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Title:The impact of emotional distraction on cognition: from basic brain responses to large-scale network interactions
Author(s):Iordan, Alexandru Daniel
Director of Research:Dolcos, Florin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Dolcos, Florin
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Cohen, Neal J.; Gratton, Gabriele; Rudolph, Karen; Anastasio, Thomas J.
Department / Program:Neuroscience Program
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Affective-cognitive interactions
Emotional interference
Working memory
Emotion regulation
Neural circuitry
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
Salience network (SN)
Amygdala (AMY)
Ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC)
Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)
Fronto-parietal network (FPN)
Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC)
Lateral parietal cortex (LPC)
Default-mode network (DMN)
Medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC)
Abstract:The goal of the current dissertation was to clarify the behavioral and neural mechanisms associated with the impact and control of emotional distraction by investigating the influences of the nature (positive vs. negative) and source (external vs. internal) of emotional distraction, the types of emotion regulation (spontaneous vs. instructed) engaged to cope with it, and the role of sex differences. The present dissertation comprises three studies, with the first two focusing on external emotional distraction, and the third focusing on internal emotional distraction. Study one investigated the roles of arousal and valence in the impact of external emotional distraction on working memory (WM) performance, and yielded four main findings. First, positive distraction had reduced impact on WM performance, compared with negative distraction. Second, fMRI results identified valence-specific effects in a dorsal executive system (DES) and overlapping arousal and valence effects in a ventral affective system (VAS), suggesting both increased impact of negative distraction and enhanced engagement of coping mechanisms for positive distraction. Third, a valence-related rostro-caudal dissociation was identified in medial frontal regions associated with the default-mode network (DMN). Finally, these DMN regions showed increased functional connectivity with DES regions for negative compared with positive distraction. Study two investigated sex differences in the response to external emotional distraction and yielded three main findings. First, an increased impact of emotional distraction among women was detected, in trials associated with high-confidence responses, in the context of overall similar WM performance in women and men. Second, regarding the fMRI results, women showed increased sensitivity to emotional distraction in VAS regions, whereas men showed increased sensitivity in DES regions, in the context of overall similar patterns of response to emotional distraction in women and men. Third, a sex-related dorsal-ventral hemispheric dissociation emerged in the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) related to coping with emotional distraction, with women showing a positive correlation with WM performance in left ventral PFC, and men showing similar effects in the right dorsal PFC. Study three investigated the impact and regulation of internal emotional distraction, and yielded four main findings. First, the instructed engagement of emotion regulation (ER) diminished both the subjective negative experience and the objective WM interference. Second, the overall response to internal emotional distraction was linked to deactivation in DES and increased activity in VAS regions, similar to the response to external emotional distraction, as well as with specific increased activity in DMN regions. Third, ER engagement was associated with both diminished activity in VAS regions part of the salience network, and increased activity in executive and memory-related regions. Finally, ER was also associated with increased functional connectivity between fronto-parietal regions. Supplementary, a behavioral pilot study investigated the role of valence and showed that negative but not positive internal distraction interfered with concurrent WM performance. Also, an exploratory analysis tested for sex differences and showed increased impact of internal emotional distraction in women for high-confidence WM performance, linked to increased sensitivity in a medial frontal region associated with the salience network. These findings contribute to a better understanding of healthy functioning under transient emotional distraction. In addition, they have implications for understanding factors linked to increased susceptibility to mood and anxiety disorders, which are afflictions characterized by increased distractibility and altered processing of negative and positive stimuli originating from the external and internal environments, and are more prevalent in women compared to men.
Issue Date:2016-03-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Alexandru Daniel Iordan
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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