Investigating the Neural Correlates of Emotion–Cognition Interaction Using an Affective Stroop Task Raschle, Nora M.
Fehlbaum, Lynn V.
Menks, Willeke M.
Investigating the Neural Correlates of Emotion–Cognition Interaction Using an Affective Stroop Task
The human brain has the capacity to integrate various sources of information and continuously adapts our behavior according to situational needs in order to allow a healthy functioning. Emotion–cognition interactions are a key example for such integrative processing. However, the neuronal correlates investigating the effects of emotion on cognition remain to be explored and replication studies are needed. Previous neuroimaging studies have indicated an involvement of emotion and cognition related brain structures including parietal and prefrontal cortices and limbic brain regions. Here, we employed whole brain event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during an affective number Stroop task and aimed at replicating previous findings using an adaptation of an existing task design in 30 healthy young adults. The Stroop task is an indicator of cognitive control and enables the quantification of interference in relation to variations in cognitive load. By the use of emotional primes (negative/neutral) prior to Stroop task performance, an emotional variation is added as well. Behavioral in-scanner data showed that negative primes delayed and disrupted cognitive processing. Trials with high cognitive demand furthermore negatively influenced cognitive control mechanisms. Neuronally, the emotional primes consistently activated emotion-related brain regions (e.g., amygdala, insula, and prefrontal brain regions) while Stroop task performance lead to activations in cognition networks of the brain (prefrontal cortices, superior temporal lobe, and insula). When assessing the effect of emotion on cognition, increased cognitive demand led to decreases in neural activation in response to emotional stimuli (negative > neutral) within prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and insular cortex. Overall, these results suggest that emotional primes significantly impact cognitive performance and increasing cognitive demand leads to reduced neuronal activation in emotion related brain regions, and therefore support previous findings investigating emotion–cognition interaction in healthy adults. Moreover, emotion and cognition seem to be tightly related to each other, as indicated by shared neural networks involved in both of these processes. Emotion processing, cognitive control, and their interaction are crucial for healthy functioning and a lack thereof is related to psychiatric disorders such as, disruptive behavior disorders. Future studies may investigate the neural characteristics of children and adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders.
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