Research & Scholarship
Intensity of affective experience is modulated by magnitude of intracranial electrical stimulation in human orbitofrontal, cingulate, and insular cortex.
Social cognitive and affective neuroscience
The subjective and behavioral effects of intracranial electrical stimulation (iES) have been studied for decades, but there is a knowledge gap regarding the relationship between the magnitude of electric current and the type, intensity, and valence of evoked subjective experiences. We report on rare iES data from 18 neurosurgical patients with implanted intracranial electrodes in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the insula (INS), and the anterior portion of cingulate cortex (ACC). ACC stimulation elicited somatic and visceral sensations, whereas OFC stimulation predominantly elicited olfactory and gustatory responses, and INS stimulation elicited a mix of effects involving somatic and visceral sensations, olfaction, and gustation. Further, we found striking evidence that the magnitude of electric current delivered intracranially correlated positively with the perceived intensity of subjective experience and the evoked emotional state, a relationship observed across all three regions. Finally, we observed that the majority of reported experiences were negatively-valenced and unpleasant, especially those elicited by ACC stimulation. The present study provides novel case studies from the human brain confirming that these structures contribute causally to the creation of affective states, and demonstrates a direct relationship between the magnitude of electrical stimulation of these structures and the qualia of elicited subjective experience.
View details for PubMedID 30843590
Changes in subjective experience elicited by direct stimulation of the human orbitofrontal cortex.
OBJECTIVE: We applied direct cortical stimulation (DCS) to the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in neurosurgical patients implanted with intracranial electrodes to probe, with high anatomic precision, the causal link between the OFC and human subjective experience.METHODS: We administered 272 instances of DCS at 172 OFC sites in 22 patients with intractable focal epilepsy (from 2011 to 2017), none of whom had seizures originating from the OFC.RESULTS: Our observations revealed a rich variety of affective, olfactory, gustatory, and somatosensory changes in the subjective domain. Elicited experiences were largely neutral or negatively valenced (e.g., aversive smells and tastes, sadness, and anger). Evidence was found for preferential left lateralization of negatively valenced experiences and strong right lateralization of neutral effects. Moreover, most of the elicited effects were observed after stimulation of OFC tissue around the transverse orbital sulcus, and none were seen in the most anterior aspects of the OFC.CONCLUSIONS: Our study yielded 3 central findings: first, a dissociation between the "silent" anterior and nonsilent middle/posterior OFC where stimulation clearly elicits changes in subjective experience; second, evidence that the OFC might play a causal role in integrating affect and multimodal sensory experiences; and third, clear evidence for left lateralization of negatively valenced effects. Our findings provide important information for clinicians treating OFC injury or planning OFC resection and scientists seeking to understand the brain basis for the integration of sensation, cognition, and affect.
View details for PubMedID 30232252
Affective neuroscience of self-generated thought.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Despite increasing scientific interest in self-generated thought-mental content largely independent of the immediate environment-there has yet to be any comprehensive synthesis of the subjective experience and neural correlates of affect in these forms of thinking. Here, we aim to develop an integrated affective neuroscience encompassing many forms of self-generated thought-normal and pathological, moderate and excessive, in waking and in sleep. In synthesizing existing literature on this topic, we reveal consistent findings pertaining to the prevalence, valence, and variability of emotion in self-generated thought, and highlight how these factors might interact with self-generated thought to influence general well-being. We integrate these psychological findings with recent neuroimaging research, bringing attention to the neural correlates of affect in self-generated thought. We show that affect in self-generated thought is prevalent, positively biased, highly variable (both within and across individuals), and consistently recruits many brain areas implicated in emotional processing, including the orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and medial prefrontal cortex. Many factors modulate these typical psychological and neural patterns, however; the emerging affective neuroscience of self-generated thought must endeavor to link brain function and subjective experience in both everyday self-generated thought as well as its dysfunctions in mental illness.
View details for PubMedID 29754412
Intracranial Electrophysiology of the Human Default Network
TRENDS IN COGNITIVE SCIENCES
2018; 22 (4): 307–24
The human default network (DN) plays a critical role in internally directed cognition, behavior, and neuropsychiatric disease. Despite much progress with functional neuroimaging, persistent questions still linger concerning the electrophysiological underpinnings, fast temporal dynamics, and causal importance of the DN. Here, we review how direct intracranial recording and stimulation of the DN provides a unique combination of high spatiotemporal resolution and causal information that speaks directly to many of these outstanding questions. Our synthesis highlights the electrophysiological basis of activation, suppression, and connectivity of the DN, each key areas of debate in the literature. Integrating these unique electrophysiological data with extant neuroimaging findings will help lay the foundation for a mechanistic account of DN function in human behavior and cognition.
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The social and cultural roots of whale and dolphin brains
NATURE ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION
2017; 1 (11): 1699–1705
Encephalization, or brain expansion, underpins humans' sophisticated social cognition, including language, joint attention, shared goals, teaching, consensus decision-making and empathy. These abilities promote and stabilize cooperative social interactions, and have allowed us to create a 'cognitive' or 'cultural' niche and colonize almost every terrestrial ecosystem. Cetaceans (whales and dolphins) also have exceptionally large and anatomically sophisticated brains. Here, by evaluating a comprehensive database of brain size, social structures and cultural behaviours across cetacean species, we ask whether cetacean brains are similarly associated with a marine cultural niche. We show that cetacean encephalization is predicted by both social structure and by a quadratic relationship with group size. Moreover, brain size predicts the breadth of social and cultural behaviours, as well as ecological factors (diversity of prey types and to a lesser extent latitudinal range). The apparent coevolution of brains, social structure and behavioural richness of marine mammals provides a unique and striking parallel to the large brains and hyper-sociality of humans and other primates. Our results suggest that cetacean social cognition might similarly have arisen to provide the capacity to learn and use a diverse set of behavioural strategies in response to the challenges of social living.
View details for PubMedID 29038481
Mind-Wandering as a Scientific Concept: Cutting through the Definitional Haze
TRENDS IN COGNITIVE SCIENCES
2018; 22 (11): 957–59
View details for PubMedID 30220476
Reiterated Concerns and Further Challenges for Mindfulness and Meditation Research: A Reply to Davidson and Dahl
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE
2018; 13 (1): 66–69
In response to our article, Davidson and Dahl offer commentary and advice regarding additional topics crucial to a comprehensive prescriptive agenda for future research on mindfulness and meditation. Their commentary raises further challenges and provides an important complement to our article. More consideration of these issues is especially welcome because limited space precluded us from addressing all relevant topics. While we agree with many of Davidson and Dahl's suggestions, the present reply (a) highlights reasons why the concerns we expressed are still especially germane to mindfulness and meditation research (even though those concerns may not be entirely unique) and (b) gives more context to other issues posed by them. We discuss special characteristics of individuals who participate in mindfulness and meditation research and focus on the vulnerability of this field inherent in its relative youthfulness compared to other more mature scientific disciplines. Moreover, our reply highlights the serious consequences of adverse experiences suffered by a significant subset of individuals during mindfulness and other contemplative practices. We also scrutinize common contemporary applications of mindfulness and meditation to illness, and some caveats are introduced regarding mobile technologies for guidance of contemplative practices.
View details for PubMedID 29016240
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Mind the Hype: A Critical Evaluation and Prescriptive Agenda for Research on Mindfulness and Meditation
PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE
2018; 13 (1): 36–61
During the past two decades, mindfulness meditation has gone from being a fringe topic of scientific investigation to being an occasional replacement for psychotherapy, tool of corporate well-being, widely implemented educational practice, and "key to building more resilient soldiers." Yet the mindfulness movement and empirical evidence supporting it have not gone without criticism. Misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead public consumers to be harmed, misled, and disappointed. Addressing such concerns, the present article discusses the difficulties of defining mindfulness, delineates the proper scope of research into mindfulness practices, and explicates crucial methodological issues for interpreting results from investigations of mindfulness. For doing so, the authors draw on their diverse areas of expertise to review the present state of mindfulness research, comprehensively summarizing what we do and do not know, while providing a prescriptive agenda for contemplative science, with a particular focus on assessment, mindfulness training, possible adverse effects, and intersection with brain imaging. Our goals are to inform interested scientists, the news media, and the public, to minimize harm, curb poor research practices, and staunch the flow of misinformation about the benefits, costs, and future prospects of mindfulness meditation.
View details for PubMedID 29016274
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