Tag Archives: fMRI

Measuring and Increasing Hope to Improve Performance, Health

Hope shifts focus from the present moment to action paths (“pathways”) required to achieve future goals and motivation to follow these goal routes (“agency”).

Some advocates of mindful attention to the present moment question cultivating hope because it focuses on the future instead of the present, despite abundant empirical evidence that hope is positively associated with academic achievement, health outcomes, and more.

Benjamn Franklin

Benjamn Franklin

Buddhist thinkers argued that hope is illusory and prolongs human suffering and even America’s sage, Benjamin Franklin, noted that one who lives on hope will die fasting.

C. RIck Snyder

C. RIck Snyder

In contrast, hope investigator University of Kansas’s Charles “Rick” Snyder substantiated the health and performance benefits of hope and distinguished hope from learned optimism, self-efficacy, and self-esteem.

He developed and validated measures of hope as a trait and as a state, evaluating “pathways” and “agency” beliefs, with collaborators Cheri Harris, John R Anderson, Sharon A. Holleran, Lori M Irving, Sandra T. Sigmon, Lauren Yoshinobu, June Gibb, Charyle Langelle, and Pat Harney.

Snyder and team reported that children and adults across ethnic and gender groups who scored higher in hope demonstrated:

He offered tips for setting goals and enhancing “pathways” and “agency” toward goals, including:

  • Prioritizing self-selected goals
  • Developing multiple paths for each goal
  • Expecting positive outcomes while designing ways to remove potential obstacles.
Pam Omidyar

Pam Omidyar

One practical application of Snyder’s Hope Theory is Re-Mission,video game for cancer patients, developed by HopeLab’s Pam Omidyar, Pam Kato, and UCLA’s Steven Cole.

Pam Kato

Pam Kato

Adolescent patients in remission with acute leukemia, lymphoma, and soft-tissue sarcoma are required to continue daily chemotherapy treatments for up to several years.
Those who miss even 20% of their daily treatments increase their mortality risk by 200%.

Steve Cole

Steve Cole

Kato collaborated with Cole, West Virginia University’s Andrew Bradlyn and Brad Pollock of University of Texas to evaluate video-game interventions to improve young people’s medication adherence.

 They conducted a randomized trial with baseline and 1 month and 3 month assessments at 34 medical centers in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Brad Pollock

Brad Pollock

Volunteers were 375 males and females between 13 to 29 years old undergoing chemotherapy for at least 4 months.
Participants in the video game tailored to young cancer patient increased adherence to chemotherapy by 50%, and showed increased self-efficacy and knowledge, compared with those who played commercial video games or no video games.

fMRI studies showed that their brains were most active when they played the game instead of observing the game interface.
Most active areas were:

  • Limbic structures including caudate, putamen, and nucleus accumbens, measuring anticipatory excitement before securing a reward
  • Thalamus, “the internet of the brain”
  • Hippocampus, the link between experience and long-term memory

Cole further evaluated Re-Mission and Zamzee, a motivational system to promote physical activity among young people, and now leads HopeLab’s Re-Mission 2 to further amplify positive health behavior and resilience.

-*How do you leverage hope to improve your work performance and health behaviors?

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Your Brain in Court: Cognitive Privacy, US Constitution and Neuroimaging

Amanda Pustilnik

Amanda Pustilnik

Neuroimaging techniques, like fMRI, present constitutional dilemmas for criminal law and criminal procedure, according to University of Maryland‘s Amanda Pustilnik.

These technologies raise questions about “cognitive privacy” in relation to “compelled, self-incriminating speech” under the United States Constitution’s Fifth Amendment and “unreasonable search and seizure” under the Fourth Amendment.

Neuroimagery technologies can measure brain blood flow to determine whether the person is making false statements, and can evaluate whether waveform brain activity indicates a person is familiar with an object like a face or weapon.

In addition, these measurement devices can alter brain processes, such as exposing the brain to powerful magnets, resulting in greater or lesser likelihood of offering truthful statements.

Recent Eighth Amendment challenges to execution by lethal injection and legislative restrictions on abortion based on putative fetal pain are additional examples of legal questions informed by neuroimaging technology.

In these cases, neuroimagery measurements can provide evidence of presence and degree of physical pain.
Previously, this subjective state has not been directly observable until pain neuroimaging procedures were developed and admitted as legal evidence.

Pustilnik proposed “embodied morality” to explain how moral concepts of legal rights and duties are informed by human physicality and constrained by observers’ limitations in empathic identification with the pain sufferer’s experience.

U.S. law applies unrealistic criteria to determining defendants’ mental states for criminal trials in light of neuroscientific evidence, she argued, noting that the law maintains “a false trichotomy” among cognition, emotion, and volition to determine whether a defendant was “capable of moral agency” in committing an illegal act.

This decision is based upon whether the admissible evidence demonstrates that the defendant acted with “purpose,” suggested by planning the act in advance and “knowledge” of the act, typically determined by the defendant’s statements.

Pustilnik cited examples of disorders in which emotional impairments and volitional impairments can modify cognition, including temporal lobe injury, drug addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Jean Macchiaroli Eggen

Jean Macchiaroli Eggen

In these situations, the defendant may provide an intelligible “explanation” of the act, yet may not be able to control the behavior, as in obsessive-compulsive disorder or drug addiction.
If the criteria of “intent” and “knowledge” are not fulfilled, a defendant may claim to have acted under “diminished capacity.”

To remedy this disconnect, Pustilnik recommends investigating whether the defendant  “understands the wrongfulness of the act.”

Eric Laury

Eric Laury

Widener University’s Jean Macchiaroli Eggen and Eric Laury of Minor and Brown echo Pustilnik’s observations and propose applying neuroimaging evidence to elements of tort law including knowledge, intent, negligence, and recklessness.

Bernard Baertschi

Bernard Baertschi

Critics of the admissibility of neuroimaging evidence like Bernard Baertschi of University of Geneva raise concerns that neuroimagery evidence injecting a systemic bias that influences jurors’ evaluations of defendants.

To test this claim, Nick Schweitzer and Michael Saks
 of Arizona State University investigated decisions by nearly 1200 volunteers in a mock trial involving psychological, neuropsychological, neuroscientific, and neuroimage expert evidence.
Participants evaluated the defendant’s claim of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI).

Nick Schweitzer

Nick Schweitzer

Volunteers said neuroscience evidence was more persuasive than psychological and anecdotal family history evidence, but there was no significant effect for neuroimaging evidence.

The researchers also asked participants to apply different insanity standards, and neuroscience evidence remained most influential across all standards.

Michael Saks

Michael Saks

Mock jurors who were not provided with a neuroimage said they believed neuroimagery would have been the most helpful evidence in evaluating the defendant, although those who actually received neuroimagery data did not judge this evidence as most valuable.
This is another example of forecasted judgments not correlating with actual judgments.

Neuroimaging skeptic Bernard Baertschi evaluated whether Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is more reliable than the polygraph to determine whether a person is providing truthful statements.

He outlined technical, methodological, conceptual and legal issues that obscure the conclusion, including technical definitions of lying and legal concerns about potentially biasing effects of brain imaging evidence on lawsuits.
He concluded, “Mind-reading using fMRI is not ready for use in the courts.”

-*How much weight do you give neuroimaging data in evaluating a person’s behavior, credibility, and motivations?

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Introversion and Extraversion Starts with Your Genes and Shows in Your Brain

Susan Cain

Susan Cain

Introverts seem to be experiencing an increasingly “level playing field” in work and social environments after Susan Cain’s best-selling book celebrating “the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.”

Hans Eysenck

Hans Eysenck

University of London’s Hans Eysenck provided one of the first physiological explanations of this duality after Carl Jung’s introduction to “psychological types.”

The subjective experience of introversion and extraversion is measured by the Big Five personality dimensions, developed by Robert McRae and Paul Costa, then of the National Institutes of Health, in addition to the widely-used yet psychometrically-criticized Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. 

Eysenck's Three-Factor Theory of Personality

Eysenck’s Three-Factor Theory of Personality

Observable behaviors associated with extraversion include positive emotions, assertiveness, sociability and talkativeness with energetic engagement in work and social contexts.

In contrast, external manifestations of introversion are lower social engagement and energy, and less need for external social stimulation than extraverts, with a quieter, more deliberate style.

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

These behaviors are at least partially based on individuals’ genetic profiles, leading to differing brain activity associated with introverted and extraverted thinking and behavior.

Paul Costa

Paul Costa

Eysenck posited that extraverts and introverts differ in their levels of cortical arousal:  Introverts, he suggested, have a higher baseline level of arousal than extraverts, so need less external stimulation.

In contrast, he hypothesized that extraverts seek external stimulation because they have a lower baseline level of cortical arousal.

Yasuyuki Taki

Yasuyuki Taki

Differences in brain structure and function among introverts and extraverts was analyzed by Yasuyuki Taki’s team at Tohoku University, including collaborators  Benjamin Thyreau, Shigeo Kinomura, Kazunori Sato, Ryoi Goto, Kai Wu, Ryuta Kawashima, and Hiroshi Fukuda. 

The evaluated whether personality traits measured on a revised Big Five inventory (Revised NEO Personality Inventory – NEO-PI-R) were related cortical gray matter volume, measured by brain magnetic resonance images (MRI) for more than 270 healthy volunteers over 6 years.

Colin DeYoung

Colin DeYoung

Likewise, University of Minnesota’s Colin DeYoung, Jacob Hirsh of University of Toronto, The Mind Research Institute’s Matthew Shane, and Yale’s Xenophon Papademetris, Nallakkandi  Rajeevan, and Jeremy Gray used a similar method to conclude that behavioral and subjective extraversion was positively correlated with orbitofrontal cortex metabolism and increased cerebral volume of the medial orbitofrontal cortex in 116 adults. 

Michael X. Cohen

Michael X. Cohen

Extraversion has been correlated with sensitivity to rewards and to the brain’s dopamine system, so University of Amsterdam’s Michael X. Cohen and team investigated the brain’s dopamine-based reward system.

He collaborated with Jennifer Young, Jong-Min Baek, Christopher Kessler, and Charan Ranganath of University of California, Davis to demonstrate the connection among trait extraversion, the A1 allele on the dopamine D2 receptor gene, and “extraverted” activity in the brain’s reward system during a gambling task.

Charan Ranganath

Charan Ranganath

Participants received rewards either immediately following a behavioral response or after a 7.5 second “anticipation” interval.
The research team monitored differing fMRI brain activity in the amygdala, which processes emotional stimuli and triggers excitement, and in the nucleus accumbens, which pushes people to seek rewards, novelty and risks.

Brain activation patterns were related to individual differences in extraversion and presence of the A1 allele on the dopamine D2 receptor gene.
Neural pathways differed for extraverts and introverts, validating anecdotal observations that these personality styles are distinctly different, even deep inside the brain and genes.

Many introverts adopt extraverted behaviors in work and social situations, and a remaining question is how fMRI patterns differ for introverts displaying uncharacteristic extraverted behaviors in contrast to people with trait extraversion.

-*How easily can you adopt your non-dominant personality style when you need to display introversion or extraversion behaviors?

-*What tactics enable you to adopt your less-preferred personality style?

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Spreading Good News Feels Good, Especially When It’s About You

Christian Science Monitor has long provided a counterpoint to mainstream media’s “If it bleeds, it leads” approach to providing shocking, scandalous, depressing, or scary news.

Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger

Wharton’s Jonah Berger and Katharine Milkman found that the Christian Science Monitor might have a savvy business model:  they found that good news spreads more widely than bad.

Word of Mouth Marketing AssociationMembers of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Take note…

Katherine Milkman

Katherine Milkman

Berger and Milkman evaluated a random sample of 3,000 of more than 7,500 articles published in the New York Times online from August 2008 to February 2009.

They judged each article’s “popularity” based on number of times it was forwarded to others, after controlling for online publication time, section, and degree of promotion on the home page.
Independent readers rated each article for practical value or surprise, and ratio of positive vs negative emotion words in each news item.

Most-forwarded posts were positive, funny, exciting and featuring intellectually challenging topics, like science, that “inspire awe” (“admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self”).

Readers shared articles that typically provoke negative emotions like anger and anxiety, but not sadness.
-*Why this bias against sending “downer” messages?

Emily Falk

Emily Falk

Michigan’s Emily Falk, with UCLA colleagues Sylvia Morelli, B. Locke Welborn, Karl Dambacher,and Matthew Lieberman found that people consider what appeals to others, possibly as a means of building relationships, indicated by increased activation in brain regions (temporoparietal junction, or TPJ and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) associated with “social cognition,” or thoughts about other people, measured by fMRI.

When those regions were activated, people were more likely to talk about the idea with enthusiasm, and the idea would spread by word-of-mouth.

Falk noted that the team mapped  brain regions “associated with ideas that are likely to be contagious and are associated with being a good ‘idea salesperson.'”
She plans to use these brain maps “to forecast what ideas are likely to be successful and who is likely to be effective at spreading them.”

Diana Tamir

Diana Tamir

People also like to spread good news about themselves.
Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell, then of Harvard, illustrated that brain regions associated with reward (mesolimbic dopamine system, including the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area) are activated when people share information about themselves.

Jason Mitchell

Jason Mitchell

Self-disclosure is so pleasurable that people will sacrifice monetary rewards for this opportunity.

Mor Naaman

Mor Naaman

In fact, Rutgers’ Mor Naaman with Jeffrey Boase, now at Ryerson University and Chih-Hui Lai, now of University of Akron found that 80 percent of Twitter users tweet primarily about themselves.
One reason may be that people say more positive things when they’re talking to a bigger audience, like Twitter followers, according to Berger’s research suggests. As a result, social media users are likely to convey positive information about themselves.

Jeffrey Boase

Jeffrey Boase

However, this positive self-presentation may not result in a positive mood if communicators spend longer on social media platforms like Facebook.
Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge of Utah Valley University found that those with longer visits to Facebook say they are less happy than their Facebook Friends.

They found that Facebook users tend to form biased judgment based on easily-recalled examples (availability heuristic) and erroneously attribute positive Facebook content to others’ personality, rather than situational factors (correspondence bias), especially for those they do not know personally.

Hanna Krasnova

Hanna Krasnova

Corroborated by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’s Hanna Krasnova and her team from Technische Universität Darmstadt, these researchers observed “invidious emotions” and “envy” among people who spend longer time on Facebook.

These findings have relevance to members of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Spread the good word – or at least the emotional word – and spend less time on Facebook and other social media that might invite social comparison and the potential for envious dissatisfaction.

-*How you build “buzz” via “Word of Mouth”?

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Cognitive Value of Handwriting in the Digital Era

-*Is handwriting passé in the Digital Era?
-*Has keyboarding eclipsed pen and paper?

Virginia Berninger

Virginia Berninger

University of Washington’s Virginia Berninger with Robert Abbott, Amy Augsburger, and Noelia Garcia argue that handwriting provides valuable cognitive training, and advantages in expressive speed, fluency, and productivity.

Robert Abbott

Robert Abbott

Berninger’s team conducted brain scans and found that the brain’s thinking, language, and “working memory” regions are more activated when handwriting letters than when typing.

This change in brain activation occurs because handwriting letters generally requires more than one sequential stroke, rather than selecting a letter key during typing, according to Berninger.

Berninger’s studies demonstrated students in grades two, four and six wrote more words more quickly and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.

Karin James

Karin James

Karin Harman James’s research using an fMRI at Indiana University confirms the benefits of handwriting.

Isabel Gauthier

Isabel Gauthier

With Isabel Gauthier of Vanderbilt University, she showed alphabet letters to children before and after they received letter-learning instruction.

Participants who practiced printing by hand showed more enhanced and “adult-like” the neural activity than those who had simply looked at letters.
James suggested that adults may show similar neural activity benefits when learning a new graphically-different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry.

Marieke Longcamp

Marieke Longcamp

Université de la Méditerranée’s Marieke Longcamp,  Céline Boucard, Jean-Claude Gilhodes and Jean-Luc Velay  with Jean-Luc Anton, Muriel Roth, and Bruno Nazarian of Hôpital de La Timone, Marseille, France demonstrated other neural benefits of handwriting: Movements memorized when learning how to handwrite enabled adults to more effectively recognize graphic shapes and letters.

Steve Graham

Steve Graham

Steve Graham, now of Arizona State University, with Michael Hebert, now of University of Nebraska, demonstrated that handwriting is still associated with improved classroom performance, even when most classrooms and students type on computers.

Sian Beilock

Sian Beilock

Besides enhancing academic achievement, writing can be a coping tool, according to University of Chicago’s Sian Beilock.
She reported that bright students managed test anxiety by writing about their anxieties to “off-load” them.

Jill Mateo

Jill Mateo

Beilock collaborated with Andrew Mattarella-Micke, Jill Mateo, Neil Albert and Katherine Foster of University of Chicago, and Vanderbilt University’s Marci DeCaro, Robin Thomas of Miami University, and Megan Kozak of Pace University to study students as they derived solutions to challenging math problems.

Robin Thomas

Robin Thomas

The team confirmed that those who performed well on the math problems said that they did not have math anxiety, whereas low performers said they were anxious about math performance.
A less expected finding was that both high performers and low performers had the stress hormone, cortisol, in their saliva.

Although both groups experienced measurable stress, the performance outcome was mediated by the calm or anxious “mindset,” suggesting that performance can be enhanced through managing anxiety and expectations.
Writing by hand helped participants boost performance by reducing anxiety and freeing  working memory to focus on the math problems.

P. Murali Doraiswamy

P. Murali Doraiswamy

Handwriting practice may be valuable for adults as well as children, according to P. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University, who suggested that handwriting practice may be a useful treatment to stabilize cognitive losses in aging.

 -*How often do you use handwriting and printing instead of typing on a keyboard?

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Interpersonal Envy in Competitive Organizations and the “Search Inside Yourself” (SIY) Antidote

Workplace envy is rarely discussed, although it is a logical outcome of competition for scarce resources:  Recognition, advancement, power, reputation, compensation in explicit or implicit organizational “tournaments.”

Jayanth Narayanan

Jayanth Narayanan

National University of Singapore’s Jayanth Narayanan, Kenneth Tai, and Daniel McAllister broached the near-taboo of workplace envy as an inevitable outgrowth of social comparison and related “cognitive dissonance” in attempting to self-regulate or return to emotional and equity “homeostasis.”

Daniel McAllister

Daniel McAllister

They differentiated malicious envy from benign envy and argue that the latter can drive performance through emulating admired outcomes.

This process, called firgun in Hebrew, is characterized by happiness, envy, and support of others, and is positively related to organizational success.
Mudita in Buddhist texts, refers to similar feelings of vicarious joy at another’s success and good fortune.

Hidehiko Takahashi

Hidehiko Takahashi

Narayan and team posit that envy is pain at another’s good fortune, and Hidehiko Takahashi’s team at Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences demonstrated that the social-emotional pain of envy is a variation of the physical pain experience.

Their fMRI study found that the emotional pain of workplace envy is physically manifested in activation of the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex.

Nathan DeWall

Nathan DeWall

As such, Nathan DeWall of University of Kentucky and colleagues reported that Tylenol™ reduces behavioral and neural responses associated with social pain in two fMRI studies.

Narayanan argues that envy exerts its differential effect on workplace behavior through each individual’s specific:

  • Core self-evaluations (self-esteem, self-efficacy, locus of control, and neuroticism),
  • Referent cognitions” regarding warmth, likeability, and competence of the envied  person
  • Perceived organizational support

Workplace envy, they argue, can affect:

  • Social undermining
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Job performance

Narayanan and team proposed that those with higher self-esteem are less prone to negative workplace behaviors when experiencing on-the-job envy.

They propose that people are less likely to socially undermine the envied individual when the envied person is viewed as both warm-likeable and competent.

Similarly, they suggest that people who think their organization values them and their work, and supports their work and career development efforts are less likely to decrease job performance when envious at work.

Chade-Meng Tan

Chade-Meng Tan

Search Inside YourselfGoogle’s Jolly Good Fellow ChadeMeng Tan proposes the mindfulness-based program “Search Inside Yourself” (SIY) as a way to self-manage workplace envy and other painful social experiences, by developing skills in:

  • Trained attention
  • Self-knowledge and self-mastery
  • Creating useful mental habits.

-*How do you manage workplace envy when you notice it in yourself or others?

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Genes and Neurotransmitters Influence Investment Risk-Taking: Implications for Taking Career Risks?

Camelia Kuhnen

Camelia Kuhnen

Brian Knutson

Brian Knutson

Camelia Kuhnen, then of Stanford with her Stanford colleague Brian Knutson and Vanderbilt’s Gregory Samanez-Larkin posit a small but meaningful genetic basis to risk-averse financial investing, providing a biological basis for findings that women hedge fund managers outperformed male counterparts.

Volunteers with two short serotonin transporter genes (5-HTTLPR) reported that they tend to worry, and this pattern was associated with chosing less risky investment choices.

Gregory Samanez-Larkin

Gregory Samanez-Larkin

“Short allele carriers” also showed higher levels of the personality trait “neuroticism,” but no significant difference in cognitive skills, education, or financial status.
Kuhnen estimates that less than 30 percent of variance in risk-taking is attributable to short 5-HTTLPR, and the remaining difference is derived from experience, culture, education, and social environment.

Kuhnen and Knutson reported the neural basis of financial risk taking using event-related fMRI.
They observed that the nucleus accumbens was activated before volunteers made risky choices and made risk-seeking mistakes.
In contrast, they found that the anterior insula was activated before risk-free choices and risk-aversion mistakes.

They proposed that different neural circuits are associated with differing emotions as volunteers anticipate gain or loss associated with financial choices.
This emotional activation “signature” can lead to specific investment choices, favoring or avoiding risk, and may lead to investing mistakes.

In unpublished research, Kuhnen found that short-allele carriers showed increased anxiety before making a decision in a trial-and-error risk discovery task, but reacted no differently than long-allele carriers when they observed a negative outcome.

She noted that volunteers differ in how they anticipate and react to a potential decision before they make it rather that in their reactions to actual outcomes of investment decisions.

Joan Chiao

Joan Chiao

Kuhnen, now at Northwestern collaborated with Northwestern colleague Joan Chiao to investigate the impact of both the 5-HTTLPR gene and the DRD4, gene, which regulates dopamine transmission.
These genes and their related neurotransmitters have been linked to emotional behavior, anxiety and addiction.

Their research replicated Kuhnen’s earlier finding that individuals with two short 5-HTTLPR alleles take 28% less risk than people with other combinations, and they demonstrated that the double DRD4 7 allele carriers took 25% more risk than people with other combinations.
They conclude that serotonin is associated with risk-averse investment choices, whereas dopamine is associated with riskier choices.

Kuhnen and Chiao argue that risky investment behavior shares commonalities with other risky behaviors like drug use, gambling, unsafe sex, dangerous physical and social pursuits, and more.

-*How do you determine the right amount of risk to undertake in career development and financial investing?

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