promoting egocentric impulses and to reason wisely. However, higher HRV may not be associated with greater wisdom when adopting a self-immersed perspective. Participants were randomly assigned to reflect on societal issues from a self-distanced- or self-immersed perspective, with responses coded for reasoning quality. In a separate task, participants read about and evaluated a person performing morally ambiguous actions, with responses coded for dispositional vs. situational attributions. We simultaneously assessed resting cardiac recordings, obtaining six HRV indicators. As hypothesized, in the self-distanced condition, each HRV indicator was positively related to prevalence of wisdom-related reasoning (e.g., prevalence of recognition of limits of one’s knowledge, recognition that the world is in flux/change, consideration of others' opinions and search for an integration of these opinions) and to balanced vs. biased attributions (recognition of situational and dispositional factors vs. focus on dispositional factors alone). In contrast, there was no relationship between these variables in the self-immersed condition. We discuss implications for research on psychophysiology, cognition, and wisdom.
Resilience is the ability to adapt successfully in the face of stress and adversity. Stressful life events, trauma, and chronic adversity can have a substantial impact on brain function and structure, and can result in the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and other psychiatric disorders. However, most individuals do not develop such illnesses after experiencing stressful life events, and are thus thought to be resilient. Resilience as successful adaptation relies on effective responses to environmental challenges and ultimate resistance to the deleterious effects of stress, therefore a greater understanding of the factors that promote such effects is of great relevance. This review focuses on recent findings regarding genetic, epigenetic, developmental, psychosocial, and neurochemical factors that are considered essential contributors to the development of resilience. Neural circuits and pathways involved in mediating resilience are also discussed. The growing understanding of resilience factors will hopefully lead to the development of new pharmacological and psychological interventions for enhancing resilience and mitigating the untoward consequences.
Resignation syndrome (RS) designates a long-standing disorder predominately affecting psychologically traumatized children and adolescents in the midst of a strenuous and lengthy migration process. Typically a depressive onset is followed by gradual withdrawal progressing via stupor into a state that prompts tube feeding and is characterized by failure to respond even to painful stimuli. The patient is seemingly unconscious. Recovery ensues within months to years and is claimed to be dependent on the restoration of hope to the family. Descriptions of disorders resembling RS can be found in the literature and the condition is unlikely novel. Nevertheless, the magnitude and geographical distribution stand out. Several hundred cases have been reported exclusively in Sweden in the past decade prompting the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare to recognize RS as a separate diagnostic entity. The currently prevailing stress hypothesis fails to account for the regional distribution and contributes little to treatment. Consequently, a re-evaluation of diagnostics and treatment is required. Psychogenic catatonia is proposed to supply the best fit with the clinical presentation. Treatment response, altered brain metabolism or preserved awareness would support this hypothesis. Epidemiological data suggests culture-bound beliefs and expectations to generate and direct symptom expression and we argue that culture-bound psychogenesis can accommodate the endemic distribution. Last, we review recent models of predictive coding indicating how expectation processes are crucially involved in the placebo and nocebo effect, delusions and conversion disorders. Building on this theoretical framework we propose a neurobiological model of RS in which the impact of overwhelming negative expectations are directly causative of the down-regulation of higher order and lower order behavioral systems in particularly vulnerable individuals.
Much controversy exists regarding the role of the hippocampus in retrieval. The two dominant and competing accounts have been the Standard Model of Systems Consolidation (SMSC) and Multiple Trace Theory (MTT), which specifically make opposing predictions as to the necessity of the hippocampus for retrieval of remote memories. Under SMSC, memories eventually become independent of the hippocampus as they become more reliant on cortical connectivity, and thus the hippocampus is not required for retrieval of remote memories, only recent ones. MTT on the other hand claims that the hippocampus is always required no matter the age of the memory. We argue that this dissociation may be too simplistic, and a continuum model may be better suited to address the role of the hippocampus in retrieval of remote memories. Such a model is presented here with the main function of the hippocampus during retrieval being “recontextualization,” or the reconstruction of memory using overlapping traces. As memories get older, they are decontextualized due to competition among partially overlapping traces and become more semantic and reliant on neocortical storage. In this framework dubbed the Competitive Trace Theory (CTT), consolidation events that lead to the strengthening of memories enhance conceptual knowledge (semantic memory) at the expense of contextual details (episodic memory). As a result, remote memories are more likely to have a stronger semantic representation. At the same time, remote memories are also more likely to include illusory details. The CTT is a novel candidate model that may provide some resolution to the memory consolidation debate.
Stress clearly influences decision making, but the effects are complex. This review focuses on the potential for stress to promote prosocial decisions, serving others at a temporary cost to the self. Recent work has shown altruistic responses under stress, particularly when the target’s need is salient. We discuss potential mechanisms for these effects, including emotional contagion and offspring care mechanisms. These neurobiological mechanisms may promote prosocial-even heroic-action, particularly when an observer knows the appropriate response and can respond to a target in need. The effects of stress on behavior are not only negative, they can be adaptive and altruistic under conditions that promote survival and well-being at the individual and group level.
A central feature of our consciousness is the experience of the self as a unified entity residing in a physical body, termed bodily self-consciousness. This phenomenon includes aspects such as the sense of owning a body (also known as body ownership) and has been suggested to arise from the integration of sensory signals from the body. Several studies have shown that temporally synchronous tactile stimulation of the real body and visual stimulation of a fake or virtual body can induce changes in bodily self-consciousness, typically resulting in a sense of illusory ownership over the fake body. The present study assessed the effect of anatomical congruency of visuo-tactile stimulation on bodily self-consciousness. A virtual body was presented and temporally synchronous visuo-tactile stroking was applied simultaneously to the participants' body and to the virtual body. We manipulated the anatomical locations of the visuo-tactile stroking (i.e., on the back, on the leg), resulting in congruent stroking (stroking was felt and seen on the back or the leg) or incongruent stroking (i.e., stroking was felt on the leg and seen on the back). We measured self-identification with the virtual body and self-location as well as skin temperature. Illusory self-identification with the avatar as well as changes in self-location were experienced in the congruent stroking conditions. Participants showed a decrease in skin temperature across several body locations during congruent stimulation. These data establish that the full-body illusion (FBI) alters bodily self-consciousness and instigates widespread physiological changes in the participant’s body.
Music is among all cultures an important part of the live of most people. Music has psychological benefits and may generate strong emotional and physiological responses. Recently, neuroscientists have discovered that music influences the reward circuit of the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), even when no explicit reward is present. In this clinical case study, we describe a 60-year old patient who developed a sudden and distinct musical preference for Johnny Cash following deep brain stimulation (DBS) targeted at the NAcc. This case report substantiates the assumption that the NAcc is involved in musical preference, based on the observation of direct stimulation of the accumbens with DBS. It also shows that accumbens DBS can change musical preference without habituation of its rewarding properties.
Effect of different meditation practices on various aspects of mental and physical health is receiving growing attention. The present paper reviews evidence on the effects of several mediation practices on cognitive functions in the context of aging and neurodegenerative diseases. The effect of meditation in this area is still poorly explored. Seven studies were detected through the databases search, which explores the effect of meditation on attention, memory, executive functions, and other miscellaneous measures of cognition in a sample of older people and people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. Overall, reviewed studies suggested a positive effect of meditation techniques, particularly in the area of attention, as well as memory, verbal fluency, and cognitive flexibility. These findings are discussed in the context of MRI studies suggesting structural correlates of the effects. Meditation can be a potentially suitable non-pharmacological intervention aimed at the prevention of cognitive decline in the elderly. However, the conclusions of these studies are limited by their methodological flaws and differences of various types of meditation techniques. Further research in this direction could help to verify the validity of the findings and clarify the problematic aspects.
In mental health practice, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments are aimed at improving neuropsychological symptoms, including cognitive and emotional impairments. However, at present there is no established neuropsychological test battery that comprehensively covers multiple affective domains relevant in a range of disorders. Our objective was to generate a standardized test battery, comprised of existing, adapted and novel tasks, to assess four core domains of affective cognition (emotion processing, motivation, impulsivity and social cognition) in order to facilitate and enhance treatment development and evaluation in a broad range of neuropsychiatric disorders. The battery was administered to 200 participants aged 18-50 years (50% female), 42 of whom were retested in order to assess reliability. An exploratory factor analysis identified 11 factors with eigenvalues greater than 1, which accounted for over 70% of the variance. Tasks showed moderate to excellent test-retest reliability and were not strongly correlated with demographic factors such as age or IQ. The EMOTICOM test battery is therefore a promising tool for the assessment of affective cognitive function in a range of contexts.
[This corrects the article on p. 100 in vol. 7, PMID: 23340520.].