Self Help

Positive Neuroscience - Joshua D. Greene,India Morrison,Martin E. P. Seligman

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Matheus Puppe

· 55 min read



Here is a summary of the key points from the introduction to Positive Neuroscience:

  • Humans have an unparalleled ability to form social bonds, care about others’ well-being, and build cooperative social structures - all of which likely stem from our brain architecture.

  • Understanding the neuroscience of human flourishing is an emerging field, made possible by recent noninvasive neuroimaging techniques. This book brings together leading research in this area.

  • The chapters are divided into three parts - Social Bonds, Altruism, and Resilience and Creativity.

  • The Social Bonds section examines the neural mechanisms underlying touch, parenting behavior, and social resonance/empathy.

  • The Altruism section explores prosocial motivation, comparisons with other species, the empathy-action divide, amygdala responses to others, models of compassion, and research on extraordinary altruism.

  • The Resilience and Creativity section looks at how the brain generates positive emotions during adversity, the role of meditation in changing fear responses, the neural basis of music experience, and positive emotions in exploration.

  • Overall, the book aims to advance our understanding of the biological foundations of human flourishing, resilience, prosociality and creativity.

Chapter 11 argues that mindfulness meditation may promote resilience by bolstering the brain’s ability to extinguish counterproductive fear responses.

Chapter 12 explains how patterns of structural and functional connectivity across brain regions give some people exceptional musical abilities and give music its emotional power.

Chapter 13 explains how positive emotions motivate exploratory behavior that builds cognitive resources and enables flexibility, creativity, and resilience.

The introduction notes that despite not knowing how the different research projects would connect initially, there turned out to be significant biological convergence and thematic overlap among the ideas and results. For example, Wheatley and Siever’s work on social resonance relates to Loui’s research on musical creativity and emotion. Likewise, findings on the amygdala from Man et al. and Marsh’s research were convergent. Overall the body of work provided rich insights and connections for readers to discover.

The passage discusses how intermediate or “caress-like” speeds of touch may be processed differently than very slow or fast speeds. Research has found that tactile c-fiber afferents (CTs) preferentially respond to intermediate speeds around 3 cm/s, which people also rate as most pleasant.

CTs are hypothesized to act as an “affective filter” that packages tactile stimulation occurring at these intermediate speeds, signaling affiliative social touch. This touch is more likely to occur between intimate partners, parents/offspring, etc.

The passage outlines the proposed pathway for CT signaling. CT afferents in the skin synapse in the spinal cord and ascend via the spinothalamic tract to specific thalamic nuclei. The main cortical target is thought to be the posterior insula.

Evidence for this comes from neuroimaging studies and a rare population with reduced CT innervation. These individuals rate intermediate speeds as less pleasant and show diminished posterior insula responses. This supports the CT-insula pathway being important for representing affective touch.

However, compensatory mechanisms may still allow some evaluation of caress-like touch. And the insula is likely part of a broader network involving areas like the superior temporal gyrus that represent different aspects of social touch processing.

  • The perigenual anterior cingulate cortex is associated with emotional processing of touch stimuli. It plays a role in integrating social and reward information with touch processing.

  • Somatosensory cortices like primary somatosensory cortex (SI) and secondary somatosensory cortex (SII) on the parietal operculum also contribute to processing affective and social touch. SI can distinguish male and female touch, while SII shows activations for both discriminative and pleasant touch.

  • Affective touch may serve an adaptive calming function by counteracting mild stress and arousal of the sympathetic nervous system through modulation of parasympathetic brainstem and limbic areas. Social touch interactions could lead to relaxation of vigilance and prosocial behaviors.

  • Affective touch may serve as a foundation for affiliative behaviors like allogrooming that help form and maintain social bonds. Greater anxiety is associated with more frequent self-reported grooming behaviors. Tactile stimulation can reduce fear behaviors in fish similar to being with familiar others. Gentle touch also reduces anxiety from threats in humans.

  • Future research will further map the brain networks involved in touch processing and examine how affective touch may influence behavior and physiological responses through modulating autonomic outflow pathways related to functions like heart rate, breathing, and muscle tone.

Here is a summary of the key points from the articles:

  • Several articles examined the neural mechanisms underlying affective touch and social bonding through tactile stimulation. Areas implicated included the anterior cingulate cortex, insular cortex, somatosensory cortex, and other regions involved in interoception, empathy, and emotion regulation.

  • Different types of tactile receptors (myelinated vs unmyelinated fibers) seem to convey discriminative vs affective aspects of touch. Unmyelinated C-tactile afferents are particularly involved in signalingpleasant touch sensations.

  • Touch appears to have communicative functions and can convey different emotional meanings depending on context, location, speed. Touch also regulates emotional and physiological responses in infants and other species.

  • Insular cortex seems to integrate interoceptive information with contextual social information to represent the affective significance of touch. Anterior cingulate cortex also responds preferentially to pleasant gentle touch.

  • Studies examined neural correlates of individual differences in parental nurturance as well as the effects of touch on social bonding, compliance with requests, pain perception, and other outcomes.

  • The collection of studies provided insights into the neurophysiology of different tactile afferents, the brain regions processing affective touch, and implications for social behavior, parenting, and interpersonal relationships.

  • Paternal care varies across animal species, with some mammals like rodents, primates, and canids showing high levels of care like carrying, grooming, and defending offspring. However, paternal care is limited in great apes.

  • Paternal care varies widely across human cultures. Hunter-gatherer societies tend to show the most direct care like carrying, feeding, and playing. Care decreases in pastoralist and agricultural societies.

  • Fathers are typically less involved with infant care than older children due to inability to breastfeed and hormonal/neural factors. Testosterone may inhibit empathy for infants.

  • Studies link paternal involvement with improved child outcomes such as survival rates, social/educational development, reduced aggression, criminality, and mental health issues. However, infant crying has also been associated with increased risk of paternal abuse.

  • Modern Western societies pose challenges for paternal care due to isolated nuclear family structures and increased demands on mothers’ time from workforce participation. Fathers play an essential role in providing care in these contexts.

The passage discusses theoretical perspectives on why some men choose to not be involved in raising their children. It discusses life history theory, which proposes that organisms have limited resources that must be allocated toward competing demands like growth, mating, and parenting. Evolution is expected to optimize how species allocate these resources to maximize reproductive success.

Applied to humans, the theory predicts that men face a trade-off between investments in mating versus parenting. Men will likely invest more in whichever strategy yields the greatest reproductive payoff. Factors that would increase paternal investment include circumstances where paternal care improves child outcomes/value, high paternity certainty, limited mating opportunities outside the pair bond, and limited alloparental assistance.

The passage then discusses the neural bases of paternal nurturance, reviewing research in nonhuman animals and humans. In nonhumans, studies implicate brain regions like the medial preoptic area and vasopressin and oxytocin systems in motivating paternal behavior. Human research is limited but suggests fathers activate reward pathways like the ventral tegmental area in response to their own child. The key challenge that parents face is to respond to potentially aversive child stimuli like crying with sensitivity and compassion rather than frustration.

  • The study examines the neural correlates of individual variation in paternal nurturance and caregiving using functional MRI.

  • When viewing pictures of their own child, fathers show greater activation in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), a brain region involved in reward processing. More involved fathers exhibit stronger VTA responses.

  • When listening to infant cries, fathers show activation in the anterior insula, a region involved in empathy. More restrictive fathers have less anterior insula activation.

  • Paternal involvement is highest at moderate levels of anterior insula activation in response to cries. Very high activation may lead to “empathic overarousal” that reduces motivation to help.

  • Future research is needed to further investigate the biological bases of paternal care and how characteristics of both the father and child influence caregiving behavior.

  • Interventions using oxytocin, education, or meditation may help at-risk fathers by reducing stress/aggression and increasing compassion. Brain imaging could evaluate intervention effectiveness.

  • Understanding other alloparents like grandparents is also important for gaining a full picture of human parenting systems.

So in summary, the study uses neuroimaging to identify brain regions related to paternal reward/motivation and empathy, and how activation in these regions correlates with individual differences in caregiving behaviors.

Here is a summary of the key papers:

  • Bakermans-Kranenburg et al. (2012) found that oxytocin decreased handgrip force in females without harsh parenting experiences when exposed to infant crying.

  • Bales et al. (2004) found that both oxytocin and vasopressin may influence alloparental behavior in male prairie voles.

  • Barr (2012) discussed preventing abusive head trauma from a failure of normal interaction between infants and caregivers.

  • Barr et al. (2006) found an age-related incidence curve of shaken baby syndrome cases, providing evidence that crying triggers shaking.

  • Barrett and Fleming (2011) reviewed how all mothers are not equal and discussed neural and psychobiological perspectives on mothering.

  • Bartels and Zeki (2004) studied the neural correlates of maternal and romantic love.

  • Belsky et al. (2006) discussed how infant-mother attachment classification relates to risk/protection with changing maternal caregiving quality.

  • Bester-Meredith and Marler (2003) found vasopressin transmission of paternal behavior across generations in mated, cross-fostered Peromyscus mice.

  • The papers discussed the roles of oxytocin, vasopressin, hormones, brain areas, genetics and experience in influencing maternal and paternal nurturing behaviors in humans and various animal species. Neural correlates and factors influencing individual variation were also examined.

Here is a summary of the paper:

  • The paper discusses the emerging field of neuroscience studying social resonance - how social signals are perceived and understood between brains on both an individual and interpersonal level.

  • It looks at research on perceiving emotion through vision and audition. Studies show the right superior temporal cortex is involved in recognizing emotion from vocal tones and prosody as well as biological motion like point-light displays.

  • Impairments in processing prosody are found in conditions like schizophrenia, autism, and Parkinson’s disease. Such impairments can contribute to social isolation.

  • Recognizing emotion from dynamic social cues, like body language and facial expressions over time, may involve dissociable neural pathways from recognizing emotion in static images.

  • The paper argues emotional expressions are rapidly perceived because the brain is tuned to extract social meaning from visual motion cues, especially in the right superior temporal cortex. This helps lay the groundwork for social resonance between individuals.

In summary, the paper reviews research on dynamic social perception and proposes the neural mechanisms that allow for rapid extraction of meaning from socio-emotional signals, facilitating social understanding and resonance between brains.

  • Research shows that the same brain region, the right superior temporal cortex (STC), is important for perceiving emotion in both auditory and visual stimuli. This suggests shared neural mechanisms underlie emotion perception across modalities.

  • The “shared structure” hypothesis proposes that auditory and visual stimuli share low-level features, resulting in automatic crossmodal correspondence. Studies find people associate spiky shapes with harsh sounds and rounded shapes with smooth sounds.

  • Shared dynamics in multisensory perception enable a kind of “perceptual resonance” that is important for communication. It provides redundancy across modalities and amplification of the communicative signal through mutually reinforcing dynamics.

  • Emotions tend to be expressed similarly through music and movement, both within and across cultures. Each emotion has a distinct dynamic signature. This shared structure suggests underlying neural correspondence and recycling of neural circuits for spatial/temporal processing and action. Shared neural representations allow for fast crossmodal processing of emotional signals.

  • Successful social interaction depends on interpersonal fluency and synchrony, where individuals can understand each other’s internal states.

  • At the neural level, an observer’s motor cortex will “resonate” with the actions of others they observe. This neural synchrony between brains likely provides an evolutionary advantage by allowing two information streams to be processed as one, reducing metabolic costs.

  • Neural synchrony increases the probability of behavioral synchrony, like mimicking another’s posture. Behavioral synchrony promotes rapport, increases prosocial behavior, and makes interactions feel effortless.

  • Artificially induced synchrony through things like marching or lab experiments can still promote these effects if people are naïve to the manipulation. Studies show artificially synchronous physical activity like singing promotes feelings of connection, cooperation, and trust between strangers.

  • Inhibiting synchrony has the opposite effects - it makes people rate interactions less positively. Resonance at both within-brain and between-brain levels promotes social fluency and a sense of “flow” or “oneness” during interactions.

  • The chapter discusses how social intelligence and thriving as a social animal relies on neural efficiencies that enable resonance across different systems in the brain and between brains.

  • Three types of neural resonance are highlighted: 1) Shared encoding of perceptual dynamics (e.g. vision and audition) which enhances social signal detection. 2) Resonance across perception-production circuits that underlies emotional empathy. 3) Neural and behavioral synchrony between brains that allows shared information processing.

  • Synchrony between people naturally occurs when they “click” due to internal rhythmic tuning, but it can also be artificially created through things like music to produce large-scale group synchrony.

  • The ability to resonate information perceptually, across perception-production systems, and between brains provides a hyper-connected social world. Understanding these resonance processes is a new direction for neuroscience and psychology to better understand social bonds and functioning.

Here is a summary of the article:

The article discusses the evolutionary puzzle of prosocial behavior, or behavior that benefits others at a cost to oneself. Traditionally, prosociality was seen as inconsistent with evolutionary theory and economic models which assume individuals act rationally to maximize their own self-interest.

However, more recent theoretical advances have helped resolve this. From an evolutionary perspective, prosociality could evolve through mechanisms like kin selection, where sacrificing for genetic relatives indirectly benefits one’s own genes, and reciprocity, where helping others creates opportunities for others to help you in return.

Economic models have also incorporated ideas of social preferences, where people derive utility not just from their own outcomes but also the outcomes of others. Prosocial behavior is thus a form of reward-seeking, where acts like helping and sharing create positive social and emotional rewards.

Neuroscience research also helped by identifying brain regions activated by prosocial decisions, such as the ventral striatum during altruistic reward processing. Overall, these developments demonstrate how prosociality can be adaptive and benefit the individual, resolving the apparent conflict with theories positing self-interested behavior maximization. Prosocial acts create rewards in social, emotional and cognitive domains that make such behaviors evolutionarily and economically rational.

  • The passage discusses whether prosocial behavior is driven by intrinsic or extrinsic motivations. Extrinsic models view prosociality as strategic to achieve personal goals like status or reducing distress, while intrinsic models see prosociality as valuing others’ well-being for its own sake.

  • It reviews evidence that prosociality involves both intrinsic and extrinsic motives, but more research is needed on the psychological underpinnings of these motives.

  • The authors propose that prosocial motivation may “piggyback” on the psychological reward system, experiencing prosocial outcomes as intrinsically rewarding similar to other rewards like food and sex.

  • Neuroscientific evidence shows regions linked to reward (ventral striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex) activate for both personal rewards and prosocial outcomes like cooperation, fairness, and charity.

  • However, more research is needed examining costly prosocial decisions and whether these regions track personal and vicarious rewards similarly. The authors describe their research program investigating these questions using economic tasks while measuring brain activity.

  • Dictator games are designed to isolate participants’ true prosocial preferences by reducing social pressures and ensuring receivers are unaware of the game. Despite this, participants still acted generously over 20% of the time, especially for fair choices.

  • Brain activity suggests participants experienced reward when upholding prosocial norms, even over personal monetary gain. The vMPFC responded more to fair choices regardless of outcome.

  • vMPFC tracked a common value currency for both personal and vicarious rewards, suggesting they activate similar cognitive/affective processes. This common value signal predicted prosocial vs self-serving decisions.

  • Indifference ratios estimated how much participants valued others’ outcomes relative to their own. vMPFC reflected a common value scale based on these ratios when viewing self vs other rewards.

  • Finally, the researchers adapted a task to test if people sacrifice resources just to share helpful information with others. They found teachers were willing to give up money to inform learners about the correct card, supporting information sharing as another form of reward-driven prosociality.

  • The study used a simple game where participants (teachers) were shown the correct answer to a task and could choose to share this information with another participant (learner) or keep it private. Sharing was sometimes associated with small monetary costs compared to keeping the information private.

  • Teachers opted to share information 70% of the time, even when it cost them money. On average they sacrificed 25% of potential earnings to helpfully inform learners. This suggests they value opportunities to share information.

  • A separate fMRI study found that opportunities to share information engaged brain regions involved in reward processing like the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum.

  • This provides neural evidence that prosocial behaviors like sharing information produces a reward response in the brain. It supports the idea that prosociality is often a form of reward-seeking.

  • A reward-seeking model suggests cooperative social behaviors are rooted in old motivational systems for reward/goal seeking rather than dedicated prosocial processes. However, extrinsic prosocial acts may rely more on control regions rather than reward areas.

  • A reward model provides new predictions about how prosocial behavior should follow rules of other reward/goal seeking like satiation and temporal discounting. However, it does not diminish the importance of prosociality for human nature and social norms.

Here are brief summaries of the key papers:

  • R. B., & Kenrick, D. T. (1976) - Studied the relationship between negative mood states and helping behavior. Found that being in a negative mood can increase altruistic behavior as a form of mood repair.

  • Clark, H. H. (1996) - Discusses theories and research on language use and communication.

  • Cloutier et al. (2008) - Examined neural responses to facial attractiveness and found sex differences in brain regions encoding attractiveness.

  • Coke & Batson (1978) - Proposed a two-stage model of empathic mediation of helping behavior. Empathy leads to feeling for another which then leads to helping.

  • Darwin (1871) - Discussed evolution of human traits including social behaviors and their development through natural and sexual selection.

  • Dawes et al. (2012) - Identified brain regions involved in egalitarian behavior and cooperation.

  • de Araujo et al. (2003) - Studied human brain responses to water in the mouth and found activation in regions coding thirst and reward.

  • de Quervain et al. (2004) - Identified neural bases of altruistic punishment, a willingness to pay costs to punish those who violate social norms.

  • Evolutionary biologists and economists have traditionally viewed humans as primarily self-interested, aiming to maximize their own survival and reproductive fitness. However, human social interactions frequently violate this assumption of self-interest.

  • Humans regularly engage in prosocial behaviors where they sacrifice personal benefits to help or benefit others. This suggests humans have “other-regarding preferences” that value the welfare of others.

  • Recent research finds prosocial acts make people feel good. Doing nice things for others activates brain reward pathways in a similar way to personally rewarding experiences. This may explain why humans prefer prosocial over selfish behaviors.

  • Since human prosocial preferences involve ancient brain reward regions, some question if similar preferences exist in other primate species. Researchers have started testing primates’ social preferences experimentally.

  • Studies find primates will help humans achieve goals and console former opponents after conflicts. However, primates don’t consistently help anonymously or help at a personal cost, unlike humans.

  • The chapter will argue primates differ from humans in two key ways: they don’t show strong anonymous helping or personal costly helping. Understanding these differences can provide insight into the neural basis of uniquely human social behavior.

  • Studies on primate donation games have shown inconsistent results, with some primates like capuchin monkeys behaving prosocially and choosing generous options, while other primates like chimpanzees tend to choose randomly.

  • Even capuchins’ prosocial behavior is relatively fragile and dependent on factors like whether the recipient can see their choice and how they were treated in recent interactions. Their rates of generosity are relatively low, around 60%.

  • Primates seem to lack two aspects of human prosocial behavior: first, consistent third-party punishment and reward where they help or punish strangers. Studies found chimpanzees did not punish thieves who stole from unrelated third parties.

  • This suggests primates may lack a uniquely human motivation to behave prosocially in third-party situations toward strangers, unlike humans who often behave prosocially even towards anonymous third parties.

  • The researchers conducted an unpublished study on third-party punishment in capuchin monkeys. They allowed subject monkeys to observe how a “stooge” monkey treated an unrelated third monkey in a donation task - either prosocially or selfishly.

  • After observing, the subject monkeys had the chance to donate food to the stooge monkey. However, like in chimpanzee studies, the capuchins did not donate differently based on the stooge’s behavior towards the third party. This suggests they lack third-party punishment.

  • Humans uniquely avoid advantageous inequity (when they get more than others). Studies show people will incur costs to avoid this. However, no research has found that primates avoid advantageous inequity or are willing to incur costs to do so.

  • A study by Sheskin et al. found capuchins were indifferent between experimenters who previously treated them fairly versus advantageously unfairly, as long as they received a high reward. This contrasts with human aversion to advantageous inequity.

  • In summary, while primates show some prosociality, their preferences seem more fragile. They lack third-party punishment and aversion to advantageous inequity, two important aspects of human prosocial preferences. Future research could explore the neural basis for these species differences.

Here is a summary of the key papers:

  • Thaler, R. H. (1995) discusses dictators games experiments showing that dictators often share resources with others, contradicting standard economic models assuming pure self-interest. It also discusses ultimatum games experiments showing responders often reject unfair offers, even when it reduces their payoff, suggesting norms of fairness.

  • Chang et al. (2013, 2011) examine neuronal activity in primate frontal cortex during vicarious reinforcement and social decisions, showing representation of valued outcomes for other individuals.

  • Cordoni et al. (2006) document reconciliation and consolation behavior in captive western gorillas.

  • Cronin et al. (2009) find cooperatively breeding cottontop tamarins do not donate rewards to long-term mates in donation tasks.

  • de Quervain et al. (2004) identify neural correlates of altruistic punishment in humans using fMRI.

  • de Waal (2008) reviews the evolution of empathy and its role in prosocial behavior.

  • de Waal et al. (2008) show capuchin monkeys will pay costs to donate rewards to other monkeys.

  • Several papers experimentally examine prosocial behaviors like consolation, reconciliation, cooperation, and altruism in various primate species including chimpanzees, capuchins, tamarins, and humans.

  • Neural imaging studies identify brain regions involved in empathy, altruism, fairness, and reward processing related to other individuals.

The papers aim to understand the evolutionary origins and mechanisms of prosocial behavior and how it compares across primate species including humans. Both experimental and neuroscientific evidence suggests human prosociality is not unique and has homologous biological and cognitive underpinnings across primates.

  • Perception-action concepts in motor psychology propose that observing another person’s emotions activates our own neural representations for those emotions, motivating us to help. However, this neural activation does not necessarily lead to subjective feelings of empathy or sympathy.

  • There is a divide between empathy research, which focuses on automatic neural responses, and altruism research, which examines actual helping behavior. New models aim to reconcile this divide.

  • A dynamic systems view argues that neural self-other overlap is required for understanding others but does not always lead to felt emotions. Factors like personal experience and emotions’ effects influence whether felt emotions arise.

  • Empathy (feeling with another) and sympathy (feeling for another) involve different processes. Neural overlap facilitates sympathy when it activates caregiving responses toward vulnerable others.

  • Sympathy particularly requires time/distance for reflective thinking about another’s feelings, whereas emergency situations may bypass sympathetic feelings and elicit fast helping driven directly by distress signals. The models aim to integrate both fast and reflective pathways to altruistic behavior.

  • Empathy involves feeling what another person is feeling, like sadness or sympathy, while observing them. This can influence the observer’s decisions to help.

  • However, in emergency situations where help is needed immediately, observers may act quickly to help without first experiencing feelings of empathy or sympathy. Their preexisting cognitive representations of appropriate responses allow them to help automatically.

  • Rodent research shows a caregiving system evolved to motivate mothers to quickly help offspring in distress. This system involves brain regions related to reward, emotion and motor output.

  • A caregiving model of altruism suggests this system underlies both empathy and active helping behaviors in humans. But only active helping requires the motivational and arousal components of this system.

  • New experiments used a social stress test (TSST) to examine physiological resonance between stressed speakers and observers watching them. Results showed observers experienced stress responses proportional to speakers’, related to their empathic traits.

  • This provides evidence that physiological stress can resonate between individuals, as predicted by the Positive Neuroscience model that distinguishes empathy and active altruism. The caregiving system may facilitate quick, activated helping in emergency situations.

  • The study examined physiological resonance or empathy between speakers giving a stressful speech and observers watching them. Both speakers and observers showed increased cortisol levels, indicating a stress response.

  • Cortisol responses require feelings of uncontrollability and social evaluation, not just general arousal. It is challenging to induce cortisol responses in a lab setting.

  • The observers’ cortisol responses suggest they empathically shared or resonated with the speakers’ stress state. This is known as physiological empathy or contagion.

  • The cues that triggered this response in observers are unclear but may involve speech patterns, nonverbal behavior, and central processing by the observer’s brain.

  • More empathic observers may show stronger physiological resonance because they attune more closely to the speaker’s signals across channels.

  • Future research will look at what specific verbal and nonverbal cues elicit this response and individual differences in observer reactivity.

  • It is unknown if this contagious stress leads observers to help the speaker. Stress can increase both prosocial and antisocial behaviors depending on context.

Here is a summary of the key points about empathy from the literature:

  • Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s emotions and feelings. It involves both an affective component of sharing emotions and a cognitive component of understanding another’s perspective.

  • Neuroscience research has identified areas in the brain involved in empathy, including the mirror neuron system, insula, and anterior cingulate cortex. The amygdala also plays a role in processing emotional content.

  • Oxytocin and other neurotransmitters are involved in regulating empathetic responses on a physiological level. Factors like early life experiences, genetics and attachment styles can influence individual differences in empathy.

  • Higher levels of empathy are linked to more prosocial behaviors like helping, caring for others and charitable giving. However, personal distress felt from another’s emotions can undermine prosocial action.

  • While empathy enhances cooperation and altruism, it is balanced by self-interest. The interplay between feeling for others and maximizing one’s own welfare shapes both emotional resonance with others and helping behaviors.

  • Developing empathy requires both affective mirroring of others’ emotions as well as controlling one’s own emotional response in order to cognitively take their perspective. This balance is important for regulating empathetic responses.

So in summary, empathy involves both affective sharing and cognitive understanding of others, regulated by social, biological and experiential factors to motivate prosocial behaviors while balancing self-interest. The ability to tune into others yet maintain personal agency is crucial.

  • Traditional views see human nature as inherently selfish, with reason controlling more primal passions oriented toward self-preservation.

  • However, more recent perspectives see passions/emotions as useful for moral behavior and decision-making. Evidence shows people often act altruistically and cooperatively in economic games even when it is not in their self-interest.

  • The amygdala was thought to underlie only negative emotions and was associated with more “reptilian” impulses. But it is actually composed of diverse nuclei with different functional roles.

  • The basolateral amygdala receives sensory input and connects to prefrontal regions involved in valuation and decision-making. These connections may support goal-directed behavior and reinforce rewarding stimuli beyond just threats.

  • Rather than a single unitary structure, the amygdala consists of interconnected nuclei within circuits that support attention, reward, fear, memory, and other functions depending on their connections and input/output pathways in the brain. This suggests the amygdala plays a more nuanced role beyond just negative emotions and self-preservation.

  • The amygdala, particularly the basolateral amygdala, plays a role in reward learning and approach behavior. It processes information about reward contingencies and sends signals to structures like the nucleus accumbens to amplify reward signals.

  • Lesions to the basolateral amygdala reduce approach behavior, indicating its importance in incentive motivation and value representation. It represents the value of unconditioned stimuli via connections to other regions.

  • Early research viewed the amygdala, especially the central nucleus, as mainly involved in fear processing and directing attention to threats. It detects threatening stimuli and cues arousal.

  • However, more recent evidence shows the amygdala responds to both positive and negative stimuli of high intensity/salience. Its activation follows a U-shaped curve with most response to highly valenced stimuli.

  • The amygdala is also involved in processing ambiguous or uncertain stimuli that require further attention. It may bias attention toward negative stimuli due to ambiguity inherent in threats.

  • The amygdala has connections allowing both bottom-up automatic processing and top-down control via prefrontal regions. It integrates information from multiple sources to direct attention to salient information flexibly.

  • The amygdala shows both general patterns of response to motivationally relevant stimuli, as well as variations in response depending on individual traits like promotion/prevention focus and extraversion/neuroticism.

  • Appraisal theories propose that the amygdala functions as part of an affect system that evaluates the importance and relevance of stimuli based on an individual’s needs, goals and values. This accounts for both general amygdala response patterns and individual differences.

  • Studies have found increased amygdala activation in response to stimuli that are relevant to an individual’s current motivational state, like food when hungry. Other research links amygdala activity to stimuli relevant to an individual’s processing goals.

  • Previous research linking amygdala response to automatic prejudice may need revising, as the amygdala responds to motivational relevance rather than just threat. One study found increased amygdala response to novel in-group faces compared to out-group.

  • The amygdala is important for processing socially relevant information like faces, and for judgments of traits like trustworthiness that are important for social interactions. It also supports moral evaluations and emotions.

  • Evidence links the amygdala to both processing social information and expressing prosocial behaviors that benefit others, like altruism, suggesting it facilitates appropriate social behaviors.

  • Altruism can be understood as stemming from processes like empathy and theory of mind. It requires the ability to empathize with others.

  • The amygdala plays an important role in empathy and other prosocial behaviors. It is modulated by the neuropeptide oxytocin. Oxytocin attenuates amygdala response to fear, reducing distrust and facilitating prosocial behavior.

  • The amygdala is activated during tasks requiring theory of mind. Damage to the amygdala impairs performance on such tasks.

  • Amygdala activation is shaped by goals. With the goal of helping others, the amygdala can become sensitive to the needs of others and help detect those in need.

  • A study found that when participants had the goal of helping others, high empathy participants showed greater amygdala activation when judging trustworthiness compared to when helping themselves. This suggests empathy tunes the amygdala towards others’ needs.

  • Shifting focus from self to helping others promotes well-being through increased life satisfaction, health, and lower mortality rates. The amygdala plays a key role in social and moral processes related to positive psychology like empathy, attachment, trust and prosocial behavior.

So in summary, the amygdala and empathy are important for altruism. The amygdala can be tuned by goals like helping others to better detect and respond to others’ needs, promoting prosocial behavior and well-being.

Here is a summary of the key findings from the studies:

  • I. H., & Gabrieli (2002) found that extraversion was correlated with greater amygdala response to happy faces. More extraverted individuals showed stronger amygdala activation when viewing happy expressions.

  • Canli et al. (2001) found that certain personality traits like neuroticism were correlated with differences in amygdala reactivity to emotional stimuli. More neurotic individuals showed stronger amygdala responses.

  • Carr et al. (2003) found that the amygdala and related limbic regions were activated during empathy for pain, suggesting the amygdala plays a role in empathy.

  • Cunningham et al. (2010) found aspects of neuroticism were associated with chronic amygdala tuning, supporting the idea that traits shape amygdala responses over time.

  • Cunningham & Brosch (2012) suggested the amygdala tunes responses based on motivational styles, needs, values and goals to increase motivational salience.

  • Other studies explored how traits like happiness (Cunningham & Kirkland, 2013), attitudes (Cunningham et al., 2004), and regulatory focus (Cunningham et al., 2005) influence amygdala reactivity.

  • Further studies examined the role of sex hormones like estrogen on amygdala-mediated social behaviors (Cushing et al., 2008) and how oxytocin can modulate amygdala responses related to social cognition and empathy (Hurlemann et al., 2010).

In summary, these studies provided evidence that personality traits, attitudes, motivations and hormones can influence amygdala reactivity and tuning, especially in processing social and emotional stimuli. The amygdala appears to play a key role in empathy, motivation and socially-mediated behaviors.

Here is a summary of the key points from the provided research articles on the neural underpinnings of compassion:

  • Compassion is a complex phenomenon involving affective feelings, social inferences, emotional meanings, and behaviors intended to alleviate suffering. Different brain networks underlie these various components.

  • The affective/emotional network includes structures like the amygdala, insula, and anterior cingulate cortex which generate feelings of distress, care, or aversion in response to others’ suffering.

  • The mentalizing/inference network, including temporoparietal junction and medial prefrontal cortex, supports understanding others’ mental and emotional states.

  • Interactions between these networks facilitate the evolution of compassionate emotional meanings and motivations from initially simple affective responses.

  • Attractor-like properties of the underlying brain networks enable dynamic interplay between neural activity patterns supporting different components of compassion.

  • Future research directions include compassion training interventions to strengthen key networks and promote compassionate responses. Mapping components of compassion to brain systems provides an objective framework for studying these processes independent of semantic definitions.

In summary, the articles characterize compassion as involving distinct but interacting brain networks supporting affect, social cognition, and motivation, and propose mapping these components to neural systems to advance scientific understanding and application of compassion.

The passage summarizes three key brain networks involved in empathy and compassion:

  1. The social inference network, comprising the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), temporoparietal junction (TPJ), and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), which supports mentalizing and inferring others’ perspectives, beliefs, and feelings.

  2. The affective feeling network centered on the anterior insula (aI) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), which engages emotional responses like distress or tenderness towards others’ suffering.

  3. The medial prefrontal-striatal network, which constructs “emotional meanings” by evaluating others’ significance to the self and the contextual/situational features, supporting valuing of others and prosocial motivation to help them. This network is involved in representing how much one “cares” about helping others.

The passage also notes some additional brain systems that may play a role in generating compassionate responses, like memory retrieval circuits if the person is familiar, and emotion regulation/control systems.

  • The passage proposes a dynamic process-content model of compassion involving three interacting brain networks supporting social inference, affective feeling, and integration of meaning.

  • The networks are proposed to function as attractor networks both within and between networks, with information flowing multidirectionally.

  • Activity in the networks represents the specific content of social inferences, feelings, and overall emotional meaning regarding a suffering person.

  • The emergence of a coherent, compassionate representation across networks leads to helping behaviors, while incoherent representations hinder compassion.

  • The model can explain deficits in clinical populations affecting different networks.

  • Compassion training programs aim to cultivate feelings of care, social perspective-taking, and prosocial emotional meanings.

  • Evidence suggests training can enhance activity in brain regions implicated in the three networks and increase real-world helping behaviors.

  • Future research should link cognitive neuroscience findings more closely with targeting specific processes in compassion training interventions and their assessment.

This passage discusses research on the psychological and neural processes underlying compassion. Some key points:

  • It proposes a dynamic model of compassion as involving social inference, affective feelings, and construction of emotional meanings regarding others’ suffering.

  • This model functions like an “attractor state network” where neural activity within and across networks dynamically interacts to potentially lead to behavioral decisions.

  • Precisely characterizing the psychological and neural processes of compassion can enhance efforts to train compassion.

  • Multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA) may help differentiate similar but different responses like compassion and schadenfreude by examining within-network activity patterns rather than just overall regional activity.

  • Improved measurement of compassionate behavior is needed using more ecologically valid paradigms like real-world donation tasks or observations of helping behavior.

  • Factors that facilitate or inhibit the translation of compassion to behavior need further study to inform intervention research.

  • Sustaining compassion long-term without burnout may depend on the type of empathy employed - feelings of tenderness vs distress. Training may help increase sustaining positive emotions.

Here is a summary of the key articles:

  • Decety and Jackson (2004) studied the functional neural architecture underlying human empathy using neuroimaging. They identified brain regions involved in perspective-taking, emotion contagion and regulation.

  • Decety and Lamm (2011) discuss the distinction between empathy and personal distress, reviewing evidence from social neuroscience. Empathy involves sharing others’ feelings while personal distress is a self-oriented feeling of anxiety.

  • DellaVigna et al. (2012) experimentally tested for altruism and social pressure in charitable giving using field and lab experiments. They found evidence for both motives.

  • Desbordes et al. (2012) found 8-week mindful attention training decreased amygdala response to negative stimuli in a non-meditative state using fMRI.

  • Dunn et al. (2014) reviewed evidence that spending money on others increases spender’s happiness more than personal spending through satisfying psychological needs.

  • The articles discuss the neural correlates of empathy, compassion and prosocial behaviors identified using neuroimaging techniques like fMRI. Key brain regions implicated include insula, cingulate cortex, striatum and prefrontal cortex. Meditation and compassion training appears to influence the function and connectivity of these regions. The motivations for charitable giving and how they are encoded in the brain are also reviewed. Together the articles help characterize the neurobiology underlying altruistic behaviors.

Here is a summary of the key points from the five research articles:

  • Brown et al. (2009) found that compassion meditation reduced neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress compared to a control group. Compassion meditation was associated with lower cortisol levels and reduced anxiety in response to stress.

  • Pace et al. (2013) found that engaging in cognitively-based compassion training was associated with reduced levels of salivary C-reactive protein, a biomarker of inflammation, in adolescents from before to after the training. This suggests compassion training may have anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Pace et al. (2010) found that innate immune, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress did not predict how much time participants subsequently spent practicing compassion meditation. This suggests these factors are not reliable predictors of who will engage more with compassion training.

  • Peelen et al. (2010) provided evidence from neuroimaging that perceptions of different emotions activate supramodal brain regions in a similar manner, regardless of whether the emotion is conveyed through visual or auditory modalities. This suggests shared representations for perceived emotions across senses.

  • Raz et al. (2012) presented a multilayered neuroimaging approach to probing the dynamics of neural networks involved in portraying emotions as they unfold over time. This provides new ways to examine the real-time neural representations and processing of emotions.

In summary, the studies provided evidence that compassion meditation and training can impact stress responses, inflammation, and emotional processing in the brain. They also explored new neuroimaging methods for examining the dynamics of emotional representations and processing.

  • The passage discusses three main types of empathy: emotional empathy, cognitive empathy, and empathic concern.

  • Emotional empathy involves sharing and matching another’s emotional state. Cognitive empathy involves understanding another’s mental state like beliefs. Empathic concern involves caring about another’s welfare and distress.

  • Evidence suggests empathic concern is what drives altruistic behavior, not just understanding someone cognitively or emotionally.

  • Important individual differences exist in levels of empathic concern. Psychopaths have very low empathic concern, while some “anti-psychopaths” may have unusually high empathic concern. Altruistic kidney donors appear to be examples of those with high empathic concern.

  • Laboratory studies show altruistic behaviors increase when participants are exposed to others’ distress cues. Ability to correctly identify distress also predicts individual differences in altruism.

  • The study aimed to assess neural and behavioral responses to distress in altruistic kidney donors to test if their altruism results from increased sensitivity to others’ distress.

  • The study examined amygdala activation in response to fearful facial expressions during brain scanning of altruistic kidney donors.

  • The amygdala plays a key role in generating fear responses. Prior research shows amygdala activation is greater when viewing fearful vs other emotional expressions. This response is reduced in individuals with psychopathic traits.

  • The researchers hypothesized that altruistic donors would show heightened amygdala activation to fearful expressions, corresponding to better recognition of these expressions. They also hypothesized donors would have lower psychopathic traits.

  • All three hypotheses were confirmed. Donors showed greater amygdala activation to fearful expressions, relating to improved recognition. They also reported reduced psychopathic traits.

  • This supports the idea that altruistic donors exhibit enhanced empathic responses to distress, reflecting genuine altruistic concern for others’ well-being. This could address concerns donation reflects psychological disorders rather than true altruism.

  • The study provides neural evidence that empathic processes underlie extraordinary acts of altruism, helping illuminate the neurocognitive bases of such behaviors. However, more questions remain about what drives the shift from empathy to altruistic concern.

This summary consolidates key findings from 17 research articles on the topics of empathy, altruism, psychopathy, and extraordinary or extraordinary altruism:

  • Several articles explored the neural basis of empathy and identified key brain regions involved, including the amygdala, septohypo-thalamic area, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Activation in these areas is associated with processing emotional faces and understanding others’ perspectives.

  • Studies explored factors influencing empathy and altruism, such as oxytocin levels, parenting/maternal care, gene expression, and psychopathic/autistic traits which can impair recognizing and responding to distress cues.

  • Articles reported on motivations and psychological outcomes of living kidney donors, finding most experienced positive outcomes despite risks and that altruism toward strangers can be encouraged.

  • Research identified deficits in facial affect recognition abilities in populations with psychopathy or conduct problems and linked this to reduced amygdala responsiveness to fearful expressions.

  • Studies took taxometric and dimensional approaches to modeling psychopathy and debated its conceptualization as a clinical construct versus personality trait.

  • One study utilized neurological and cognitive tests to characterize the extraordinary altruists who donated kidneys to strangers, identifying some unique attributes compared to controls.

  • Several articles reviewed empathy-related theory of mind abilities and the role of simulation in understanding others’ emotions. The complex interplay between biology, development, psychopathology, and social cognition in shaping empathic responses and altruism was a major theme.

  • Stressful life events (SLEs) like death of a loved one, divorce, serious illness can trigger negative psychological and physical health outcomes. However, some people exhibit resilience and maintain or improve well-being after SLEs.

  • Two strategies that may facilitate resilience are positive emotion and cognitive reappraisal (Changing how one thinks about an emotional situation to change its emotional impact).

  • The authors propose that using reappraisal to increase positive emotion during or after negative/stressful events (“positive reappraisal” or PR) may be particularly effective for building resilience.

  • Short-term, PR is hypothesized to increase positive emotions without necessarily decreasing negative emotions, since positive and negative emotions are distinct. Over time, increased positive emotion from PR may translate to decreased mental health problems and increased well-being (resilience).

  • Studies on manipulating negative emotions using reappraisal (negative reappraisal or NR) provide preliminary evidence that PR may increase positive self-reported emotion, decrease physiological arousal, and decrease amygdala activation involved in emotional responses.

  • In summary, the authors argue that self-generating positive emotion through positive reappraisal during or after stress/negative events may be a highly adaptive strategy for building resilience in the long run.

  • Studies have shown that positive reappraisal (PR) can be used to increase positive emotions even in the context of negative stimuli. PR activates the amygdala and ventral striatum to a greater extent than negative reappraisal (NR).

  • PR results in greater levels of self-reported positive emotion and physiological activation compared to NR. It is associated with a “challenge” cardiovascular response rather than a “threat” response.

  • Neuroimaging studies indicate that PR and NR engage similar prefrontal and parietal brain regions involved in cognitive control. However, PR may recruit left lateral prefrontal and dorsal medial prefrontal regions to a greater extent.

  • Increased positive emotion is associated with greater resilience and psychological adjustment to stressful life events. Interventions that boost positive emotion can improve recovery from depression and enhance coping with stress.

  • Positive emotions may be especially beneficial during stressful times when they are lacking. The ability to generate positive emotions through PR following negative stimuli could promote longer-term resilience and adaptation to adversity.

  • Research provides evidence that self-generating positive emotions via positive reappraisal (PR) supports resilience in times of stress.

  • During stress, there are few situational cues for positive emotions, so self-generating positive emotions is useful. The good feelings of positive emotions are also most needed during stress.

  • Studies have found that using PR in response to daily stressors is correlated with greater positive mood. PR was also associated with greater positive mood both before and after the death of a partner (a highly stressful event).

  • PR appears to help resilience not just by decreasing negative emotions, but also by enhancing positive emotions, which plays a crucial role in coping with stress.

  • Future research aims to establish the causal effects of PR on resilience, such as through PR interventions during stressful life events. Mediators and moderators of PR’s effects will also be examined. Comparing PR interventions to other positive emotion interventions can help determine PR’s unique contributions.

  • In summary, emerging evidence suggests self-generated positive emotions through PR constitute an important resilience factor, particularly during times of high stress.

Here is a summary of the article:

The article examines the cognitive consequences of emotion regulation using event-related brain potentials (ERPs). Participants were shown unpleasant or neutral images and instructed to either maintain or modify their emotional response. ERPs were measured during image viewing.

For unpleasant images, distraction regulation (modifying the response) resulted in reduced late positive potential (LPP) amplitude compared to maintenance. But for neutral images, maintenance led to reduced LPP compared to distraction.

This suggests that emotion regulation demands cognitive resources. Distraction reduces processing of arousing unpleasant content but increases processing of neutral content by diverting attention away. Maintenance does not require additional resources for neutral stimuli.

The results provide electrophysiological evidence that emotion regulation affects motivated attention and cognitive processing in a stimulus-dependent manner. Different regulation strategies influence late-stage stimulus processing differently depending on the emotional salience of the material. This has implications for understanding the cognitive costs and benefits of different emotion regulation approaches.

Here is a summary of the key points from the selected publications:

  • Mindfulness meditation derives from ancient Buddhist and other spiritual traditions, involving cultivating nonjudgmental present-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

  • A two-component model of mindfulness includes self-regulating attention on immediate experience, and an open, curious, and accepting attitude toward experiences.

  • Research shows mindfulness meditation produces beneficial effects on psychiatric, functional somatic, and stress-related symptoms. It has been incorporated into psychotherapeutic programs.

  • Mindfulness-based interventions have demonstrated efficacy in treating disorders like depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, chronic pain, and anxiety disorders.

  • Studies provide evidence that mindfulness meditation can modulate the brain regions involved in fear response and extinction learning, including the amygdala, hippocampus, and PFC. This may underlie its effects on anxiety and stress responses.

  • Further research is still needed to clarify the specific neurobiological mechanisms by which mindfulness meditation impacts fear, anxiety, and related disorders at both the brain circuit and neuroplasticity levels. Studies directly comparing meditation to exposure therapy could also provide useful insights.

  • Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms and positively influence physical health by improving immune function, reducing blood pressure and cortisol levels.

  • It has also produced psychological well-being benefits in healthy people and enhanced cognitive functioning.

  • Historically, mindfulness has been practiced to achieve happiness and gain insight.

  • While research demonstrates these benefits, the underlying mechanisms are still not fully understood. Some proposed mechanisms include improved attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and change in self-perspective.

  • Mindfulness may work through enhancing the ability to extinguish conditioned emotional responses, similar to exposure therapy. During mindfulness one exposes themselves to experiences non-reactively, akin to exposure therapy.

  • Brain regions involved in fear extinction and its retention include the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), hippocampus, and amygdala. The vmPFC and hippocampus may comprise a network that mediates extinction memory expression. Mindfulness practice could strengthen this network.

  • Several neuroimaging studies have shown that the amygdala, hippocampus, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) are dysfunctional in anxiety disorders like PTSD, OCD, depression, and schizophrenia.

  • Meditation can lead to structural changes in these brain regions associated with fear extinction. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase gray matter concentration in the hippocampus and correlate cumulative meditation hours with increased gray matter in the vmPFC.

  • Functional MRI studies show meditation activates the hippocampus and vmPFC, indicating regular practice enhances function of these regions involved in fear extinction.

  • There is significant overlap between brain regions impacted by mindfulness meditation and those involved in mediating fear extinction. This suggests meditation could directly influence one’s capacity for fear extinction.

  • Enhanced extinction processes through meditation may help explain improvements in anxiety disorders seen with mindfulness-based treatments by facilitating exposure-based therapies that rely on extinction. It could also help with overcoming cravings in substance abuse treatment.

  • The hypothesis that meditation enhances fear extinction is being tested in a study examining the impact of an MBSR program on fear conditioning, extinction and extinction memory in the MRI scanner.

Here is a summary of the key points from the provided sources:

  • Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and affect brain regions involved in emotion regulation like the amygdala. Studies have found structural and functional changes in brain areas related to mindfulness practice.

  • Mindfulness may enhance extinction learning and weaken conditioned fear responses by modulating the function of the amygdala and prefrontal regions involved in extinction. This could explain mindfulness’ effects on reducing anxiety over time.

  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction programs have been clinically shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia and improve well-being and health outcomes. Meta-analyses support mindfulness interventions for managing stress and a variety of health conditions.

  • The neural mechanisms by which mindfulness may work involve changes in attention, cognitive control networks and sensory processing in the brain. Regular practice can lead to increases in gray matter density in brain regions associated with learning, memory, emotion regulation and stress.

  • Extinction of conditioned fear memories involves the amygdala, prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Dysfunction in these areas could impair fear extinction, as seen in certain disorders like schizophrenia.

  • Several studies established operational definitions and core components of mindfulness as paying attention purposefully and non-judgmentally to present moment experiences. Historical and philosophical perspectives are also discussed.

Here is a summary of the resting state of normal consciousness:

  • The resting state refers to the baseline activity of the brain when a person is awake but not actively engaged in goal-directed behaviors or cognitive tasks.

  • During the resting state, the brain continues to exhibit organized and synchronized activity across widely distributed neural networks. This intrinsic activity is present even when we are not focused on the external world or inner mentation.

  • Two major networks show elevated activity during resting state - the default mode network (DMN) and the salience network. The DMN is activated when internally focused, such as during daydreaming, while the salience network is involved in detecting and filtering environmental stimuli.

  • Resting state networks have been linked to functions such as internal mentation, maintaining self-awareness and internal cognition, and facilitating cognitive and behavioral responses to stimuli. They are thought to play a role in maintaining an overall sense of consciousness even during rest.

  • In normal conscious individuals, these resting state networks show organized synchronization and intrinsic activity that is impacted by factors like meditation practice or certain neurological disorders. Studying the resting state provides insights into fundamental properties of conscious brain function and organization.

This passage discusses absolute pitch (AP) ability and how it relates to brain connectivity and function. Some key points:

  • AP is the rare ability to identify musical pitches without a reference tone. It is more common in musicians and associated with some neurodevelopmental disorders.

  • Studies have found structural differences in white matter connectivity (especially left hemisphere arcuate fasciculus) in AP individuals compared to controls.

  • An fMRI study found functional differences in AP individuals vs controls during a music task, with increased activity in auditory, sensory, and emotion/reward processing regions.

  • This suggests intrinsic enhancements in the functional brain network of AP individuals. Network analysis confirmed increased connectivity and clustering throughout the brain, especially left superior temporal gyrus, even at rest.

  • The intrinsic network differences may explain AP individuals’ ability to perceive pitch categories in non-musical contexts like environmental sounds.

In summary, the passage proposes that enhanced structural and functional brain connectivity, particularly in left temporal areas, underlies the unique ability of AP individuals to categorize pitches without a reference tone. Network analysis provides evidence this connectivity is an intrinsic property of their brains.

  • Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon where sensory stimuli trigger additional sensations, like letters triggering colors. It is similar to AP in having genetic and environmental factors.

  • Existing models propose hyperconnectivity (increased structural/functional connectivity) or disinhibition as potential causes of synesthesia. Colored-music synesthesia is a good model to study connectivity between auditory and visual regions.

  • A study found increased structural connectivity in synesthetes, specifically higher integrity in the right inferior frontal-occipital fasciculus (IFOF), a pathway connecting visual, auditory, and frontal regions. Connectivity in the right fusiform gyrus correlated with consistency of synesthetic associations.

  • Follow up studies using probabilistic tractography found synesthetes have more connections between temporal, occipital, and frontal regions involved in audition, vision, and top-down control.

  • Preliminary fMRI also found enhanced auditory and visual region activation in synesthetes during music, suggesting domain-specific enhancements coupled with shared auditory/cognitive network.

  • Both AP and synesthesia may involve enhanced structural and functional connectivity, linking them to other populations with high intelligence/creativity or at the enhanced end of individual connectivity differences.

The study investigated the brain connectivity bases for learning new musical structures. Participants learned artificial melodies generated by a novel Bohlen-Pierce musical scale with a non-standard frequency ratio. They could recognize heard melodies and generalized the underlying grammatical rules to new melodies, showing humans exploit statistical regularities to learn musical structures. Event-related potentials showed increased activity reflecting sensory and cognitive processing after learning.

Structural MRI found the right arcuate fasciculus, connecting auditory and prefrontal regions, correlated with learning ability. This fiber pathway facilitates communication between these regions important for music learning.

A separate study examined brain differences related to intensely emotional responses to music like chills. Participants reporting frequent emotional reactions showed greater white matter volume connecting auditory, insula, and medial prefrontal cortex regions. These regions are involved in emotion processing, mental imagery, empathy and creativity. This suggests increased connectivity facilitating communication between auditory perception and socio-emotional processing may underlie stronger emotional experiences of music.

  • A recent study found that children who learned to play music together improved in emotional empathy compared to a non-musical control group. This converges with neuroimaging results implicating shared networks for music and social-emotional processing.

  • Music recruits a widespread fronto-temporal network supporting functions like sound perception, production, categorization, and acquiring musical knowledge. This network is also linked to creativity and emotional communication.

  • Studying music can inform our understanding of brain organization. Music flexibly recruits operations from basic pitch processing to subjective experiences. The brain structures enabling this may be interconnected “highways and byways” linking regions for different functions.

  • The arcuate fasciculus is a major connection linking perceptual and motor regions. Other connections like the inferior frontal occipital fasciculus and uncinate fasciculus correlate with functions relevant to music like audiovisual processing and social-emotion.

  • A comprehensive model of music experience must incorporate most/all principal brain structures and functions. Characterizing musical aspects in terms of connectomes may advance understanding of human flourishing through exceptional human experiences like music.

Here is a summary of the key points across the articles:

  • Kam (2010) found that humans can rapidly learn grammatical structure in a new musical scale, suggesting innate musicality and flexibility in processing unfamiliar musical systems.

  • Loui et al. (2009, 2012a, 2012b, 2013) conducted several studies exploring the neural correlates of absolute pitch (able to identify musical notes without a reference point) and found enhanced functional networks and connectivity in brain areas involved in pitch processing for individuals with absolute pitch.

  • Miyazaki (1989) found that absolute pitch identification ability was impacted by timbre (instrument sound) and pitch region.

  • Mottron et al. (2013) suggested that exceptional autistic abilities may emerge through a process of veridical mapping in neurological development.

  • Loui et al. (2016) found that brain connectivity patterns correlated with individual differences in aesthetic responses to music.

  • Rabinowitch et al. (2012) found that long-term musical group interaction had a positive influence on empathy in children.

  • Several studies used imaging and network analysis to map the complex neural networks and pathways involved in music listening, emotion processing, empathy, autism and other conditions. Overall the studies contributed to understanding the neural bases of musical skills, cognition and experiences.

Here is a summary of the key points about the relationship between affect and attention from the passage:

  • Negative affect such as fear or anxiety is associated with a narrowing or constriction of attention, sometimes called “weapon focus.” This narrowing may help facilitate quick responses in life-threatening situations by focusing attention on threats.

  • This interaction between negative affect and narrow attentional focus can have implications for understanding disorders like anxiety and depression that involve attentional biases.

  • In contrast, recent research shows that positive affect is linked to an expansion or broadening of attention. Inducing positive mood increases attentional breadth across different domains.

  • One study found that positive affect impaired selective attention on a flanker task, allowing more peripheral distractors to be encoded. This suggests a “leakier” or less focused attentional filter with positive affect.

  • Positive affect also increased the ability to generate remote word associations, indicating broader access to internal semantic information.

  • Individual differences in semantic breadth and visual attentional breadth under positive affect were correlated.

  • Another study using fMRI found that positive affect literally altered the “spotlight” of visual attention, making it more diffuse and encompassing peripheral places to a greater degree.

  • Taken together, these findings suggest positive affect results in a global shift that enhances the span of attention allocation to both external visual and internal conceptual domains. This indicates a shift to more open, flexible, and exploratory cognition broadly.

  • Exploration occurs when animals encounter a novel environment or changes in their familiar environment. However, other responses like fear and avoidance can also occur.

  • Exploration is believed to have evolutionary benefits as it allows animals to become familiar with resources, find food/shelter, and avoid dangers, improving chances of survival. However, there is a trade-off between exploration and exploiting known resources due to energy/risk costs.

  • Exploration involves an interaction between motivation and attention. Positive affect leads to broad attention and approach motivation, enhancing exploration. Negative affect narrows attention and promotes avoidance, decreasing exploration.

  • Evidence shows animals and humans explore more when satiated/in positive contexts versus after aversive stimuli/in negative contexts like stress or depression.

  • From a reinforcement learning perspective, exploration of new actions is needed for learning but must be weighed against exploiting reliable known rewards due to risks of exploration. Computational models study this exploration-exploitation tradeoff.

  • Exploration can also occur without external rewards, such as through latent or “play” exploration, suggesting it supports learning beyond fulfilling basic needs. This type of exploration may be driven more by intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation.

This passage discusses the concept of exploration in animals and humans. Some key points:

  • Exploration is behavior that is not obviously motivated by things like finding food, escape, etc. It seems to be driven by intrinsic motivation to learn about the environment.

  • Examples in animals include play fighting, locomotive exercise, and object play. Rats will sometimes explore a maze even when food is present.

  • In humans, play exploration is associated with benefits like increased creativity, problem solving skills, language development, and social adjustment.

  • The passage proposes that positive affect facilitates both reward-based exploration and play exploration. Positive affect results in broader attention, positive motivation, and enhanced exploration.

  • Play exploration in particular promotes flexibility and creative problem solving. Future research should examine the interaction between exploration, motivation, attention and other cognitive functions, as well as identifying neural mechanisms.

  • Play exploration is suggested to be important for well-being and the function of positive emotions. Overall the passage discusses the role of exploration, particularly play exploration, in learning, creativity and well-being.

  • Low trait resilience and rumination are correlated with depression. Rumination involves getting stuck in a negative cognitive state after a negative experience.

  • Low resilience individuals may be more likely to narrow their focus and thinking in response to negative events, increasing risk of rumination and depression over time.

  • The COMT Val158Met polymorphism may influence well-being by regulating dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex and impacting cognitive processes. Specifically:

  • The Met allele is associated with slower dopamine degradation, higher prefrontal cortex dopamine, and better cognitive stability/working memory.

  • The Val allele is associated with faster dopamine degradation, lower prefrontal cortex dopamine, and better cognitive flexibility to adapt to changing tasks/environments.

  • Studies found Met carriers reported more positive experiences compared to Val carriers. Further research could examine if Val carriers show faster emotional flexibility to adapt to emotional challenges.

  • While certain genes like COMT may influence emotional processing and well-being, genetics alone do not determine well-being in a deterministic way. Multiple genetic and environmental factors interact.

  • Research shows that positive emotions broaden attention and increase access to internal semantic information, allowing for more connections across concepts. This suggests positive emotions lead to a more global shift in information processing and greater allocation of resources to both external and internal information.

  • This increased attentional breadth is proposed to facilitate exploration, both reward-based exploration and “play exploration” unrelated to rewards. Exploration requires balancing exploration and exploitation, and play exploration may promote flexibility and creative problem solving.

  • Emotional flexibility and resilience may depend on adapting emotions to changing environments. Positive emotions may facilitate this flexibility by allowing more adaptive cognitive states.

  • Some evidence suggests well-being and positive affect are partially genetically determined. The COMT Val158Met gene may influence cognitive flexibility and stability related to positive emotional functioning.

  • A framework is needed to characterize well-being as resulting from gene-environment interactions. An “endophenotype” approach examining reliable biological markers for traits related to well-being could help define well-being in biologically defined stable phenotypes with clear genetic components.

  • This approach may help understand natural predispositions related to well-being while also allowing use of this information to promote well-being through better environment management.

Here is a summary of the key papers presented:

  • Berlyne (1966) investigated curiosity and exploration in animals and humans, showing that moderate novelty arouses curiosity and exploration.

  • Berlyne (1955) found that perceptual curiosity in rats increases with initial exposure to novel stimuli but then decreases with continued exposure or satiation.

  • Berridge & Robinson (1998) discussed the role of dopamine in reward and incentive salience. Dopamine encodes prediction errors that drive reward learning.

  • Bilder et al. (2004) related the COMT polymorphism to dopamine functioning and traits like cognition and psychopathology. The val allele is associated with less prefrontal dopamine and worse executive function.

  • Bonanno et al. (2004) showed that flexibility in modulating emotional expressions predicts long-term adjustment to loss.

  • Daw et al. (2006) found that regions involved in exploration vs. exploitation (e.g. orbitofrontal cortex) encode decision values for exploring novel options.

  • Fredrickson (2001) proposed the broaden-and-build theory wherein positive emotions broaden thinking and build lasting resources like social bonds and coping skills.

  • Colzato et al. (2010) found the val allele of COMT associated with better task switching, relating dopamine to cognitive flexibility.

So in summary, these papers discuss the roles of dopamine, novelty, emotional flexibility and positive emotions in driving exploration and adaptive responses to change. The COMT polymorphism also relates to individual differences in dopamine function and complex cognition.

Here is a summary of the provided article:

The article discusses research on positive emotions and their role in exploration. It examines how positive emotions, like joy and interest, broaden people’s momentary thought-action repertoires and build their physical, intellectual, and social resources over the long run. Positive emotions trigger upregulated and integrated brain activity that is conducive to exploratory thoughts and behaviors. They fuel psychological resilience and creativity.

The article reviews studies showing that positive emotions increase cognitive flexibility, encouragement of novel and varied ideas and actions, and willingness to explore one’s environment. Positive emotions also impact heuristics and decision making in complex situations. Experimental evidence demonstrates that positive affect facilitates performance on creative problem-solving tasks.

Overall, the article analyzes research suggesting positive emotions play an adaptive role in exploratory behavior and building personal resources. They help people approach new situations flexibly and cope with challenges in novel and productive ways. The broadening effects of positive emotions may have evolutionary significance for building enduring personal resources and adaptability over time.

Here is a summary of the key points from pages 15-17:

  • The hippocampus is involved in processes like negative affective states, threat and fear processing, motivation, and socially relevant information processing. It has connections to the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex.

  • Mindfulness meditation has been shown to affect the hippocampus, reducing anxiety and possibly helping with extinction of conditioned fear responses.

  • The amygdala mediates processes like anxiety, fear responses, emotional empathy and compassion. It is connected to other structures like the orbitofrontal cortex, insula, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

  • The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is involved in higher-order processes like self-other goals, moral decision making, cognitive control of emotions and prosociality. The ventromedial PFC and orbitofrontal cortex are particularly relevant to social and emotional processes.

  • The orbitofrontal cortex is connected to structures like the amygdala and hippocampus. It is involved in functions like reward processing, motivation and regulation of negative affective states.

  • Mindfulness meditation may help retrain PFC regulation of processes like attention, affect and the amygdala’s fear responses through exposure-based extinction learning.

  • Studies have looked at the neural bases of empathy, including networks involved in cognitive and affective aspects, and the perception-production model of empathy involving mirroring others’ expressions in similar brain areas.

Here is a summary of the key points from the selected sections:

Session 41-42, 49n1: Discusses the social resonance hypothesis which proposes that neural synchronization between individuals supports communication functions. Emotional expressions involve crossmodal activations between sensory systems.

Reward systems connectivity, 108-109: Outlines connections between reward-related brain regions like the ventral striatum, vmPFC, and amygdala which are implicated in processing rewarding social stimuli.

Shared structure hypothesis, 39-41, 40f, 43-44: Proposes that similarities in the neural structures that process social information between individuals underlies social abilities. Cites evidence of overlapping activation in temporal cortices and STS region when observing and experiencing different social stimuli.

Superior longitudinal fasciculus, 45-46, 45f: Discusses the fiber tract connecting frontal and temporal regions that is important for integrating multisensory social information and has been linked to individual differences in social skills.

Superior temporal cortex, 39, 41: Identifies this region as important for social perception based on its role in processing changeable aspects of faces, voices, biological motion. It is activated both when observing and experiencing social stimuli.

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