Bio

Honors & Awards


  • CHRI fellowship award, CHRI at Stanford University (2012.11 - 2014.11)
  • RUBICON fellowship award, Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) (2010.11 - 2012.11)
  • Travel award, Human Brain Mapping Orgonization (2010.7)
  • Academic excellence award, Chinese Government Award for Outstanding PhD Students Abroad (2009 - 2010)
  • Summer school award, International Research and Training Group NWO-DFG (2007.6)
  • Travel award, Radboud University Nijmegen to visit SFN (2006.11 - 2009.11)
  • Scholarship for Master Internship, The Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and Arts in collaboration with Chinese Academy of Sciences (2005.4 - 2006.10)

Professional Education


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Cognitive Neuroscience (2010)

Stanford Advisors


Research & Scholarship

Current Research and Scholarly Interests


I am interested in typical and atypical neurodevelopment of human learning and memory, and interaction with stress and emotion. Using a multi-disciplinary approach (integrating cognitive neuroimaging, psychophysiology and genetics), I investigate into how the brain, particularly the medial temporal and prefrontal networks, support learning and memory? How are these memory-related brain systems modulated by emotion and stress? How do these systems operate in individuals with mental disorders?

Publications

Journal Articles


  • Amygdala subregional structure and intrinsic functional connectivity predict individual differences in anxiety during early childhood BIOLOGICAL PSYCHIATRY Qin, S., Young, C. B., Duan, X., Chen, T., Supekar, K., Menon, V. 2013; In press
  • Immature integration and segregation of emotion-related brain circuitry in young children PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Qin, S., Young, C. B., Supekar, K., Uddin, L. Q., Menon, V. 2012; 109 (20): 7941-7946

    Abstract

    The human brain undergoes protracted development, with dramatic changes in expression and regulation of emotion from childhood to adulthood. The amygdala is a brain structure that plays a pivotal role in emotion-related functions. Investigating developmental characteristics of the amygdala and associated functional circuits in children is important for understanding how emotion processing matures in the developing brain. The basolateral amygdala (BLA) and centromedial amygdala (CMA) are two major amygdalar nuclei that contribute to distinct functions via their unique pattern of interactions with cortical and subcortical regions. Almost nothing is currently known about the maturation of functional circuits associated with these amygdala nuclei in the developing brain. Using intrinsic connectivity analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging data, we investigated developmental changes in functional connectivity of the BLA and CMA in twenty-four 7- to 9-y-old typically developing children compared with twenty-four 19- to 22-y-old healthy adults. Children showed significantly weaker intrinsic functional connectivity of the amygdala with subcortical, paralimbic, and limbic structures, polymodal association, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Importantly, target networks associated with the BLA and CMA exhibited greater overlap and weaker dissociation in children. In line with this finding, children showed greater intraamygdala connectivity between the BLA and CMA. Critically, these developmental differences were reproducibly identified in a second independent cohort of adults and children. Taken together, our findings point toward weak integration and segregation of amygdala circuits in young children. These immature patterns of amygdala connectivity have important implications for understanding typical and atypical development of emotion-related brain circuitry.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1120408109

    View details for Web of Science ID 000304369800076

    View details for PubMedID 22547826

  • Understanding Low Reliability of Memories for Neutral Information Encoded under Stress: Alterations in Memory-Related Activation in the Hippocampus and Midbrain JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE Qin, S., Hermans, E. J., van Marle, H. J., Fernandez, G. 2012; 32 (12): 4032-4041

    Abstract

    Exposure to an acute stressor can lead to unreliable remembrance of intrinsically neutral information, as exemplified by low reliability of eyewitness memories, which stands in contrast with enhanced memory for the stressful incident itself. Stress-sensitive neuromodulators (e.g., catecholamines) are believed to cause this low reliability by altering neurocognitive processes underlying memory formation. Using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated neural activity during memory formation in 44 young, healthy human participants while incidentally encoding emotionally neutral, complex scenes embedded in either a stressful or neutral context. We recorded event-related pupil dilation responses as an indirect index of phasic noradrenergic activity. Autonomic, endocrine, and psychological measures were acquired to validate stress manipulation. Acute stress during encoding led to a more liberal response bias (more hits and false alarms) when testing memory for the scenes 24 h later. The strength of this bias correlated negatively with pupil dilation responses and positively with stress-induced heart rate increases at encoding. Acute stress, moreover, reduced subsequent memory effects (SMEs; items later remembered vs forgotten) in hippocampus and midbrain, and in pupil dilation responses. The diminished SMEs indicate reduced selectivity and specificity in mnemonic processing during memory formation. This is in line with a model in which stress-induced catecholaminergic hyperactivation alters phasic neuromodulatory signaling in memory-related circuits, resulting in generalized (gist-based) processing at the cost of specificity. Thus, one may speculate that loss of specificity may yield less discrete memory representations at time of encoding, thereby causing a more liberal response bias when probing these memories.

    View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3101-11.2012

    View details for Web of Science ID 000302119800008

    View details for PubMedID 22442069

  • The effect of moderate acute psychological stress on working memory-related neural activity is modulated by a genetic variation in catecholaminergic function in humans. Frontiers in integrative neuroscience Qin, S., Cousijn, H., Rijpkema, M., Luo, J., Franke, B., Hermans, E. J., Fernández, G. 2012; 6: 16-?

    Abstract

    Acute stress has an important impact on higher-order cognitive functions supported by the prefrontal cortex (PFC) such as working memory (WM). In rodents, such effects are mediated by stress-induced alterations in catecholaminergic signaling, but human data in support of this notion is lacking. A common variation in the gene encoding Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is known to affect basal catecholaminergic availability and PFC functions. Here, we investigated whether this genetic variation (Val158Met) modulates effects of stress on WM-related neural activity in humans. In a counterbalanced crossover design, 41 healthy young men underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing a numerical N-back WM task embedded in a stressful or neutral context. Moderate psychological stress was induced by a well-controlled procedure involving viewing strongly aversive (versus emotionally neutral) movie material in combination with a self-referencing instruction. Acute stress resulted in genotype-dependent effects on WM performance and WM-related activation in the dorsolateral PFC, with a relatively negative impact of stress in COMT Met-homozygotes as opposed to a relatively positive effect in Val-carriers. A parallel interaction was found for WM-related deactivation in the anterior medial temporal lobe (MTL). Our findings suggest that individuals with higher baseline catecholaminergic availability (COMT Met-homozygotes) appear to reach a supraoptimal state under moderate levels of stress. In contrast, individuals with lower baselines (Val-carriers) may reach an optimal state. Thus, our data show that effects of acute stress on higher-order cognitive functions vary depending on catecholaminergic availability at baseline, and thereby corroborate animal models of catecholaminergic signaling that propose a non-linear relationship between catecholaminergic activity and prefrontal functions.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fnint.2012.00016

    View details for PubMedID 22593737

  • Subjective Sense of Memory Strength and the Objective Amount of Information Accurately Remembered Are Related to Distinct Neural Correlates at Encoding JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE Qin, S., van Marle, H. J., Hermans, E. J., Fernandez, G. 2011; 31 (24): 8920-8927

    Abstract

    Although commonly used, the term memory strength is not well defined in humans. Besides durability, it has been conceptualized by retrieval characteristics, such as subjective confidence associated with retrieval, or objectively, by the amount of information accurately retrieved. Behaviorally, these measures are not necessarily correlated, indicating that distinct neural processes may underlie them. Thus, we aimed at disentangling neural activity at encoding associated with either a subsequent subjective sense of memory strength or with a subsequent objective amount of information remembered. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), participants were scanned while incidentally encoding a series of photographs of complex scenes. The next day, they underwent two memory tests, quantifying memory strength either subjectively (confidence on remembering the gist of a scene) or objectively (the number of details accurately remembered within a scene). Correlations between these measurements were mutually partialed out in subsequent memory analyses of fMRI data. Results revealed that activation in left ventral lateral prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal junction predicted subsequent confidence ratings. In contrast, parahippocampal and hippocampal activity predicted the number of details remembered. Our findings suggest that memory strength may reflect a functionally heterogeneous set of (at least two) phenomena. One phenomenon appears related to prefrontal and temporoparietal top-down modulations, resulting in the subjective sense of memory strength that is potentially based on gist memory. The other phenomenon is likely related to medial-temporal binding processes, determining the amount of information accurately encoded into memory. Thus, our study dissociated two distinct phenomena that are usually described as memory strength.

    View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2587-10.2011

    View details for Web of Science ID 000291642800024

    View details for PubMedID 21677175

  • Stress-Related Noradrenergic Activity Prompts Large-Scale Neural Network Reconfiguration SCIENCE (*equal contribution) Hermans, E. J., van Marle*, H. J., Ossewaarde*, L., Henckens*, M., Qin*, S., van Kesteren, M., Schoots, V., Cousijn, H., Rijpkema, M., Oostenveld, R., Fernández, G. 2011; 334 (6059): 1151-1153
  • Acute stress modulates genotype effects on amygdala processing in humans PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Cousijn, H., Rijpkema, M., Qin, S., van Marle, H. J., Franke, B., Hermans, E. J., Van Wingen, G., Fernandez, G. 2010; 107 (21): 9867-9872

    Abstract

    Probing gene-environment interactions that affect neural processing is crucial for understanding individual differences in behavior and disease vulnerability. Here, we tested whether the current environmental context, which affects the acute brain state, modulates genotype effects on brain function in humans. We manipulated the context by inducing acute psychological stress, which increases noradrenergic activity, and probed its effect on tonic activity and phasic responses in the amygdala using two MRI techniques: conventional blood oxygen level-dependent functional MRI and arterial spin labeling. We showed that only carriers of a common functional deletion in ADRA2B, the gene coding for the alpha2b-adrenoreceptor, displayed increased phasic amygdala responses under stress. Tonic activity, reflecting the perfusion of the amygdala, increased independently of genotype after stress induction. Thus, when tonic activity was heightened by stress, only deletion carriers showed increased amygdala responses. Our results demonstrate that genetic effects on brain operations can be state dependent, such that they only become apparent under specific, often environmentally controlled, conditions.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1003514107

    View details for Web of Science ID 000278054700070

    View details for PubMedID 20457919

  • From Specificity to Sensitivity: How Acute Stress Affects Amygdala Processing of Biologically Salient Stimuli BIOLOGICAL PSYCHIATRY van Marle, H. J., Hermans, E. J., Qin, S., Fernandez, G. 2009; 66 (7): 649-655

    Abstract

    A vital component of an organism's response to acute stress is a surge in vigilance that serves to optimize the detection and assessment of threats to its homeostasis. The amygdala is thought to regulate this process, but in humans, acute stress and amygdala function have up to now only been studied in isolation. Hence, we developed an integrated design using functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the immediate effects of controlled stress induction on amygdala function.In 27 healthy female participants, we studied brain responses to emotional facial stimuli, embedded in an either acutely stressful or neutral context by means of adjoining movie clips.A variety of physiological and psychological measures confirmed successful induction of moderate levels of acute stress. More importantly, this context manipulation shifted the amygdala toward higher sensitivity as well as lower specificity, that is, stress induction augmented amygdala responses to equally high levels for threat-related and positively valenced stimuli, thereby diminishing a threat-selective response pattern. Additionally, stress amplified sensory processing in early visual regions and the face responsive area of the fusiform gyrus but not in a frontal region involved in task execution.A shift of amygdala function toward heightened sensitivity with lower levels of specificity suggests a state of indiscriminate hypervigilance under stress. Although this represents initial survival value in adverse situations where the risk for false negatives in the detection of potential threats should be minimized, it might similarly play a causative role in the sequelae of traumatic events.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.05.014

    View details for Web of Science ID 000269981700005

    View details for PubMedID 19596123

  • Dissecting medial temporal lobe contributions to item and associative memory formation NEUROIMAGE Qin, S., Rijpkema, M., Tendolkar, I., Piekema, C., Hermans, E. J., Binder, M., Petersson, K. M., Luo, J., Fernandez, G. 2009; 46 (3): 874-881

    Abstract

    A fundamental and intensively discussed question is whether medial temporal lobe (MTL) processes that lead to non-associative item memories differ in their anatomical substrate from processes underlying associative memory formation. Using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging, we implemented a novel design to dissociate brain activity related to item and associative memory formation not only by subsequent memory performance and anatomy but also in time, because the two constituents of each pair to be memorized were presented sequentially with an intra-pair delay of several seconds. Furthermore, the design enabled us to reduce potential differences in memory strength between item and associative memory by increasing task difficulty in the item recognition memory test. Confidence ratings for correct item recognition for both constituents did not differ between trials in which only item memory was correct and trials in which item and associative memory were correct. Specific subsequent memory analyses for item and associative memory formation revealed brain activity that appears selectively related to item memory formation in the posterior inferior temporal, posterior parahippocampal, and perirhinal cortices. In contrast, hippocampal and inferior prefrontal activity predicted successful retrieval of newly formed inter-item associations. Our findings therefore suggest that different MTL subregions indeed play distinct roles in the formation of item memory and inter-item associative memory as expected by several dual process models of the MTL memory system.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.02.039

    View details for Web of Science ID 000265938700034

    View details for PubMedID 19281849

  • Acute Psychological Stress Reduces Working Memory-Related Activity in the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex BIOLOGICAL PSYCHIATRY Qin, S., Hermans, E. J., van Marle, H. J., Luo, J., Fernandez, G. 2009; 66 (1): 25-32

    Abstract

    Acute psychological stress impairs higher-order cognitive function such as working memory (WM). Similar impairments are seen in various psychiatric disorders that are associated with higher susceptibility to stress and with prefrontal cortical dysfunctions, suggesting that acute stress may play a potential role in such dysfunctions. However, it remains unknown whether acute stress has immediate effects on WM-related prefrontal activity.Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we investigated neural activity of 27 healthy female participants during a blocked WM task (numerical N-back) while moderate psychological stress was induced by viewing strongly aversive (vs. neutral) movie material together with a self-referencing instruction. To assess stress manipulation, autonomic and endocrine, as well as subjective, measurements were acquired throughout the experiment.Successfully induced acute stress resulted in significantly reduced WM-related activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and was accompanied by less deactivation in brain regions that are jointly referred to as the default mode network.This study demonstrates that experimentally induced acute stress in healthy volunteers results in a reduction of WM-related DLPFC activity and reallocation of neural resources away from executive function networks. These effects may be explained by supraoptimal levels of catecholamines potentially in conjunction with elevated levels of cortisol. A similar mechanism involving acute stress as a mediating factor may play an important role in higher-order cognitive deficits and hypofrontality observed in various psychiatric disorders.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.03.006

    View details for Web of Science ID 000267469900005

    View details for PubMedID 19403118

  • Probing the transformation of discontinuous associations into episodic memory: An event-related fMRI study NEUROIMAGE Qin, S., Piekema, C., Petersson, K. M., Han, B., Luo, J., Fernandez, G. 2007; 38 (1): 212-222

    Abstract

    Using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging, we identified brain regions involved in storing associations of events discontinuous in time into long-term memory. Participants were scanned while memorizing item-triplets including simultaneous and discontinuous associations. Subsequent memory tests showed that participants remembered both types of associations equally well. First, by constructing the contrast between the subsequent memory effects for discontinuous associations and simultaneous associations, we identified the left posterior parahippocampal region, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the basal ganglia, posterior midline structures, and the middle temporal gyrus as being specifically involved in transforming discontinuous associations into episodic memory. Second, we replicated that the prefrontal cortex and the medial temporal lobe (MTL) especially the hippocampus are involved in associative memory formation in general. Our findings provide evidence for distinct neural operation(s) that supports the binding and storing discontinuous associations in memory. We suggest that top-down signals from the prefrontal cortex and MTL may trigger reactivation of internal representation in posterior midline structures of the first event, thus allowing it to be associated with the second event. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex together with basal ganglia may support this encoding operation by executive and binding processes within working memory, and the posterior parahippocampal region may play a role in binding and memory formation.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.07.020

    View details for Web of Science ID 000249992900021

    View details for PubMedID 17804259

  • Estimation of resting-state functional connectivity using random subspace based partial correlation: A novel method for reducing global artifacts. NeuroImage Chen, T., Ryali, S., Qin, S., Menon, V. 2013; 82: 87-100

    Abstract

    Intrinsic functional connectivity analysis using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) has become a powerful tool for examining brain functional organization. Global artifacts such as physiological noise pose a significant problem in estimation of intrinsic functional connectivity. Here we develop and test a novel random subspace method for functional connectivity (RSMFC) that effectively removes global artifacts in rsfMRI data. RSMFC estimates the partial correlation between a seed region and each target brain voxel using multiple subsets of voxels sampled randomly across the whole brain. We evaluated RSMFC on both simulated and experimental rsfMRI data and compared its performance with standard methods that rely on global mean regression (GSReg) which are widely used to remove global artifacts. Using extensive simulations we demonstrate that RSMFC is effective in removing global artifacts in rsfMRI data. Critically, using a novel simulated dataset we demonstrate that, unlike GSReg, RSMFC does not artificially introduce anti-correlations between inherently uncorrelated networks, a result of paramount importance for reliably estimating functional connectivity. Furthermore, we show that the overall sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of RSMFC are superior to GSReg. Analysis of posterior cingulate cortex connectivity in experimental rsfMRI data from 22 healthy adults revealed strong functional connectivity in the default mode network, including more reliable identification of connectivity with left and right medial temporal lobe regions that were missed by GSReg. Notably, compared to GSReg, negative correlations with lateral fronto-parietal regions were significantly weaker in RSMFC. Our results suggest that RSMFC is an effective method for minimizing the effects of global artifacts and artificial negative correlations, while accurately recovering intrinsic functional brain networks.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.05.118

    View details for PubMedID 23747287

  • Chronic stress exposure decreases the cortisol awakening response in healthy young men STRESS-THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL ON THE BIOLOGY OF STRESS Duan, H., Yuan, Y., Zhang, L., Qin, S., Zhang, K., Buchanan, T. W., Wu, J. 2013; 16 (6): 630-637

    Abstract

    Academic examination is a major stressor for students in China. Investigation of stress-sensitive endocrine responses to major examination stress serves as a good model of naturalistic chronic psychological stress in an otherwise healthy population. The cortisol awakening response (CAR) is an endocrine marker of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis in response to stress. However, it remains unknown how chronic examination stress impacts the CAR in a young healthy population To exclude the influence of sex effects on hormone level, the CAR and psychological stress responses were assessed on two consecutive workdays in 42 male participants during their preparations for the Chinese National Postgraduate Entrance Exam (NPEE) and 21 non-exam, age-matched male comparisons. On each day, four saliva samples were collected immediately after awakening, 15 minutes, 30 minutes and 60 minutes after awakening. The waking level (S1), the increase within 30 minutes after awakening (R30), the area under the curve with respect to ground (AUCg), and the area under the curve with respect to increase (AUCi) were used to quantify the CAR. Psychological stress and anxiety were assessed by the Perceived Stress Scale and the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, respectively. Male participants in the exam group had greater perceived stress and anxiety scores relatibe to the non-exam group. Both R30 and AUCi in the exam group were significantly lower than the comparison group and this effect was most pronounced for participants with high levels of perceived stress in the exam group. Perceived stress and anxiety levels were negatively correlated with both R30 and AUCi. Chronic examination stress can lead to the decrease of CAR in healthy young men, possibly due to reduced HPA axis activity under long-term sustained stress.

    View details for DOI 10.3109/10253890.2013.840579

    View details for Web of Science ID 000325500800005

    View details for PubMedID 23992539

  • Memory-Related Hippocampal Activity Can Be Measured Robustly Using fMRI at 7 Tesla JOURNAL OF NEUROIMAGING Theysohn, N., Qin, S., Maderwald, S., Poser, B. A., Theysohn, J. M., Ladd, M. E., Norris, D. G., Gizewski, E. R., Fernandez, G., Tendolkar, I. 2013; 23 (4): 445-451

    Abstract

    High field strength functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has developed rapidly. However, it suffers from increased artifacts in brain regions such as the medial temporal lobe (MTL), challenging functional imaging of the hippocampus with the objective of high-spatial resolution, which is particularly useful for this region both from a clinical and cognitive neuroscience perspective. We set out to compare a BOLD sequence at 7 T versus 3 T to visualize the MTL activity during an associative memory-encoding task. Twenty-eight healthy volunteers underwent a blocked-design fMRI at either 3 T or 7 T while performing a face-profession associative memory encoding task. Qualitative analyses of overall image quality revealed that functional images at 7 T were of high quality, showing a good white/gray matter contrast, with reasonably acceptable signal dropouts and artifacts at the lower portion of the temporal lobe. Analyses of task-related fMRI data revealed robust activations in the bilateral MTL during associative memory encoding at both field strengths. Notably, we observed significantly stronger memory-related hippocampal activation at 7 T than at 3 T, suggesting higher BOLD sensitivity at 7 T. These results are discussed in the light of the feasibility of 7 T scanning protocols for the MTL.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/jon.12036

    View details for Web of Science ID 000328277200001

    View details for PubMedID 23751153

  • The effect of exogenous cortisol during sleep on the behavioral and neural correlates of emotional memory consolidation in humans PSYCHONEUROENDOCRINOLOGY van Marle, H. J., Hermans, E. J., Qin, S., Overeem, S., Fernandez, G. 2013; 38 (9): 1639-1649

    Abstract

    A host of animal work demonstrates that the retention benefit for emotionally aversive over neutral memories is regulated by glucocorticoid action during memory consolidation. Particularly, glucocorticoids may affect systems-level processes that promote the gradual reorganization of emotional memory traces. These effects remain largely uninvestigated in humans. Therefore, in this functional magnetic resonance imaging study we administered hydrocortisone during a polysomnographically monitored night of sleep directly after healthy volunteers studied negative and neutral pictures in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, between-subjects design. The following evening memory consolidation was probed during a recognition memory test in the MR scanner by assessing the difference in brain activity associated with memory for the consolidated items studied before sleep and new, unconsolidated items studied shortly before test (remote vs. recent memory paradigm). Hydrocortisone administration resulted in elevated cortisol levels throughout the experimental night with no group difference at recent encoding or test. Behaviorally, we showed that cortisol enhanced the difference between emotional and neutral consolidated memory, effectively prioritizing emotional memory consolidation. On a neural level, we found that cortisol reduced amygdala reactivity related to the retrieval of these same consolidated, negative items. These findings show that cortisol administration during first post-encoding sleep had a twofold effect on the first 24h of emotional memory consolidation. While cortisol prioritized recognition memory for emotional items, it reduced reactivation of the neural circuitry underlying emotional responsiveness during retrieval. These findings fit recent theories on emotional depotentiation following consolidation during sleep, although future research should establish the sleep-dependence of this effect. Moreover, our data may shed light on mechanisms underlying potential therapeutic effects of cortisol administration following psychological trauma.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.01.009

    View details for Web of Science ID 000325188300018

    View details for PubMedID 23484632

  • The Integrative Effects of Cognitive Reappraisal on Negative Affect: Associated Changes in Secretory Immunoglobulin A, Unpleasantness and ERP Activity PLOS ONE Zhang, W., Li, F., Qin, S., Luo, J. 2012; 7 (2)

    Abstract

    Although the regulatory role of cognitive reappraisal in negative emotional responses is widely recognized, this reappraisal's effect on acute saliva secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA), as well as the relationships among affective, immunological, and event-related potential (ERP) changes, remains unclear. In this study, we selected only people with low positive coping scores (PCSs) as measured by the Trait Coping Style Questionnaire to avoid confounding by intrinsic coping styles. First, we found that the acute stress of viewing unpleasant pictures consistently decreased SIgA concentration and secretion rate, increased perceptions of unpleasantness and amplitude of late positive potentials (LPPs) between 200-300 ms and 400-1000 ms. After participants used cognitive reappraisal, their SIgA concentration and secretion rate significantly increased and their unpleasantness and LPP amplitudes significantly decreased compared with a control condition. Second, we found a significantly positive correlation between the increases in SIgA and the decreases in unpleasantness and a significantly negative correlation between the increases in SIgA and the increases in LPP across the two groups. This study is the first to demonstrate that cognitive reappraisal reverses the decrease of SIgA. In addition, it revealed strong correlations among affective, SIgA and electrophysiological changes with convergent multilevel evidence.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0030761

    View details for Web of Science ID 000301979000013

    View details for PubMedID 22319586

  • Phasic deactivation of the medial temporal lobe enables working memory processing under stress NEUROIMAGE Cousijn, H., Rijpkema, M., Qin, S., van Wingen, G. A., Fernandez, G. 2012; 59 (2): 1161-1167

    Abstract

    Demanding cognitive tasks are sometimes carried out under stressful conditions. Several studies indicate that whereas severe stress impairs performance, moderate stress can enhance cognitive performance. In this study, we investigated how moderate stress influences the neural systems supporting working memory. We embedded an N-back working memory task in a moderately stressful context, as indicated by our physiological stress measures, and probed phasic and tonic human brain activity using two fMRI-techniques: conventional blood oxygen level dependent fMRI and arterial spin labeling (ASL). The results showed that the stress induction, as compared to the neutral control condition, led to slightly faster reaction times without changes in accuracy. In general, working memory processing was associated with increased activity in a frontoparietal network and reduced activity in the medial temporal lobe (MTL). The stress induction led to enhanced reduction of phasic MTL responses, specifically the hippocampus and amygdala. In addition, ASL showed that stress increased tonic amygdala activity, while tonic hippocampal activity was unaffected. These findings suggest that the influence of stress on MTL deactivation during working memory processing is task-related rather than a general consequence of the stressful state. The temporal suspension of hippocampal processing in favor of more task relevant processes may allow subjects to maintain normal performance levels under moderate stress.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.09.027

    View details for Web of Science ID 000298210600037

    View details for PubMedID 21983180

  • A follow-up fMRI study of a transferable placebo anxiolytic effect PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY Zhang, W., Qin, S., Guo, J., Luo, J. 2011; 48 (8): 1119-1128

    Abstract

    Our previous study showed that placebo expectations can develop in a transferable manner; for example, a placebo expectation developed within an analgesic experience may lead to reduced anxiety. Considering that activities in such emotion-responsive areas as the amygdala and insula can be detected through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we used fMRI to further study the transferable placebo anxiolytic effect. A main-effect analysis showed that activity in the amygdala and insula was reduced in the placebo condition, whereas an interaction analysis showed activity in the two regions was selectively attenuated in the placebo condition when unpleasant pictures were viewed. We also observed greater activity in the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex under placebo conditions when either emotionally negative or neutral pictures were viewed. These data suggest that the anxiety-relieving placebo effect arose from a reward-related response underpinned by the participants' expectations.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2011.01178.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000292449900010

    View details for PubMedID 21332487

  • Can Sophie's Choice Be Adequately Captured by Cold Computation of Minimizing Losses? An fMRI Study of Vital Loss Decisions PLOS ONE Li, Q., Qin, S., Rao, L., Zhang, W., Ying, X., Guo, X., Guo, C., Ding, J., Li, S., Luo, J. 2011; 6 (3)

    Abstract

    The vast majority of decision-making research is performed under the assumption of the value maximizing principle. This principle implies that when making decisions, individuals try to optimize outcomes on the basis of cold mathematical equations. However, decisions are emotion-laden rather than cool and analytic when they tap into life-threatening considerations. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), this study investigated the neural mechanisms underlying vital loss decisions. Participants were asked to make a forced choice between two losses across three conditions: both losses are trivial (trivial-trivial), both losses are vital (vital-vital), or one loss is trivial and the other is vital (vital-trivial). Our results revealed that the amygdala was more active and correlated positively with self-reported negative emotion associated with choice during vital-vital loss decisions, when compared to trivial-trivial loss decisions. The rostral anterior cingulate cortex was also more active and correlated positively with self-reported difficulty of choice during vital-vital loss decisions. Compared to the activity observed during trivial-trivial loss decisions, the orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatum were more active and correlated positively with self-reported positive emotion of choice during vital-trivial loss decisions. Our findings suggest that vital loss decisions involve emotions and cannot be adequately captured by cold computation of minimizing losses. This research will shed light on how people make vital loss decisions.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0017544

    View details for Web of Science ID 000288247800013

    View details for PubMedID 21412428

  • Stress-induced reduction in reward-related prefrontal cortex function NEUROIMAGE Ossewaarde, L., Qin, S., Van Marie, H. J., van Wingen, G. A., Fernandez, G., Hermans, E. J. 2011; 55 (1): 345-352

    Abstract

    Acute psychological stress can trigger normal and abnormal motivated behaviors such as reward seeking, habitual behavior, and drug craving. Animal research suggests that such effects may result from actions of catecholamines and glucocorticoids that converge in brain regions that regulate motivated behaviors and incentive processing. At present, however, little is known about the acute effects of stress on these circuits in humans. During functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), twenty-seven healthy young women performed a modified version of the monetary incentive delay (MID) task, which is known to robustly engage ventral striatal and medial prefrontal regions. To induce psychological stress, strongly aversive movie clips (versus neutral movie clips) were shown with the instruction to imagine being an eyewitness. Physiological (cortisol levels, heart rate frequency, and heart rate variability) and subjective measurements confirmed successful induction of moderate levels of acute psychological stress. Brain imaging data revealed that stress induction resulted in a significant decrease in reward-related responses in the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) without affecting ventral striatal responses. Our results thus show that acute psychological stress induces regionally specific changes in functioning of incentive processing circuits. This regional specificity is in line with animal data showing inverted U-shaped relations between levels of stress-related neuromodulators and functioning of the PFC, a structure that is believed to be critical for coordinating behavior in accordance with higher order internal goals. Our findings thus suggest that stress-related increases in habitual and reward-seeking behaviors may be triggered primarily by an impairment of such PFC-dependent cognitive control mechanisms.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.11.068

    View details for Web of Science ID 000287008900034

    View details for PubMedID 21126593

  • Neural mechanisms of recognizing scene configurations from multiple viewpoints BRAIN RESEARCH Xiao, C., McNamara, T. P., Qin, S., Mou, W. 2010; 1363: 107-116

    Abstract

    Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the present study examined the neural mechanisms involved in recognizing spatial configurations of a scene from multiple viewpoints. Prior to scanning, participants were instructed to learn a desktop array of seven objects relative to an intrinsic direction that was different from the participants' viewpoint. During scanning, participants recognized triplets of objects from the previously memorized scene and from a mirror reflection of the scene at different perspectives. Half of the triplets included two objects located along the instructed intrinsic direction (intrinsic triplets) and the other half did not (non-intrinsic triplets). Consistent with previous mental rotation studies, bilateral intraparietal sulcus and bilateral middle frontal gyrus showed increasing activation with the angular disparity between the test view and the study view. The right intraparietal sulcus was more activated to the non-intrinsic triplets than the intrinsic triplets. The anterior cingulate cortex was more deactivated in recognizing non-intrinsic triplets and novel views. These findings are consistent with the behavioral results that recognition was easier for intrinsic triplets than for non-intrinsic triplets and easier for the familiar view than for novel views (Mou et al., 2008a).

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.09.068

    View details for Web of Science ID 000284789400010

    View details for PubMedID 20875802

  • Enhanced resting-state connectivity of amygdala in the immediate aftermath of acute psychological stress NEUROIMAGE van Marle, H. J., Hermans, E. J., Qin, S., Fernandez, G. 2010; 53 (1): 348-354

    Abstract

    Recent neuroimaging studies investigating responses to stressful stimuli may importantly further our understanding of psychological trauma etiology. However, theory posits that sustained activation of these stress circuits after the stressful event may play an equally important role in the development of stress-related psychopathology. Importantly, such post-stress network changes remain poorly characterized. The amygdala with its connections is crucially positioned in the central stress circuitry that mediates the initial stress response. Hence, we investigated post-stress amygdala-centered connectivity patterns in order to characterize the aftermath of acute, experimentally-induced stress in healthy humans. We recorded resting-state functional MRI in 26 female participants following a period of moderate psychological stress induced by means of aversive (vs. emotionally neutral) movie watching with a self-referencing instruction. Next, we implemented a seedregion analysis calculating the voxel-wise correlation with the anatomically extracted time-series of the amygdala. Various stress measures confirmed successful stress induction. Moreover, we demonstrated enhanced functional coupling of the amygdala with dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula, and a dorso-rostral pontine region, which appears to overlap with the anatomical location of the locus coeruleus (LC), when contrasting the stress with the control group. Thus, we show that the aftermath of acute stress is qualified by prolonged activation in an amygdala-connectivity network. This pattern of co-activation may indicate an extended state of hypervigilance that promotes sustained salience and mnemonic processing after stress. Characterization of the post-stress brain state may provide initial insight into the early phases of psychological trauma formation.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.05.070

    View details for Web of Science ID 000280818900038

    View details for PubMedID 20621656

  • Intermediate Levels of Hippocampal Activity Appear Optimal for Associative Memory Formation PLOS ONE Liu, X., Qin, S., Rijpkema, M., Luo, J., Fernandez, G. 2010; 5 (10)

    Abstract

    It is well established that hippocampal activity is positively related to effective associative memory formation. However, in biological systems often optimal levels of activity are contrasted by both sub- and supra-optimal levels. Sub-optimal levels of hippocampal activity are commonly attributed to unsuccessful memory formation, whereas the supra-optimal levels of hippocampal activity related to unsuccessful memory formation have been rarely studied. It is still unclear under what circumstances such supra-optimal levels of hippocampal activity occur. To clarify this issue, we aimed at creating a condition, in which supra-optimal hippocampal activity is associated with encoding failure. We assumed that such supra-optimal activity occurs when task-relevant information is embedded in task-irrelevant, distracting information, which can be considered as noise.In the present fMRI study, we probed neural correlates of associative memory formation in a full-factorial design with associative memory (subsequently remembered versus forgotten) and noise (induced by high versus low distraction) as factors. Results showed that encoding failure was associated with supra-optimal activity in the high-distraction condition and with sub-optimal activity in the low distraction condition. Thus, we revealed evidence for a bell-shape function relating hippocampal activity with associative encoding success.Our findings indicate that intermediate levels of hippocampal activity are optimal while both too low and too high levels appear detrimental for associative memory formation. Supra-optimal levels of hippocampal activity seem to occur when task-irrelevant information is added to task-relevant signal. If such task-irrelevant noise is reduced adequately, hippocampal activity is lower and thus optimal for associative memory formation.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0013147

    View details for Web of Science ID 000282359300031

    View details for PubMedID 20957209

  • Effects of discrepancy between imagined and perceived sounds on the N2 component of the event-related potential PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY Wu, J., Mai, X., Yu, Z., Qin, S., Luo, Y. 2010; 47 (2): 289-298

    Abstract

    Two experiments were conducted to examine whether the N2 component of the event-related potential (ERP), typically elicited in a S1-S2 matching task and considered to reflect mismatch process, can still be elicited when the S1 was imagined instead of perceived and to investigate how N2 amplitude varied with the degree of S1-S2 discrepancy. Three levels of discrepancy were defined by the degree of separation between the heard (S2) and imagined (S1) sounds. It was found that the N2 was reliably elicited when the perceived S2 differed from the imagined S1, but whether N2 amplitude increased with the degree of discrepancy depended in part on the S1-S2 discriminability (as evidenced by reaction time). Specifically, the effect of increasing discrepancy was attenuated as discriminability increased from hard to easy. These results, together with the dynamic ERP topography observed within the N2 window, suggest that the N2 effect reflects two sequential but overlapping processes: automatic mismatch and controlled detection.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2009.00936.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000274389500009

    View details for PubMedID 20003146

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