Previous research has widely shown different physiological responses depending on the affective valence and arousal of the eliciting stimuli. These reactions play an important role in survival because they promote approach and withdrawal behaviours. But humans are social beings, and their survival may also depend on their interactions with others. We investigated whether the social content of affective stimuli and the level of empathy of subjects influenced physiological reactions. We recorded heart rate (HR), skin conductance response (SCR) and corrugator supercilii electromyographic (EMG) activity in 73 participants while they viewed a series of 81 pictures varying in affective valence and social content. Participants were classified as high or low in empathy depending on their scores in the Interpersonal Reactivity Index Scale. High empathic subjects showed greater EMG activity promoted by the unpleasant pictures. We also found an effect of the social content on the SCRs and EMG activity promoted by the affective pictures. Both groups did not differ in HR and SCRs promoted by the pictures. The differences found between high and low empathic subjects may rely on reactions to affective rather than to social content. Facial expressions have been proposed as primary tactical responses that depend on the specific context and play an important role in social communication. Accordingly, high empathic subjects may develop greater tactical responses and, therefore, display a better social communication of aversive situations.
Competition for resources is a fundamental characteristic of evolution. Auctions have been widely used to model competition of individuals for resources, and bidding behaviour plays a major role in social competition. Yet, how humans learn to bid efficiently remains an open question. We used model‐based neuroimaging to investigate the neural mechanisms of bidding behaviour under different types of competition. Twenty‐seven subjects (nine male) played a prototypical bidding game: a double action, with three “market” types, which differed in the number of competitors. We compared different computational learning models of bidding: directional learning models (DL), where the model bid is “nudged” depending on whether it was accepted or rejected, along with standard reinforcement learning models (RL). We found that DL fit the behaviour best and resulted in higher payoffs. We found the binary learning signal associated with DL to be represented by neural activity in the striatum distinctly posterior to a weaker reward prediction error signal. We posited that DL is an efficient heuristic for valuation when the action (bid) space is continuous. Indeed, we found that the posterior parietal cortex represents the continuous action space of the task, and the frontopolar prefrontal cortex distinguishes among conditions of social competition. Based on our findings, we proposed a conceptual model that accounts for a sequence of processes that are required to perform successful and flexible bidding under different types of competition.
The article is an overview of modern studies of brain organization
and genetic correlates of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is
becoming the subject of more and more attentive study of psychologists
due to the fact that it influences the mental development of humans, plays
an important role in many professions, and its impairment is a marker of
some disorders. Nevertheless, the brain organization and genetic correlates
of emotional intelligence have not been studied enough – first studies
appeared only in the early 2000s. A review of the literature on the enceph-
alographic showed that in rest, people with higher emotional intelligence
show greater excitation of the left anterior regions of the brain. When per-
ceiving affective stimuli, participants with high emotional intelligence show
stronger synchronization of some EEG rhythms. Brain mapping technique
made it possible to identify the areas of the brain involved in activities
related to emotional intelligence. In regard to genetic correlates of emotional
intelligence, some genes of neurotransmitter systems have been associated
to this trait: the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene COMT, the dopamine
DRD2 receptor gene, the serotonin receptor gene HTR2A, and the BDNF
brain neurotrophic factor gene.
In the past decade, several studies have examined the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on long-term episodic memory formation and retrieval. These studies yielded conflicting results, likely due to differences in stimulation parameters, experimental design and outcome measures.
In this work we aimed to assess the robustness of tDCS effects on long-term episodic memory using a meta-analytical approach.
We conducted four meta-analyses to analyse the effects of anodal and cathodal tDCS on memory accuracy and response times. We also used a moderator analysis to examine whether the size of tDCS effects varied as a function of specific stimulation parameters and experimental conditions.
Although all selected studies reported a significant effect of tDCS in at least one condition in the published paper, the results of the four meta-analyses showed only statistically non-significant close-to-zero effects. A moderator analysis suggested that for anodal tDCS, the duration of the stimulation and the task used to probe memory moderated the effectiveness of tDCS. For cathodal tDCS, site of stimulation was a significant moderator, although this result was based on only a few observations.
To warrant theoretical advancement and practical implications, more rigorous research is needed to fully understand whether tDCS reliably modulates episodic memory, and the specific circumstances under which this modulation does, and does not, occur.
Many studies suggest that social punishment is beneficial for cooperation and consequently maintaining the social norms in society. Neuroimaging and brain stimulation studies show that the brain regions which respond to violations of social norms, the understanding of the mind of others and the executive functions, are involved during social punishment. Despite the rising number of studies on social punishment, the concordant map of activations - the set of key regions responsible for the general brain response to social punishment - is still unknown. By using coordinate-based fMRI meta-analysis, the present study examined the concordant map of neural activations associated with various social punishment tasks. A total of 17 articles with 18 contrasts including 383 participants, equalling 191 foci were included in activation likelihood estimation (ALE) analysis. The majority of the studies (61%) employed the widely used neuroeconomic paradigms, such as fairness-related norm tasks (Ultimatum Game, third-party punishment game), while the remaining tasks reported included criminal scenarios evaluation and social rejection tasks. The analysis presented revealed concordant activation in the bilateral claustrum, right interior frontal and left superior frontal gyri. This study provides an integrative view on brain responses to social punishment.
Items presented in large font are rated with higher judgments of learning (JOLs) than those presented in small font. According to current explanations of this phenomenon in terms of processing fluency or implicit beliefs, this effect should be present no matter the type of material under study. However, we hypothesized that the linguistic cues present in sentences may prevent using font size as a cue for JOLs. Experiment 1, with short sentences, showed the standard font-size effect on JOLs, and Experiment 2, with pairs of longer sentences, showed a reduced effect. These results suggest that linguistic factors do not prevent font size from being used for JOLs. However, Experiment 3, with both short and long sentences, showed an effect of font size only for the former and not the latter condition, suggesting that the greater amount of to-be-remembered information eliminated the font-size effect. In Experiment 4, we tested a mechanism to explain this result and manipulated cognitive load using the dot-memory task. The short sentences from Experiments 1 and 3 were used, and the results replicated the font-size effect only in the low-cognitive load condition. Our results are consistent with the idea that perceptual information is used to make JOLs only with materials such as words, word pairs, or short sentences, and that the increased cognitive load required to process longer sentences prevents using font size as a cue for JOLs.
According to dual process theories, depletion of executive resources may amplify decision-making biases. Psychological studies investigating the influence of executive control on risky decision mak- ing typically employ dual task paradigms, e.g. a risky decision-making task in parallel with an exec- utive task. However, these paradigms often reveal relatively weak to null effects. In this study, we designed a novel task to determine the influence of executive control on risky decision making di- rectly, and simultaneously separating gains and losses using a block design. Contrary to other tasks, risk taking, and executive control occurred during the same decision. When risky decisions were conditioned on high executive control, participants demonstrated a reflection effect: higher risk taking for loss blocks, compared to gain blocks. Further exploration revealed that the gain-domain specific influence of executive control on risky decisions occurred due to the influence of trial-by- trial decision-making strategies.
Metacognitive monitoring is a powerful tool that supports our ongoing cognitive processes (Flavell, 1976). In applied settings, such as when we are trying to learn a new language, monitoring the learning progress may determine the difference between success and failure. One way to measure metacognitive monitoring in relation to learning new material is the so-called Judgments of Learning (JOLs). JOLs are estimations of future success in recalling recently learned information. Depending on the confidence that we have in remembering the new information later, we may decide to keep rehearsing it or just move on. Existing research shows that several variables can mislead our JOLs in relation to the subsequent recall accuracy; at the same time, other variables that influence the recall itself do not affect JOLs. Perceptual fluency, manipulated in different sensory modalities by e.g. font size or presentation volume, leads to differences in JOLs (e.g., higher JOLs for bigger font size), although recall accuracy remains the same regardless of the manipulation. On the other and, the animacy manipulation (e.g., dog vs. table) does not affect JOLs but animate words are remembered better. Our main aim was to study JOL brain correlates for variables that differently affect JOLs and memory. Participants were presented with words in an easy- or difficult to-read font that referred to animate or inanimate objects while EEG was recorded. For each word, participants had to choose on a 0-100% scale the confidence they had in remembering it in near future. We found a higher P2 response for high- (70–100%) than to medium- JOLs (40–60%) ratings, which may reflect attentional recruitment resulting in modulation of perceptual processing. Furthermore, we found a greater P600 response for medium- than high-JOLs, suggesting a deeper reanalysis of these type of “less confident” answers. When animacy and perceptual fluency are split between medium and high-JOLs, we found LPC (late positive component) only for animacy, being showing a higher amplitude for the high- than medium-JOLs.. This might indicate a higher involvement of memory processes during the processing of animacy-related information. Finally, when comparing difficult type font words rated with medium and high-JOLs, we obtained larger P3b for high-JOLs rated words, which may attributed to their deeper evaluation. This is the first evidence of differential brain signatures for JOLs depending on their ratings level and different experimental manipulations. Our results highlight the relevance of metacognitive evaluations in the cognitive processing.
The work was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (project №19-18-00534).
Human memory is not a literal record of our experiences but a fallible and malleable cognitive process. Because of the reconstructive nature of memory, we are often prone to accept false events and recall them as truthful (Bartlett, 1932). One easy and reliable method to create and study false memories in the laboratory is the misinformation paradigm. In this paradigm participants are presented with a story (original information). After some time, parts of this story are presented again but now including some modifications (misinformation). Finally, the memory is measured for the original information, the misinformation, and, as control, some other incorrect information never presented before. The misinformation effect occurs when the percentage of misinformation accepted is higher than the acceptance of control incorrect information. This effect has been largely studied in relation to its applied relevance in eyewitness testimony research. Yet, the neural substrates and temporal dynamics of processing correct and false information remain scarcely studied. In this study the neural activity was recorded using EEG while participants performed a memory recognition test which comprised misinformation, true, and simply incorrect items. The only previous EEG study on neural correlates focused on misinformation pointed to the P3b and LPC (late positive component) ERPs components as the key to distinguishing between memories for correct and false memories. High P3b is linked with a strong match between the expectation and the stimuli presented. LPC is a late component around 400 to 800 ms after the stimulus presentation, associated with the recollection of accurate information. Our results show that for the contrasts of misinformation accepted vs rejected, and false information accepted vs rejected (correct rejections), P3b was significantly more positive when the inaccurate information was accepted. These differences suggest a larger cognitive workload on accepting this type of information than when it is correctly rejected. Furthermore, in both contrasts we found differences in P600 which is linked to reprocessing of detected anomalies in the input. Here, we found a more expressed P600 for accepted than for rejected misinformation. P600 was also stronger for correct rejections than false alarms. In this latter case, the higher P600 amplitude may reflect the detection and reanalysis of the rejection of this false information. Interestingly, in the case of acceptance of misinformation, the higher P600 amplitude suggest that participants are not totally blind to the inaccuracy of the misinformation, though still they accept it.
The work was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (project №19-18-00534).
The social content of affective stimuli has been proposed as having an influence on cognitive processing and behaviour. This research was aimed, therefore, at studying whether automatic exogenous attention demanded by affective pictures was related to their social value. We hypothesised that affective social pictures would capture attention to a greater extent than non-social affective stimuli. For this purpose, we recorded event-related potentials in a sample of 24 participants engaged in a digit categorisation task. Distracters were affective pictures varying in social content, in addition to affective valence and arousal, which appeared in the background during the task. Our data revealed that pictures depicting high social content captured greater automatic attention than other pictures, as reflected by the greater amplitude and shorter latency of anterior P2, and anterior and posterior N2 components of the ERPs.
Existing research shows that distribution of the speaker’s attention among event’s protagonists affects syntactic choice during sentence production. One of the debated issues concerns the extent of the attentional contribution to syntactic choice in languages that put stronger emphasis on word order arrangement rather than the choice of the overall syntactic frame. To address this, the current study used a sentence production task, in which Russian native speakers were asked to verbally describe visually perceived transitive events. Prior to describing the target event, a visual cue directed the participants’ attention to the location of either the agent or the patient of the subsequently presented visual event. In addition, we also manipulated event orientation (agent-left vs. agent-right) as another potential contributor to syntactic choice. The number of patient-initial sentences was the dependent variable compared between conditions. First, the obtained results replicated the effect of visual cueing on the word order in Russian language: more patient-initial sentences in patient cued condition. Second, we registered a novel effect of event orientation: Russian native speakers produced more patient-initial sentences after seeing events developing from right to left as opposed to left-to-right events. Our study provides new evidence about the role of the speaker’s attention and event orientation in syntactic choice in language with flexible word order.
The contribution of the motor cortex to the semantic retrieval of verbs remains a subject of debate in neuroscience. Here, we examined whether additional engagement of the cortical motor system was required when access to verbs semantics was hindered during a verb generation task. We asked participants to produce verbs related to presented noun cues that were either strongly associated with a single verb to prompt fast and effortless verb retrieval, or were weakly associated with multiple verbs and more difficult to respond to. Using power suppression of magnetoencephalography beta oscillations (15–30 Hz) as an index of cortical activation, we performed a whole‐brain analysis in order to identify the cortical regions sensitive to the difficulty of verb semantic retrieval. Highly reliable suppression of beta oscillations occurred 250 ms after the noun cue presentation and was sustained until the onset of verbal response. This was localized to multiple cortical regions, mainly in the temporal and frontal lobes of the left hemisphere. Crucially, the only cortical regions where beta suppression was sensitive to the task difficulty, were the higher order motor areas on the medial and lateral surfaces of the frontal lobe. Stronger activation of the premotor cortex and supplementary motor area accompanied the effortful verb retrieval and preceded the preparation of verbal responses for more than 500 ms, thus, overlapping with the time window of verb retrieval from semantic memory. Our results suggest that reactivation of verb‐related motor plans in higher order motor circuitry promotes the semantic retrieval of target verbs.
Medial frontal cortex is currently viewed as the main hub of the performance monitoring system; upon detection of an error committed, it establishes functional connections with brain regions involved in task performance, thus leading to neural adjustments in them. Previous research has identified targets of such adjustments in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, posterior cortical regions, motor cortical areas, and subthalamic nucleus. Yet most of such studies involved visual tasks with relatively moderate cognitive load and strong dependence on motor inhibition – thus highlighting sensory, executive and motor effects while underestimating sensorimotor transformation and related aspects of decision making. Currently there is ample evidence that posterior parietal cortical areas are involved in task-specific neural processes of decision making (including evidence accumulation, sensorimotor transformation, attention, etc.) – yet, to our knowledge, no EEG studies have demonstrated post-error increase in functional connectivity in the theta-band between midfrontal and posterior parietal areas during performance on non-visual tasks. In the present study, we recorded EEG while subjects were performing an auditory version of the cognitively demanding attentional condensation task; this task involves rather non-straightforward stimulus-to-response mapping rules, thus, creating increased load on sensorimotor transformation. We observed strong pre-response alpha-band suppression in the left parietal area, which presumably reflected involvement of the posterior parietal cortex in task-specific decision-making processes. Negative feedback was followed by increased midfrontal theta-band power and increased functional coupling in the theta band between midfrontal and left parietal regions. This could be interpreted as activation of the performance monitoring system and top–down influence of this system on the posterior parietal regions involved in decision making, respectively. This inter-site coupling related to negative feedback was stronger for subjects who tended to commit errors with slower response times. Generally, current findings support the idea that slower errors are related to the state of outcome uncertainty caused by failures of task-specific processes, associated with posterior parietal regions.
Calcium plays a role of universal cellular regulator in the living cell and one of the crucial regulators of proper fetal development during gestation. Mitochondria are important for intracellular calcium handling and signaling. Mitochondrial calcium uniporter (mtCU) is a multiprotein complex of the mitochondrial inner membrane responsible for the transport of calcium to the mitochondrial matrix. In the present study, we analyzed the expression level of mtCU components in two parts of the feto-maternal system - placenta and myometrium at full-term delivery and at preterm birth (PTB) on different stages: 22-27, 28-32, 33-36 weeks of gestation (n = 50). A gradual increase of mRNA expression and changes in protein content of MCU and MICU1 subunits were revealed in the placenta during gestation. We also observed slower depolarization rate of isolated placental mitochondria induced by Ca2+ titration at PTB. In myometrium at PTB relative gene expression level of MCU, MCUb and SMDT1 increased as compared to full-term pregnancy, but the tendency to gradual increase of MCU protein simultaneous with MCUb increase and MICU1 decline was shown in gestational dynamics. Changes observed in the present study might be considered both natural dynamics as well as possible pathological mechanisms underlying preterm birth.
The complex sensory input and motor reflexes that keep body posture and head position aligned are influenced by emotional reactions evoked by visual or auditory stimulation. Several theoretical approaches have emphasized the relevance of motor reactions in emotional response. Emotions are considered as a tendency or predisposition to act that depends on two motivational systems in the brain — the appetitive system, related to approach behaviours, and the defensive system, related to withdrawal or fight-or-flight behaviours. Few studies on emotion have been conducted employing kinematic methods, however. Motion analysis of the head may be a promising method for studying the impact of viewing affective pictures on emotional response. For this purpose, we presented unpleasant, neutral and pleasant affective pictures. Participants were instructed to view the pictures and to remain still. Two light-emitting diodes (LEDs) were attached to the foreheads of participants, and a Wii Remote controller, positioned 25 cm away, detected the position of the LEDs in the medial–lateral and anterior–posterior axes. We found more sway in response to unpleasant pictures. In addition, unpleasant pictures also provoked faster movements than both neutral and pleasant pictures. This response to unpleasant pictures, in contrast to pleasant ones, might reflect the readiness or predisposition to act. Our data also revealed that men moved faster than women, which is in accordance with previous findings related to gender differences.
Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying variation in lifespan is central to ensure long life. Lim3 encoding a homolog of the vertebrate Lhx3/4 transcription factors plays a key role in Drosophila neuron development. Here, we demonstrated that Lim3 knockdown early in life decreased survival of adult flies. To study the mechanisms underlying this effect, we identified embryonic Lim3 targets using combined RNA-seq and RT-qPCR analyses complemented by in silico analysis of Lim3 binding sites. Though genes with neuronal functions were revealed as Lim3 targets, the characteristics of neurons were not affected by Lim3 depletion. Many of the direct and indirect Lim3 target genes were associated with mitochondrial function, ATP-related activity, redox processes and antioxidant defense. Consistent with the observed changes in the embryonic transcription of these genes, ROS levels were increased in embryos, which could cause changes in the transcription of indirect Lim3 targets known to affect lifespan. We hypothesize that altered mitochondrial activity is crucial for the decrease of adult lifespan caused by Lim3 knockdown early in life. In adults that encountered Lim3 depletion early in life, the transcription of several genes remained altered, and mitochondrial membrane potential, ATP level and locomotion were increased, confirming the existence of carry-over effects.
The maintenance of items in working memory relies on persistent neural activity in a widespread network of brain areas. To investigate the influence of load on working memory, we asked human subjects to maintain sets of letters in memory while we recorded single neurons and intracranial encephalography (EEG) in the medial temporal lobe and scalp EEG. Along the periods of a trial, hippocampal neural firing differentiated between success and error trials during stimulus encoding, predicted workload during memory maintenance, and predicted the subjects’ behavior during retrieval. During maintenance, neuronal firing was synchronized with intracranial hippocampal EEG. On the network level, synchronization between hippocampal and scalp EEG in the theta-alpha frequency range showed workload dependent oscillatory coupling between hippocampus and cortex. Thus, we found that persistent neural activity in the hippocampus participated in working memory processing that is specific to memory maintenance, load sensitive and synchronized to the cortex.
Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference Neurobiology of Speech and Language Organised by the Laboratory of Behavioural Neurodynamics, Saint Petersburg State University September, 2019. Edited by Olga Shcherbakova, Yury Shtyrov Saint Petersburg, Russia
To study different aspects of facial emotion recognition, valid methods are needed. The more widespread methods have some limitations. We propose a more ecological method that consists of presenting dynamic faces and measuring verbal reaction times. We presented 120 video clips depicting a gradual change from a neutral expression to a basic emotion (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise), and recorded hit rates and reaction times of verbal labelling of emotions. Our results showed that verbal responses to six basic emotions differed in hit rates and reaction times: happiness > surprise > disgust > anger > sadness > fear (this means these emotional responses were more accurate and faster). Generally, our data are in accordance with previous findings, but our differentiation of responses is better than the data from previous experiments on six basic emotions.
We applied transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) to the primary motor cortex (M1) at different frequencies during an index-thumb pinch-grip observation task. To estimate changes in the corticospinal output, we used the size of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) obtained by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of M1 using an online MRI-guided simultaneous TMS-tACS approach. The results of the beta-tACS confirm a non-selective increase in corticospinal excitability in subjects at rest; an increase was observed for both of the tested hand muscles, the first dorsal interosseous (FDI) and the abductor digiti minimi (ADM). However, during action observation of the pinch-grip movement, the increase of corticospinal excitability was only observed for the prime mover FDI muscle and took place during alpha-tACS, while gamma-tACS affected both the FDI and control muscle (ADM) responses. These phenomena likely reflect the hypothesis that the mu and gamma rhythms specifically index the downstream modulation of primary sensorimotor areas by engaging mirror neuron activity. The current neuromodulation approach confirms that tACS can be used to induce neurophysiologically detectable state-dependent enhancement effects, even in complex motor-cognitive tasks