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Brain Cogn. 2017 Apr;113:155-163. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2017.02.003. Epub 2017 Feb 23.

Distraction decreases prefrontal oxygenation: A NIRS study.

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Graduate School of Arts and Science, The University of Tokyo, Japan. Electronic address:
Graduate School of Arts and Science, The University of Tokyo, Japan; JST, CREST, Japan.


When near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is used to measure emotion-related cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes in the prefrontal cortex regions, the functional distinction of CBF changes is often difficult because NIRS is unable to measure neural activity in deeper brain regions that play major roles in emotional processing. The CBF changes could represent cognitive control of emotion and emotional responses to emotional materials. Supposing that emotion-related CBF changes in the prefrontal cortex regions during distraction are emotional responses, we examined whether oxygenated hemoglobin (oxyHb) decreases. Attention-demanding tasks cause blood flow decreases, and we thus compared the effects of visually paced tapping with different tempos, on distraction. The results showed that the oxyHb level induced by emotional stimulation decreased with fast-tempo tapping significantly more than slow-tempo tapping in ventral medial prefrontal cortex regions. Moreover, a Global-Local task following tapping showed significantly greater local-minus-global response time (RT) difference scores in the fast- and mid-tempo condition compared with those in the slow-tempo, suggesting an increased attentional focus, and decreased negative emotion. The overall findings indicate that oxyHb changes in a relatively long distraction task, as measured by NIRS, are associated with emotional responses, and oxyHb can be decreased by successfully performing attention-demanding distraction tasks.


Distraction; Emotion regulation; Mind-wandering, attentional focus; NIRS; Prefrontal regions

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