The experience of embarrassment provides a highly salient cue for the human moral apparatus. Interestingly, people also experience embarrassment on behalf of others' inappropriate conditions. The perceiver's embarrassment often lacks an equivalent expression of embarrassment in the social counterpart. The present study examines this phenomenon and distinguishes neural circuits involved in embarrassment with and embarrassment for another person's mishaps. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we show that the embarrassment on behalf of others engages the temporal pole and the medial prefrontal cortex, central structures of the mentalizing network, together with the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex. In contrast, sharing others' embarrassment additionally stimulated the posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS), which exhibited increased functional integration with inferior parietal and insular cortex areas. These findings characterize common neural circuits involved in the embodied representation of embarrassment and further unravel the unique role of the posterior STS in sharing others' affective state.
Rapid eye movement (REM) dreaming results in "emotionally intelligent encoding," according to the target article. Building on this, we argue that elaborative encoding alters emotional processing of upcoming events and thereby functions as prospective emotion regulation. After elaborative encoding, future events are appraised differently and result in a redirected emotional response. Disturbed elaborative encoding might be relevant for emotional dysregulation in psychopathology.
Openness plays an important role in determining what kind of experiences individuals seek out not only in their personal lives, but also in work environments. The objectives of this study were (a) to examine the influence of openness and its facets on the decision to work abroad and (b) to study whether employees openness relates to cross-cultural adjustment as well as job and life satisfaction. We investigated these questions among a sample of 2,096 expatriates. In addition to self-reports of openness and cross-cultural adjustment, ratings of subjects adjustment were also obtained from 928 knowledgeable others. The openness facets of actions, ideas, and values appear to be good predictors of acceptance of international assignments. In addition, global Openness and its facets Openness to actions and feelings relate to self- and other ratings of cross-cultural adjustment.
Second-person neuroscience offers a framework for the study of social emotions, such as embarrassment and pride. However, we propose that an enduring mental representation of oneself in relation to others without a continuous direct social interaction is possible. We call this state "social immersion" and will explain its impact on the neuroscience of social emotions.
The penetrance of genetic variation has been assumed to be higher at the level of neural phenotypes than at the level of behavioral phenotypes. One of the few attempts to validate this assumption is the study of Rose and Donohoe published in this issue. In this article, we will address 2 methodological issues we believe have to be considered for a better understanding of the present results. We briefly discuss potential solutions that might also help improve future meta-analyses of effect sizes in neuroimaging data.
The affective responses to another persons condition depend on the ability to reflect about anothers thoughts and intentions. This is relevant also for high-functioning individuals with ASD who have considerable difficulties in reading the intentions of others. With the present study we introduce a novel paradigm to induce vicarious embarrassment as a form of social pain. We predicted that the vicarious embarrassment experiences of high-functioning individuals with ASD should specifically decline in social contexts that require reflecting on anothers intentions. Thirty-two young adults with high-functioning ASD were matched with regards to age, gender, and verbal IQ to a control group. Vicarious embarrassment was examined with previously validated stimuli describing 30 situations that elicit vicarious embarrassment in the observer. The situations manipulated whether the displayed protagonist either accidentally or intentionally transgressed a social norm in public and participants rated their vicarious embarrassment from the observers perspective. The ASD group showed comparable vicarious embarrassment experience in response to observing anothers accidental norm transgressions but significantly reduced vicarious embarrassment when observing another who intentionally violated socials norms. Vicarious embarrassment was significantly correlated with trait empathy in the ASD group. In complex social scenarios individuals with ASD are impaired in reporting experience of vicarious embarrassment, primarily when it is required to reflect on anothers intentions. The present study thus contributes to a better understanding of how persons with ASD are affected in the diversity of empathic processes in the social, everyday life environment they are embedded in.
The mechanisms underlying hemispheric specialization of memory are not completely understood. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can be used to develop and test models of hemispheric specialization. In particular for memory tasks however, the interpretation of fMRI results is often hampered by the low reliability of the data. In the present study we therefore analyzed the test-retest reliability of fMRI brain activation related to an implicit memory encoding task, with a particular focus on brain activity of the medial temporal lobe (MTL). Fifteen healthy subjects were scanned with fMRI on two sessions (average retest interval 35?days) using a commonly applied novelty encoding paradigm contrasting known and unknown stimuli. To assess brain lateralization, we used three different stimuli classes that differed in their verbalizability (words, scenes, fractals). Test-retest reliability of fMRI brain activation was assessed by an intraclass-correlation coefficient (ICC), describing the stability of inter-individual differences in the brain activation magnitude over time. We found as expected a left-lateralized brain activation network for the words paradigm, a bilateral network for the scenes paradigm, and predominantly right-hemispheric brain activation for the fractals paradigm. Although these networks were consistently activated in both sessions on the group level, across-subject reliabilities were only poor to fair (ICCs???0.45). Overall, the highest ICC values were obtained for the scenes paradigm, but only in strongly activated brain regions. In particular the reliability of brain activity of the MTL was poor for all paradigms. In conclusion, for novelty encoding paradigms the interpretation of fMRI results on a single subject level is hampered by its low reliability. More studies are needed to optimize the retest reliability of fMRI activation for memory tasks.
In the introduction to the special issue "The Neural Underpinnings of Vicarious Experience" the editors state that one "may feel embarrassed when witnessing another making a social faux pas". In our commentary we address this statement and ask whether this example introduces a vicarious or an empathic form of embarrassment. We elaborate commonalities and differences between these two forms of emotional experiences and discuss their underlying mechanisms. We suggest that both, vicarious and empathic emotions, originate from the simulation processes mirroring and mentalizing that depend on anchoring and adjustment. We claim the term "empathic emotion" to be reserved exclusively for incidents where perceivers and social targets have shared affective experience, whereas "vicarious emotion" offers a wider scope and also includes non-shared affective experiences. Both are supposed to be highly functional in social interactions.
The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) has been implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Administered to healthy individuals, a subanesthetic dose of the noncompetitive NMDAR antagonist ketamine reproduces several psychopathological symptoms commonly observed in patients with schizophrenia. In a counterbalanced, placebo-controlled, double-blind, within-participants study, fifteen healthy subjects were administered a continuous subanesthetic S-ketamine infusion while cortical activation was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. While being scanned, subjects performed an overt word generation task. Ketamine-induced psychopathological symptoms were assessed with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). Ketamine administration elicited effects on psychopathology, including difficulties in abstract thinking, lack of spontaneity and flow of conversation as well as formal thought disorder. On a behavioral level, verbal fluency performance was unaffected. The PANSS score for formal thought disorder positively correlated with activation measures encompassing the left superior temporal gyrus, the right middle and inferior frontal gyrus and the precuneus. Difficulty in abstract thinking was correlated with pronounced activations in prefrontal as well as in anterior cingulate regions, whereas hyperactivations in the left superior temporal gyrus were found in association with a lack of spontaneity and flow of conversation. In the absence of behavioral impairments during verbal fluency, NMDAR blocking evoked psychopathological symptoms and cortical activations in regions previously reported in schizophrenia patients. The results provide further support for the hypothesis of an NMDAR dysfunction in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can be combined with genotype assessment to identify brain systems that mediate genetic vulnerability to mental disorders ("imaging genetics"). A data analysis approach that is widely applied is "functional connectivity". In this approach, the temporal correlation between the fMRI signal from a pre-defined brain region (the so-called "seed point") and other brain voxels is determined. In this technical note, we show how the choice of freely selectable data analysis parameters strongly influences the assessment of the genetic modulation of connectivity features. In our data analysis we exemplarily focus on three methodological parameters: (i) seed voxel selection, (ii) noise reduction algorithms, and (iii) use of additional second level covariates. Our results show that even small variations in the implementation of a functional connectivity analysis can have an impact on the connectivity pattern that is as strong as the potential modulation by genetic allele variants. Some effects of genetic variation can only be found for one specific implementation of the connectivity analysis. A reoccurring difficulty in the field of psychiatric genetics is the non-replication of initially promising findings, partly caused by the small effects of single genes. The replication of imaging genetic results is therefore crucial for the long-term assessment of genetic effects on neural connectivity parameters. For a meaningful comparison of imaging genetics studies however, it is therefore necessary to provide more details on specific methodological parameters (e.g., seed voxel distribution) and to give information how robust effects are across the choice of methodological parameters.
Genome-wide association studies identified the single nucleotide polymorphism rs1344706 in ZNF804A as a common risk-variant for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Whereas the molecular function of ZNF804A is yet unclear, recent imaging genetics studies have started to characterize the neural systems architecture linking rs1344706 genotype to psychosis. Carring rs1344706 risk-alleles was associated with a decrease in functional connectivity within the dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (DLPFCs) as well as an increase in connectivity between the DLPFC and the hippocampal formation (HF) in the context of a working memory task. The present study aimed at replicating these findings in an independent sample of 94 healthy subjects. Subjects were genotyped for rs1344706 and performed a working memory task during functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results indicate no support for a decrease of functional coupling between the bilateral DLPFCs at higher ZNF804A risk status. However, the current data show the previously described alteration in functional coupling between the right DLPFC and the HFs, albeit with weaker effects. Decoupled by default, the functional connectivity between the right DLPFC and anterior HFs increased with the number of rs1344706 risk alleles. The present data support fronto-hippocampal dysconnectivity as intermediate phenotype linking rs1344706 genotype to psychosis. We discuss the issues in replicating the interhemispheric DLPFC coupling in light of the effect sizes rs1344706 genotype has on brain function, concluding that further independent replication studies are fundamentally needed to ascertain the role of rs1344706 in the functional integration of neural systems.
People vicariously experience embarrassment when observing others public pratfalls or etiquette violations. In two consecutive studies we investigated the subjective experience and the neural correlates of vicarious embarrassment for others in a broad range of situations. We demonstrated, first, that vicarious embarrassment was experienced regardless of whether the observed protagonist acted accidentally or intentionally and was aware or unaware that he/she was in an embarrassing situation. Second, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we showed that the anterior cingulate cortex and the left anterior insula, two cortical structures typically involved in vicarious feelings of others pain, are also strongly implicated in experiencing the social pain for others flaws and pratfalls. This holds true even for situations that engage protagonists not aware of their current predicament. Importantly, the activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and the left anterior insula positively correlated with individual differences in trait empathy. The present findings establish the empathic process as a fundamental prerequisite for vicarious embarrassment experiences, thus connecting affect and cognition to interpersonal processes."When we are living with people who have a delicate sense of propriety, we are in misery on their account when anything unbecoming is committed. So I always feel for and with Charlotte when a person is tipping his chair. She cannot endure it." [Elective Affinities, J. W. Goethe].
The objective of this short review is to highlight rewarding aspects of social interactions for humans and discuss their neural basis. Thereby we report recent research findings to illustrate how social stimuli in general are processed in the reward system and highlight the role of Theory of Mind as one mediating process for experiencing social reward during social interactions. In conclusion we discuss clinical implications for psychiatry and psychotherapy.
Polymorphisms in the G72 (also named d-amino acid oxidase activator, DAOA) gene increase the vulnerability for schizophrenia and affective psychosis. Three recent genetic neuroimaging studies showed that variation in G72 influences the brain activity in the medial temporal lobe (MTL), supporting the hypothesis that G72 might play a modulatory role on brain activity in MTL structures. In the present study we therefore investigated the effect of G72 on the neural correlates of long-term memory encoding and retrieval in a large sample of healthy subjects (n=83) using functional magnetic resonance imaging. A face encoding and a face retrieval memory task were chosen because on the one hand they specifically activate MTL structures and on the other hand they tap into memory processes that are compromised in patients with schizophrenia and affective disorder. Despite a strong a-priori hypothesis of genotype group activation differences in the MTL along with a large sample size we did neither find an effect of G72 genotype status on brain activity in the MTL nor in any other brain regions. The present data therefore do not support the view of a general modulatory role of G72 on MTL brain activity, at least not in the domain of long-term memory encoding and retrieval. Our results highlight the importance of replication studies in genetic neuroimaging.
Psychobiological accounts of face processing predict that greater salience is attributed to faces matching a viewers sexual preference than to faces that do not. However, behaviorally, this effect could only be demonstrated in tasks assessing reward wanting (e.g. work-per-view-tasks) but not in tasks assessing liking (e.g. facial attractiveness ratings), and has been found to be more pronounced in heterosexual men than women, especially with regard to very attractive faces. Here, we addressed the question if sex differences at the level of wanting persist if participants are uninformed about the attractiveness of an anticipated male or female face. Seventeen heterosexual men and 13 heterosexual women (all single) participated in a social incentive delay task (SID). Participants were required to react on simple graphical cues in order to view a smiling face. Cues provided a priori information on the level of smile intensity (low/medium/high) as well as sex of the face (male/ female). A significant interaction of sex-of-face and sex-of-participant was observed in a priori defined regions of interest in the brain reward system (including ventral tegmental area, nucleus accumbens and ventromedial prefrontal cortex), reflecting enhanced activation to cues signaling opposite-sex faces relative to same-sex faces in both, men and women. Women additionally recruited the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) during processing of opposite- vs. same-sex cues, suggesting stronger incorporation of social cognition processes in women than men. The findings speak against a general male bias for opposite-sex faces. Instead they provide preliminary evidence that men and women recruit different brain circuits during reward value assessment of facial stimuli.
We studied the somatovisceral response pattern of vicarious embarrassment for someone elses inappropriate condition. Participants (N=54) were confronted with hand-drawn sketches depicting public situations and were instructed to rate the intensity of their vicarious embarrassment. The inappropriate condition varied according to the attribution of intentionality (absent/present) and awareness (absent/present). Irrespective of these attributions, participants reported stronger vicarious embarrassment in comparison to neutral situations. Across a set of eleven somatovisceral variables vicarious embarrassment elicited a pattern of increased autonomic activation which was modulated by the awareness of the protagonist about the ongoing norm violation. The somatovisceral response pattern matches previous findings for the first-person experience of embarrassment. Together, these results support the hypothesis that processes of perspective taking also mediate the vicarious experience of embarrassment.
Crossed language dominance is a rare form of language lateralization, characterized by a dissociation of anterior and posterior language regions. We present the case of a healthy subject whose language lateralization pattern, as assessed by functional magnetic resonance imaging, is reliably characterized as crossed language dominance based on a word generation task, but typical left-lateralized when a semantic decision task is applied. A single language task is therefore not sufficient to characterize language lateralization, at least not for subjects with rare forms of language dominance. In the pre-surgical diagnostic of language lateralization, several language tasks tapping into different aspects of language functions should be applied.
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