Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Inhibiting Negative Emotions - Opps!, A simple story evaporates

Numerous studies from Davidson's laboratory and others have shown that deliberately suppressing negative affect correlates with increased activity in the prefrontal cortex (and vice versa). The idea has been that the more modern thinking and interpreting prefrontal cortex feeds down to inhibit the amygdala, the center of emotional reactivity in our more primitive mammalian brain. Most of this work was done on college students or younger people. Urry et al now find that older subjects, 62-64 years of age, can suppress negative affect without a corresponding increase in prefrontal activation. In a supplement they offer reasons for the discrepancy. It is very hard to walk away with any kind of clean message now, a situation not helped by the fact that this is one of the most poorly written jargon laden papers I have ever tried to wade through. The senior authors should have paid more attention to what they were putting their name on.

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