Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

MRI Studies Provide New Insight Into How Emotions Interfere With Staying Focused

Date:
August 20, 2002
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
Duke University researchers have shown how emotions such as fear or horror travel along separate paths through the brain and are more likely than simple distractions to interfere with a person's efforts to focus on a task such as driving.

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University researchers have shown how emotions such as fear or horror travel along separate paths through the brain and are more likely than simple distractions to interfere with a person's efforts to focus on a task such as driving.

Using functional MRI to watch human brains in action, the researchers showed that emotional stimuli and "attentional functions" like driving move in parallel streams through the brain before finally meeting up in a specific part of the brain's prefrontal cortex.

The results, published in the August 20 issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), help explain why a person who suddenly feels a pang of emotion is especially likely to lose focus. They also may lead to new avenues of research for treating depression, attention-deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome and other disorders.

"We've known for a long time that some people are more easily distracted and that emotions can play a big part in this," said Kevin S. LaBar, assistant professor at Duke's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and an author of the study. "Our study shows that two streams of processing take place in the brain, with attentional tasks and emotions moving in parallel before finally coming together." The two streams are integrated in a region of the brain called the anterior cingulate, which is located between the right and left halves of the brain's frontal portion and is involved in a wide range of thought processes and emotional responses.

LaBar and his colleagues used functional MRI devices to study the brains of neurologically healthy subjects who tried to pay attention to specific visual targets on a screen. The test subjects were distracted in various ways, sometimes by images that were likely to evoke an emotional response. The results confirmed previous findings that emotional stimuli are more likely to cause a person to lose focus. However, they also shed light on the long-standing mystery of how the brain juggles different kinds of signals, and how the signals travel.

The Duke study indicates that the brain segregates attentional and emotional functions into parallel streams that extend into the prefrontal cortex. Emotional processing tends to occur in the ventral, or lower, part of the brain's front, while attentional tasks occur near the top. Surprisingly, an increase in one type of function is accompanied by a noticeable decrease in the other.

"This study is part of our larger effort to identify parts of the brain that are associated with emotional processing," said Gregory McCarthy, director of the Duke–University of North Carolina Imaging and Analysis Center, who headed the research study. "These findings are important because diseases that involve distractability, from Alzheimer's to attention-deficit disorder, always seems to involve the prefrontal cortex. Understanding the biology of this will speed efforts to develop drugs or therapies that may influence these systems."

The research team is now carrying out a similar study with subjects diagnosed with clinical depression to see how their brain activity might differ. The study reported in PNAS was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression and the Japan Foundation for Aging and Health.

Useful links:

Proceedings of the National Academy of Scienceshttp://www.pnas.org

Duke–UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Centerhttp://www.biac.duke.edu

Kevin LaBar laboratoryhttp://www.mind.duke.edu/level2/faculty/labar/default.htm


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University. "MRI Studies Provide New Insight Into How Emotions Interfere With Staying Focused." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 August 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/08/020820071045.htm>.
Duke University. (2002, August 20). MRI Studies Provide New Insight Into How Emotions Interfere With Staying Focused. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/08/020820071045.htm
Duke University. "MRI Studies Provide New Insight Into How Emotions Interfere With Staying Focused." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/08/020820071045.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
West Africa Gripped by Deadly Ebola Outbreak

West Africa Gripped by Deadly Ebola Outbreak

AFP (July 28, 2014) The worst-ever outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic grips west Africa, killing hundreds. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Newsy (July 27, 2014) Google is collecting genetic and molecular information to paint a picture of the perfectly healthy human. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins