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Neuroimage. 2012 Apr 2;60(2):1448-61. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.12.084. Epub 2012 Jan 8.

Portraying emotions at their unfolding: a multilayered approach for probing dynamics of neural networks.

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Functional Brain Center, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, 6 Weizmann Street, Tel Aviv 64239, Israel.


Dynamic functional integration of distinct neural systems plays a pivotal role in emotional experience. We introduce a novel approach for studying emotion-related changes in the interactions within and between networks using fMRI. It is based on continuous computation of a network cohesion index (NCI), which is sensitive to both strength and variability of signal correlations between pre-defined regions. The regions encompass three clusters (namely limbic, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and cognitive), each previously was shown to be involved in emotional processing. Two sadness-inducing film excerpts were viewed passively, and comparisons between viewer's rated sadness, parasympathetic, and inter-NCI and intra-NCI were obtained. Limbic intra-NCI was associated with reported sadness in both movies. However, the correlation between the parasympathetic-index, the rated sadness and the limbic-NCI occurred in only one movie, possibly related to a "deactivated" pattern of sadness. In this film, rated sadness intensity also correlated with the mPFC intra-NCI, possibly reflecting temporal correspondence between sadness and sympathy. Further, only for this movie, we found an association between sadness rating and the mPFC-limbic inter-NCI time courses. To the contrary, in the other film in which sadness was reported to commingle with horror and anger, dramatic events coincided with disintegration of these networks. Together, this may point to a difference between the cinematic experiences with regard to inter-network dynamics related to emotional regulation. These findings demonstrate the advantage of a multi-layered dynamic analysis for elucidating the uniqueness of emotional experiences with regard to an unguided processing of continuous and complex stimulation.

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