Article from ScienceDaily
There is new evidence that people can learn to control the activity of some brain regions when they get feedback signals provided by functional magnetic resonance brain imaging (fMRI).
Dr. Andrea Caria and colleagues used this specialized imaging technique during training sessions in three groups of healthy participants who were asked to assess visual emotional stimuli (negative or neutral pictures). The scientists were interested in the signals generated by the insula, a brain region implicated in emotion regulation. While performing the test, the investigators provided the subjects with specific, unspecific, or no feedback about the extent of the activation of the insula.
They found that the individuals who received specific feedback were able to successfully increase the activity of the insula and perceived the negative pictures as being more unpleasant. The reverse was also true, i.e., when the insula’s level of activity was decreased, a reduced sensitivity to negative stimuli was observed.
The two other groups, who received unspecific or no feedback, were not able to enhance insula activity and showed no changes in subjective emotional responses.
The lead author, Dr. Andrea Caria, commented, “Our study demonstrates that voluntary control of emotionally important brain systems is possible. More importantly, after learning to voluntarily regulate the insula, the participants experienced emotionally negative material as more aversive than before training. This means that individuals can modify their perception to aversive stimuli.”
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