Source: Neuroscience News

The effect of emotions on the brain is still a bit of a mystery. In the past two decades, research has brought scientists to the point of understanding the perception of an emotional stimulus. But a lot is still unknown, like how we are able to regulate our emotions, and the effects of poorly managed emotions on our brain.

In a bid to gain more clarity on interplay between emotions and cerebral activity, neuroscientists at the University of Geneva conducted a study to observe brain activity of adults when confronted with the psychological sufferings of others. Professor Patrik Vuilleumier, a co-director of the study mentioned, “Our aim was to determine wat cerebral trace remains after the viewing of emotional scenes in order to evaluate the brain’s reaction, and above all its recovery mechanisms.” The study focused on older adults, so as to highlight the differences between pathological and normal ageing

Videos of people in a state of emotional suffering, as well as videos portraying neutral emotion were first shown to group of 27 people over 65 years old and a group of 29 people around age 25. Their brain activities were observed during the viewing with a functional MRI and then compared. This was then repeated with 127 older adults.

It was noticed that the default mode network, a brain network that is activated in resting state is frequently disrupted by negative emotions such as depression and anxiety, and this was more pronounced among those in the older group. In older adults, the posterior cingulate cortex, which is a part of the default mode network showed increased connection with the amygdala, which functions in the processing of emotion.

Changes in the connectivity between the posterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala could be an indication of deviation from normal ageing and these changes are prominent in persons who express more negative emotions. The posterior cingulate cortex is greatly affected by dementia, suggesting that these negative emotions could increase the risk of neurodegeneration.

Since increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases is seen with frequent disturbances in the default mode network, could the solution be by acting on the mechanism* of emotional inertia? An interventional study is being conducted by the research team to evaluate the effect of mediation as a possible solution.


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