Positive Emotions Predict Health Lipid Profiles In Western, But Not Eastern Cultures

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jiah Yoo Ph.D. Student in Social Psychology University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI 53706 

Jiah Yoo

Jiah Yoo
Ph.D. Student in Social Psychology
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI 53706 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: A growing number of studies have shown that positive emotions predict better physical health. However, a caveat of these findings is that most studies have been conducted with Western samples. As cultural psychologists, we have learned that European American cultural contexts are particular in that positive emotions are highly valued and emphasized. For example, in East Asian cultures, it is a commonly shared view that positive emotions have some dark sides such as that they are fleeting, may attract unnecessary attention from others, and can be a distraction from focusing on important tasks. Given the cultural differences in emotions, we thought it would be important to test whether the established link between positive emotion and enhanced physical health are relevant to other cultural contexts, such as those in East Asia.

We focused on blood lipids profiles, one of the major risk factors for heart diseases, as objective measures of health. Because of the global prevalence of coronary artery diseases, blood lipids are considered important indices of biological health in many Western and East Asian countries. In addition, blood lipids are largely influenced by lifestyles and behavioral factors so we further tested the role of various health behaviors (i.e., dietary habits, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption) in the lipids-emotion link in different cultures.

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Microbiome Regulates Fear Response via the Amygdala

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Gerard Clarke PhD APC Microbiome Institute Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioural Science University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

Dr. Clarke

Dr. Gerard Clarke PhD
APC Microbiome Institute
Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioural Science
University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Over the last decade or so, we and others have shown that the gut microbiome exerts a broad influence on the central nervous system, reflected in a range of abnormal behaviours and altered brain function in germ-free animals. These germ-free animals grow up in a sterile bubble and allow us to see what aspects of brain and behaviour could be under the influence of the microorganisms in our gastrointestinal tract.

One of the most consistent findings to emerge relates to anxiety-like behaviours.

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More than a Feeling: Emotions Determine What You Remember

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Signy Sheldon, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Psychology McGill University Montreal, QC, CAN

Dr. Signy Sheldon

Signy Sheldon, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
McGill University
Montreal, QC, CAN

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: It is clear to most people that emotion and memory are strongly linked – thinking about our past experiences is often accompanied with a strong feelings, sometimes good and sometimes bad.

In psychological research, many investigations have looked at how emotional memories are remembered differently than non-emotional memories. A lot of this research has found that the valence of a memory, whether it is positive or negative, will impact how detailed a past event can be recalled. Much less research as looked at how the emotions we feel at the time of remembering can also influence the way that memory is recalled. This is a very important area of research. If emotions during remembering can influence what memories are accessed and how we experience these memories, this would suggest that our memories are tagged and organized according to emotions.

In this study, we looked at how different aspects of emotion can affect the types of past experiences we bring to mind to further investigate how emotions direct memory retrieval.

To do this, we had participants listen to unfamiliar excerpts of music that ranged in both memory valence (positive and negative) and arousal (high or low levels). To each piece of music, participants were asked to think of a past memory and then describe their experience of that event they were remembering.

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Brain Scans Can Predict Specific Spontaneous Emotions

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kevin S. LaBar, Ph.D. Professor and Head, Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience Program Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies in Neuroscience Center for Cognitive Neuroscience Duke University Durham, NC

Dr. Kevin LaBar

Kevin S. LaBar, Ph.D.
Professor and Head, Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience Program
Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies in Neuroscience
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
Duke University
Durham, NC

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Emotion research is limited by a lack of objective markers of emotional states. Most human research relies on self-report, but individuals may not have good insight into their own emotions. We have developed a new way to identify emotional states using brain imaging and machine learning tools. First, we induced emotional states using film and music clips while individuals were in an MRI scanner. We trained a computer algorithm to identify the brain areas that distinguished 7 emotions from each other (fear, anger, surprise, sadness, amusement, contentment, and a neutral state). This procedure created a brain map for each of the 7 emotions. Then, a new group of participants self-reported their emotional state every 30 seconds in an MRI scanner while no stimuli were presented. We could predict which emotion was spontaneously reported by the subjects by comparing their brain scans to each of the 7 emotion maps. Finally, in a large group of 499 subjects, we found that the presence of the fear map during rest predicted state and trait anxiety while the presence of the sadness map predicted state and trait depression.

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Emotional Lability and Insomnia Linked

Markus Jansson-Fröjmark PhD Associate professor, clinical psychologist Department of Psychology Stockholm University
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Markus Jansson-Fröjmark PhD

Associate professor, clinical psychologist
Department of Psychology
Stockholm University

 

 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response:  There is ample evidence suggesting that how people regulate their emotions might influence several types of psychopathology, including anxiety and mood disorders. The purpose of our longitudinal investigation was therefore to examine the association between emotion regulation and how insomnia develops over time. Our main finding was that people whose ability to regulate their emotions had diminished were more likely to develop insomnia and that it was more likely to be persistent. A reduced ability to regulate emotions was associated with an 11% increased risk of developing a new bout of insomnia or reporting persistent insomnia.

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Emotional Reactivity May Be Genetically Predisposed

Rebecca Todd Ph.D. Assistant Professor University of British Columbia Department of Psychology Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability Vancouver, BCMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Rebecca Todd Ph.D.
Assistant Professor University of British Columbia
Department of Psychology
Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability
Vancouver, BC

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Todd: This study brings together two lines of research. First, a couple of years ago my colleagues and I reported that in general people literally see emotional aspects of the world as more vivid – as if they burn more brightly on the eye – than mundane things. We call this effect emotionally enhanced vividness, or EEV. Here we wanted to look at how this phenomenon of emotionally enhanced vividness might differ between individuals.

Second, in another previous study we found that people who carry a very common variation in the ADRA2b gene, which influences levels of norepinephrine (a neuromodulator in the brain that is important to the stress response and for emotional influences on memory) were more likely to have their attention captured by emotionally relevant aspects of the world. We also found that how arousing they perceived an event to be at the time it happened predicted how well they remembered it better than for people who did not carry this variation. Here we continued to examine what is unique to this group of people by testing to see if they showed higher levels of the other phenomenon we had found, emotionally enhanced vividness, and what patterns of brain activation would play a role.
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