Flash talks: Psycho-emotional problems

July 12th A2.09

Imagining the Hangover: The Role of Anticipated Regret in Avoiding Binge Drinking

Erika Koch

Anticipated regret is a “cognitive emotion” – one that involves both thinking about the future and imagining potential feelings. Previous research has demonstrated that anticipated regret plays a role in various health and safety behaviors; however, little research has examined anticipated regret in the context of binge drinking. Does anticipated regret predict intentions to avoid binge drinking and, in turn, do these intentions predict self-reported binge drinking one month later? The present research tested this question. In Study 1 (a pilot), 109 undergraduates completed an online measure assessing their personal definitions of binge drinking, as well as a measure tapping extended Theory of Planned Behavior variables: attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, descriptive norms, past behavior, and anticipated regret. In Study 2, 168 undergraduates completed a revised version of the Study 1 measure. In addition, 67 of these participants reported one month later on whether they had engaged in binge drinking over the past month, and if so, the number of binge-drinking days. Means of all Time 1 variables did not significantly differ between participants who did vs. did not provide Time 2 data. In both studies, anticipated regret for failing to avoid binge drinking significantly and uniquely predicted intentions to avoid binge drinking. In Study 2, intentions predicted self-reported binge drinking behavior. Although past drinking behavior most strongly predicted intentions, this variable is not amenable to change. Thus, anticipated regret may offer a promising intervention target, as it is malleable.

Emotional-Wellbeing Mediates and Moderates the Impact of Early Adversity on Speed of Biological Aging

Ronald Simons & Leslie Gordon Simons

Dramatic growth in the number of older adults throughout the world has placed explanations for inequalities in healthy aging (discrepancies between chronological and biological age) at the forefront of the public health agenda. Most research on this issue has focused on older samples, leaving the question of whether disparities in speed of aging are already evident in early adulthood. Using a sample of 500 Black Americans, the present study uses 7 waves of data to assess exposure to racism, neighborhood disadvantage, school failure, and family conflict throughout childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood in order to investigate the effect of cumulative adversity on speed of aging at age 30. Further, we assess the extent to which the associations between cumulative adversity and accelerated aging are mediated/moderated by an individual’s emotional well-being (optimism and the absence of negative emotions vs. pessimism, anxiety, depression, and anger). A recently developed gene expression index of biological aging based upon 1497 genes was used to assess accelerated aging. This index calculates accelerated aging in years. Findings indicated a strong association between cumulative social adversity and adult accelerated aging that was mediated by emotional well-being. Importantly, however, emotional well-being also moderated this association such that there was a strong relationship between adversity and accelerated aging for those low on emotional well-being whereas adversity had no impact on accelerated aging when individuals scored high on emotional well-being. This suggests that emotional well-being can operate to buffer individuals against the deleterious effects of cumulative adversity on speed of aging.

Autonomous Robots as Embodied Models of Affect-Related Mental Disorders

Matthew Lewis & Lola Canamero

What can autonomous robots tell us about affect-related mental disorders? Computational psychiatry, which aims to introduce novel approaches and mathematical and computational tools to investigate neural circuit mechanisms underlying the cognitive and behavioral features of neuropsychiatric disorders, is establishing itself as a valuable discipline for understanding human mental disorders. However, robot models and their potential for investigating embodied and contextual aspects of mental health have been, to date, largely unexplored, both in computational psychiatry and the affective sciences. In this talk, we will present an initial robot model of obsessive-compulsive (OC) spectrum disorders based on an embodied affect-based (where affect includes motivation and emotion) model and control architecture for decision making in autonomous robots. The OC family of conditions is chiefly characterized by obsessions (recurrent, invasive thoughts) and/or compulsions (an urge to carry out certain repetitive or ritualized behaviors). The design of our robot model follows and illustrates a general design framework that we have proposed to ground research in robot models of mental disorders, and to link it with existing methodologies in psychiatry, and notably in the design of animal models. To test and validate our model, we present and discuss initial experiments, results, and quantitative and qualitative analysis regarding the compulsive and obsessive elements of OC-spectrum disorders. While this initial stage of development only models basic elements of such disorders, our results already shed light on aspects of the underlying theoretical model that are not obvious simply from consideration of the model.

Social behavior in the course of dementia: a systematic video analysis of non-scripted conversations

Mandy Visser, Deborah Parker, Simone Simonetti, James Burrell, John Hodges & Fiona Kumfor

In 2015, 47 million people worldwide live with dementia. Changes in social and emotional behavior are potential symptoms of behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and semantic dementia (SD), causing a growing inability to communicate with others. Yet, objective ways to assess such behavior are lacking. This longitudinal study examined changes in social behavior related to different dementia syndromes, by analyzing non-scripted interactions in 20 people with bvFTD and 20 people with SD, compared to 20 people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Conversations with their doctor were video-recorded after diagnosis (year 0, baseline), and in year 1 and 2. These ten-minute videos were analyzed for the presence of six socially engaging (e.g., smiling, gesturing) and six disengaging cues (e.g., avoiding eye contact, self-grooming), by three raters, blind to diagnosis (Cohen’s Kappa’s >.7). Baseline results demonstrated that people with bvFTD showed more social disengagement than engagement (p = .02), whereas people with AD and SD showed both engaging and disengaging behavior. People with AD and SD nodded more than people with bvFTD (p = .03), demonstrating that this form of signaling understanding of communication is preserved in SD and AD. Furthermore, people with SD gestured more than people with AD and bvFTD (p = .01), suggesting a reliance on non-verbal communication. With longitudinal results underway, this study already uncovered different social behavior profiles for bvFTD, SD and AD. This research demonstrates that brief excerpts of social interactions could reveal disease-specific profiles, and underscore the importance of social and emotional observations in differential dementia diagnosis.

Preserved behavioural performance and global network characteristics in the emotion network following anterior temporal lobectomy

Yun-An Huang, Patrick Dupont, Laura Van De Vliet, Jan Jastorff, Tom Theys, Johan van Loon, Wim Van Paesschen, Mathieu Vandenbulcke & Jan Van den Stock

Humans with amygdalar lesions show proportional reductions of the emotional response to facial expressions in the fusiform face area as well as deficits in emotion recognition from facial expressions. While processing of bodily expressions shares many similarities with facial expressions, there is no substantial evidence that lesions of the amygdala result in similar behavioral and neural sequellae. We combined behavioral assessment with functional neuroimaging in patients with unilateral anterior temporal lobe (ATL) resections including the amygdala (right: n= 10; left: n=10) and 12 matched controls. The objective was to assess whether the amygdala is critical for the recognition of body expressions and for modulatory effects on distant areas during perception of body expressions. The behavioral results revealed normal performance in both patient groups on emotion categorization of body expressions. The neuroimaging results showed that ATL patients displayed no enhanced activations in right FBA and left EBA and that left ATL patients additionally displayed no enhanced activations in right pSTS and right EBA. Multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) revealed altered categorization capacity between emotional and neutral stimuli in right pSTS in right ATL patients. Graph analysis revealed preserved global network characteristics in the patient groups. Taken together the results indicate that the amygdala and anterior temporal lobes are not necessary for recognition of dynamic body expressions, but suggest that amygdala lesions affect body emotion processing in distant brain areas, without affecting the global network characteristics, consistent with psychological construction accounts of emotion.

Cortical and subcortical contributions to facial expressivity and arousal: Evidence from frontotemporal dementia

Fiona Kumfor, Jessica L Hazelton, Jacqueline A Rushby, John R Hodges & Olivier Piguet

Early theories of emotion processing propose an interplay between autonomic function and cognitive appraisal of emotions. Patients with frontotemporal dementia show profound social cognition deficits and atrophy in regions implicated in autonomic emotional responses (insula, amygdala, prefrontal cortex), yet objective measures of facial expressiveness and physiological arousal have been relatively unexplored. Here, we investigated psychophysiological responses (surface facial electromyography (EMG); skin conductance level (SCL)) to emotional stimuli in 23 behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) patients, 14 semantic dementia (SD) patients and 22 healthy older controls, while viewing emotional video clips. Voxel-based morphometry was conducted to identify neural correlates of psychophysiological responses. Our results showed that unlike controls, patients with bvFTD did not show differential facial EMG responses according to emotional condition, whereas SD patients showed increased zygomaticus EMG responses to both positive and neutral videos. Controls showed greater SCL when viewing positive and negative videos, however, both bvFTD and SD groups showed no change in SCL across conditions. Dampened zygomaticus EMG response to positive films was associated with reduced right insula integrity, whereas reduced arousal was associated with lower integrity of the caudate, amygdala and temporal pole. Our results demonstrate that while bvFTD patients show an overall dampening of responses, SD patients appear to show incongruous facial emotional expressions. Abnormal responding is related to cortical and subcortical brain atrophy. These results identify potential mechanisms for the abnormal social behaviour in bvFTD and SD, and demonstrate that psychophysiological responses are an important mechanism underpinning normal socioemotional functioning.

Measuring social and emotional vulnerabilities with a video game

Isabela Granic

Humans have evolved to function optimally in social relationships. Social proximity saves the brain cognitive energy that it would otherwise need to track potential threats, real or imagined (e.g., Coan et al., 2006). A lack of social resources, and rejection sensitivity in particular, leads to depression, anxiety and a whole host of stress-related physical illnesses. We are developing new, game-based approaches to boosting children's stress-resilience by targeting rejection sensitivity. Importantly, before testing the effectiveness of these new social training regimes, we need to design reliable and effective measures that tap individual differences in rejection sensitivity and its regulation. We designed a game-based, stealth approach to assess rejection sensitivity and its behavioural concomitants, avoidance and aggression. This approach allows us to go beyond self-report responses, to track dynamic, real-time behavioural and emotional responses to social stressors. In two studies, we examined young people's cognitive, emotional and behavioural responses to social rejection over the course of 1-hour of gameplay. Results showed: (a) reliable emotional responses (avoidance, aggression) to specifically designed rejection episodes in the game; (b) associations between emotional and behavioural responses to rejection and anxiety/depressive feelings; and (c) our game-based approach significantly outperformed the most widely implemented assessment task for rejection, Cyberball (Williams & Jarvis, 2006; e.g., predicting higher feelings of rejection and exclusion, while also being rated as more engaging and immersive). The implications of these findings for designing video games that mimic the psychobiological buffering effects of social proximity and boosting emotional resilience will be discussed.