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Linking Amygdala Persistence to Real-World Emotional Experience and Psychological Well-Being

Contact Information

Keywords

Aaron S. Heller, aheller@miami.edu

amygdala; daily affect; emotion; fMRI; neural dynamics; representational similarity analysis

Abstract

Neural dynamics in response to affective stimuli are linked to momentary emotional experiences. The amygdala, in particular, is involved in subjective emotional experience and assigning value to neutral stimuli. Because amygdala activity persistence following aversive events varies across individuals, some may evaluate subsequent neutral stimuli more negatively than others. This may lead to more frequent and long-lasting momentary emotional experiences, which may also be linked to self- evaluative measures of psychological well-being (PWB). Despite extant links between daily affect and PWB, few studies have directly explored the links between amygdala persistence, daily affective experience, and PWB. To that end, we examined data from 52 human adults (67% female) in the Midlife in the United States study who completed measures of PWB, daily affect, and functional MRI (fMRI). During fMRI, participants viewed affective images followed by a neutral facial expression, permitting quantification of individual differences in the similarity of amygdala representations of affective stimuli and neu- tral facial expressions that follow. Using representational similarity analysis, neural persistence following aversive stimuli was operationalized as similarity between the amygdala activation patterns while encoding negative images and the neutral facial expressions shown afterward. Individuals demonstrating less persistent activation patterns in the left amygdala to aversive stimuli reported more positive and less negative affect in daily life. Further, daily positive affect served as an indirect link between left amygdala persistence and PWB. These results clarify important connections between individual differences in brain function, daily experiences of affect, and well-being.

Citation

Puccetti, N. A., Schaefer, S. M., Van Reekum, C. M., Ong, A. D., Almeida, D. M., Ryff, C. D., ... & Heller, A. S. (2021). Linking amygdala persistence to real-world emotional experience and psychological well-being. Journal of Neuroscience, 41(16), 3721-3730.

DOI

Model

Human

Conent Area

Emotion

EWB-Related Construct

Psychological well-being

Study Design

Cross-Sectional

Species or Study Population

Healthy adults

Sex (%Female)

67%

Age (Mean, SD)

57.74, 10.5

Younger Controls?

Yes

Longitudinal Data?

No

Sample Size

52

Interventions

None

Ethnicity (%white)

69%

Inclusion Criteria

All eligible participants were non-institutionalized, English-speaking adults in the coterminous United States, initially 25–74 years of age.

Exclusion Criteria

None Stated

EWB Measures

42-item Ryff Scale of Psychological Well-being (Ryff, 1989; Ryff & Keyes, 1995)

Non-EWB Behavioral
Measures

Daily diary related to stress and emotion

Physiological Measures

None

Brain IMaging Modality

fMRI

Brain IMaging Paradigm

Image-viewing task (60 positive, 60 negative, and 60 neutral images)

Brain Region/Circuit

Left amygdala

Biological Measures

None

Other Neural Measures

None

Data Availability?

Yes

Data Avalability Details

MIDUS data (publicly available)

Diagnostic Measures

None

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