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Int J Psychophysiol. 2009 Aug;73(2):88-94. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2009.01.012. Epub 2009 May 3.

Psychophysiology of neural, cognitive and affective integration: fMRI and autonomic indicants.

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  • 1Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Falmer Campus, Brighton, UK. h.critchley@bsms.ac.uk

Abstract

Behaviour is shaped by environmental challenge in the context of homoeostatic need. Emotional and cognitive processes evoke patterned changes in bodily state that may signal emotional state to others. This dynamic modulation of visceral state is neurally mediated by sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system. Moreover neural afferents convey representations of the internal state of the body back to the brain to further influence emotion and cognition. Neuroimaging and lesion studies implicate specific regions of limbic forebrain in the behavioural generation of autonomic arousal states. Activity within these regions may predict emotion-specific autonomic response patterns within and between bodily organs, with implications for psychosomatic medicine. Feedback from the viscera is mapped hierarchically in the brain to influence efferent signals, and ultimately at the cortical level to engender and reinforce affective responses and subjective feeling states. Again neuroimaging and patient studies suggest discrete neural substrates for these representations, notably regions of insula and orbitofrontal cortex. Individual differences in conscious access to these interoceptive representations predict differences in emotional experience, but equally the misperception of heightened arousal level may evoke changes in emotional behaviour through engagement of the same neural centres. Perturbation of feedback may impair emotional reactivity and, in the context of inflammatory states give rise to cognitive, affective and psychomotor expressions of illness. Changes in visceral state during emotion may be mirrored in the responses of others, permitting a corresponding representation in the observer. The degree to which individuals are susceptible to this 'contagion' predicts individual differences in questionnaire ratings of empathy. Together these neuroimaging and clinical studies highlight the dynamic relationship between mind and body and help identify neural substrates that may translate thoughts into autonomic arousal and bodily states into feelings that can be shared.

PMID:
19414044
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2722714
Free PMC Article
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