Articles on brain activity, fear, love

Here are some interesting articles on brain activity and empathy.  It does not take a lot of imagination to  see how these findings could help to usher live EEG imaging into the world of psychology and psychotherapy.  The second one is interesting, particularly if the idea of shocking your spouse appeals to you…

Light, S. N., Coan, J. A., Zahn-Waxler, C., Frye, C., Goldsmith, H., & Davidson, R. J. (2009). Empathy Is Associated With Dynamic Change in Prefrontal Brain Electrical Activity During Positive Emotion in Children. Child Development, 80(4), 1210-1231. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01326.x


Coan, J. A., Schaefer, H. S., & Davidson, R. J. (2006). Lending a Hand: Social Regulation of the Neural Response to Threat. Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell), 17(12), 1032-1039. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01832.x


Brain centers light up depending on feelings of love and attachment.  New ideas for couples counseling?

Aron, A., Fisher, H., Mashek, D.J., Strong, G., & Brown, L.L. (2005). Reward, motivation, and emotion systems associated with early-stage intense romantic love. J. Neurophys. 94(1): 327-37.

Early-stage romantic love can induce euphoria, is a cross-cultural phenomenon, and is possibly a developed form of a mammalian drive to pursue preferred mates. It has an important influence on social behaviors that have reproductive and genetic consequences. To determine which reward and motivation systems may be involved, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and studied 10 women and 7 men who were intensely “in love” from 1 to 17 mo. Participants alternately viewed a photograph of their beloved and a photograph of a familiar individual, interspersed with a distraction-attention task. Group activation specific to the beloved under the two control conditions occurred in dopamine-rich areas associated with mammalian reward and motivation, namely the right ventral tegmental area and the right postero-dorsal body and medial caudate nucleus. Activation in the left ventral tegmental area was correlated with facial attractiveness scores. Activation in the right anteromedial caudate was correlated with questionnaire scores that quantified intensity of romantic passion. In the left insula-putamen-globus pallidus, activation correlated with trait affect intensity. The results suggest that romantic love uses subcortical reward and motivation systems to focus on a specific individual, that limbic cortical regions process individual emotion factors, and that there is localization heterogeneity for reward functions in the human brain.

Ethan Kross, Marc G. Berman, Walter Mischel, Edward E. Smith, and Tor D. Wager

Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain

PNAS 2011 ; published ahead of print March 28, 2011, doi:10.1073/pnas.1102693108

How similar are the experiences of social rejection and physical pain? Extant research suggests that a network of brain regions that support the affective but not the sensory components of physical pain underlie both experiences. Here we demonstrate that when rejection is powerfully elicited experienced an unwanted break-up view a photograph of their ex-partner as they think about being rejected the sensory components of physical pain (secondary somatosensory cortex; dorsal posterior insula) become active. We demonstrate the overlap between social rejection and physical pain in these areas by comparing both conditions in the same individuals using functional MRI. We further demonstrate the specithe secondary somatosensory cortex and dorsal posterior insula activity to physical pain by comparing activated locations in our study with a database of over 500 published studies. Activation in these regions was highly diagnostic of physical pain, with positive predictive values up to 88%. These results give new meaning to the idea that rejection and physical pain are similar not only in that they are both distressing as well.—by having people who recently—areas that support ficity of“hurts.” They demonstrate that rejection—they share a common somatosensory representation