FENS Forum 2008 - Geneva

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First author: Wagner, Ullrich (poster)

Poster board E24 - Tue 15/07/2008, 16:00 - Hall 1
Session 192 - Human cognition 3
Abstract n° 192.24
Publication ref.: FENS Abstr., vol.4, 192.24, 2008

Authors Wagner U., N'Diaye K., Ethofer T. & Vuilleumier P.
Address Univ. of Geneva, Lab. Behav. Neurol. & Imag. Cognit., Geneva, Switzerland
Title Specifying the neural correlates of self-conscious emotions by functional magnetic resonance imaging.
Text Within the relatively new research field of “affective neuroscience” much progress has been achieved in understanding the neural bases of fundamental emotions like sadness, fear and disgust, but little research has been devoted so far to the more complex “self-conscious” emotions like guilt, shame, and pride. These emotions typically occur in interpersonal contexts and constitute important psychological factors guiding social and moral behaviour.
Here, we use an autobiographical memory paradigm to investigate the specific neural networks associated with guilt, shame and pride by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in comparison with basic emotions. In a pre-scanning questionnaire, subjects defined situations from their personal life that were associated with strong personal feelings of guilt, shame, pride (self-conscious emotions), sadness (negative basic emotion), happiness (positive basic emotion), as well as neutral situations. For each situation, subjects provided general context information (place, time, other persons present) and four specific keywords. These were later used as reminder cues in the scanner, where subjects were asked to reinstate the personal situations and the associated feelings in their mind as vividly as possible (block design: 4 blocks of 20s mental imagery for each emotion condition).
This is the first neuroimaging study that directly compares the neural correlates of negative (guilt, shame) and positive (pride) self-conscious emotions with each other and with those of basic negative and positive emotions. Preliminary results point to distinct patterns of brain activation associated with the different self-conscious emotions specifically within the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This is consistent with consequences of PFC damage that frequently leads to signs of psychopathic behaviour, suggesting a role for disturbed emotional processing in relation to self-conscious emotions in these pathological conditions.
Theme F - Cognition and behavior
Human cognition and behavior / Social cognition

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