Limbic Activation and Psychophysiologic Responses to Aversive Visual Stimuli: Interaction with Cognitive Task
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We mapped regional brain activity and peripheral psychophysiologic responses, occurring in response to evocative emotional stimuli, and examined whether task instructions could modulate limbic activation. Ten subjects viewed pictures with neutral or aversive emotional content during simultaneous measurement of peripheral psychophysiology and brain activity with [15O]water positron emission tomography (PET). Cognitive task was manipulated by having the subjects rate the pictures or perform a recognition memory task. Aversive pictures, relative to neutral pictures, increased cerebral activity in bilateral amygdala, thalamic/hypothalamic area, midbrain, and left lateral prefrontal cortex, along with greater skin conductance responses (SCR). Voxel-by-voxel correlation coefficients between regional brain activity and SCR showed significant positive correlation peaks in the thalamus and right amygdala. Limbic activation was significantly greater during the rating condition compared to the recognition condition, suggesting that when task demands modify emotional responses, this modulation can occur at the level of limbic activity.
author list (cited authors)
Liberzon, I., Taylor, S. F., Fig, L. M., Decker, L. R., Koeppe, R. A., & Minoshima, S.