Nav: Home

The brain can be trained to regulate negative emotions -- Ben-Gurion University study

January 05, 2016

BEER-SHEVA, Israel... January 5, 2016 - A simple, computer-training task can change the brain's wiring to regulate emotional reactions, according to a recent study published in NeuroImage by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers.

"These findings are the first to demonstrate that non-emotional training that improves the ability to ignore irrelevant information can result in reduced brain reactions to emotional events and alter brain connections," says Dr. Noga Cohen. Cohen conducted the study as part of her Ph.D. research at BGU's Cognitive Neuropsychology Lab under the supervision of Prof. Avishai Henik of the Department of Psychology. "These changes were accompanied by strengthened neural connections between brain regions involved in inhibiting emotional reactions."

The researchers hope to examine the impact of this non-emotional training on individuals who are depressed or anxious. It may also be helpful for those at high risk of developing high blood pressure reactions to emotional information.

"Such future directions carry important potential clinical implications for a large percentage of the population," the researchers explain. "This cognitive training can be easily employed with different populations, such as children, elderly adults, and individuals with neurological or psychiatric disorders."

In the study, the brains of 26 healthy volunteers were monitored before and after multiple computerized training sessions using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). During the training, participants were required to identify whether a target arrow points to the right or to the left, while ignoring the direction of arrows on either side of it. The researchers conducted a "resting-state fMRI scan" to assess connections between brain regions during no specific task and later during an emotional reactivity task in which they had to ignore negative pictures used to study emotion.

"As expected, participants who completed the more intense version of the training (but not the other participants) showed reduced activation in their amygdala - a brain region involved in negative emotions, including sadness and anxiety. In addition, the intense training resulted in increased connectivity between participants' amygdala and a region in the frontal cortex shown to be involved in emotion regulation," said Dr. Cohen, who collaborated with Dr. Hadas Okon-Singer from the University of Haifa and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany.

"It is our hope that the current work would lead to further testing and potentially the development of effective intervention for individuals suffering from maladaptive emotional behavior," Dr. Cohen says. "While acknowledging the limitations of this study, which was based on a relatively small number of healthy participants and focused on short-term effects of the training, this may prove effective for individuals suffering from emotion dysregulation."

A previous study led by these authors has already shown that similar training can reduce the tendency to be submersed in a repetitive-thinking cycle about a negative life event.
-end-
Using Executive Control Training to Suppress Amygdala Reactivity to Aversive Information (doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.10.069).

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), and Minerva provided funding for this research. This research was also supported by Marie Curie Actions (CIG grant 34206) and the National Institute for Psychobiology in Israel Young Investigator Research Grant (145-14-15).

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision, creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. With some 20,000 students on campuses in Beer-Sheva, Sede Boqer and Eilat in Israel's southern desert, BGU is a university with a conscience, where the highest academic standards are integrated with community involvement, committed to sustainable development of the Negev. AABGU is headquartered in Manhattan and has nine regional offices throughout the United States. For more information, visit http://www.aabgu.org

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Related Brain Articles:

Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.
BRAIN Initiative tool may transform how scientists study brain structure and function
Researchers have developed a high-tech support system that can keep a large mammalian brain from rapidly decomposing in the hours after death, enabling study of certain molecular and cellular functions.
Wiring diagram of the brain provides a clearer picture of brain scan data
In a study published today in the journal BRAIN, neuroscientists led by Michael D.
Blue Brain Project releases first-ever digital 3D brain cell atlas
The Blue Brain Cell Atlas is like ''going from hand-drawn maps to Google Earth'' -- providing previously unavailable information on major cell types, numbers and positions in all 737 brain regions.
Landmark study reveals no benefit to costly and risky brain cooling after brain injury
A landmark study, led by Monash University researchers, has definitively found that the practice of cooling the body and brain in patients who have recently received a severe traumatic brain injury, has no impact on the patient's long-term outcome.
More Brain News and Brain Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...