Monday, February 12, 2007

A brain correlate of subjective well-being.

Carlen et al. in Richard Davidson's laboratory at Wisconsin have used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine: "whether individual differences in amygdala activation in response to negative relative to neutral information are related to differences in the speed with which such information is evaluated, the extent to which such differences are associated with medial prefrontal cortex function, and their relationship with measures of trait anxiety and psychological well-being (PWB)...faster judgments of negative relative to neutral information were associated with increased left and right amygdala activation. In the prefrontal cortex, faster judgment time was associated with relative decreased activation in a cluster in the ventral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC, Brodman Area 24). Furthermore, people who were slower to evaluate negative versus neutral information reported higher PWB. Importantly, higher PWB was strongly associated with increased activation in the ventral ACC for negative relative to neutral information.

Figure: Activity in the Ventral Anterior Cingulate predicts judgement time.

Figure: Activity in the ventral ACC in response to negative versus neutral images is positively associated with total PWB.

These findings suggest that people high in PWB effectively recruit the ventral ACC when confronted with potentially aversive stimuli, manifest reduced activity in subcortical regions such as the amygdala, and appraise such information as less salient as reflected in slower evaluative speed.

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