News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

The Varieties of Anger

By Lisa Feldman Barrett | The New York Times | November 12, 2016

Bitterness. Hostility. Rage. The varieties of anger are endless. Some are mild, such as grumpiness, and others are powerful, such as wrath. Different angers vary not only in their intensity but also in their purpose. It’s normal to feel exasperated with your screaming infant and scornful of a political opponent, but scorn toward your baby would be bizarre.

Anger is a large, diverse population of experiences and behaviors, as psychologists like myself who study emotion repeatedly discover. You can shout in anger, weep in anger, even smile in anger. You can throw a tantrum in anger with your heart pounding, or calmly plot your revenge. No single state of the face, body or brain defines anger. Variation is the norm. Continue reading »

Clues to How ‘Super-Agers’ Retain Young Memories

CLBB Faculty Members Dr. Bradford Dickerson and Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett were featured for their recently-published research on older adults with extraordinary memory capacities. According to the article, “The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first step in a research program aimed at understanding how some older adults retain youthful thinking abilities and the brain circuits that support those abilities.” Dr. Feldman Barrett notes:

“We also examined a group of regions known as the salience network, which is involved in identifying information that is important and needs attention for specific situations, and found preserved thickness among super-agers in several regions, including the anterior insula and orbitofrontal cortex.”

About the significance of the study, Dr. Dickerson comments:

“We desperately need to understand how some older adults are able to function very well into their seventh, eight, and ninth decades. This could provide important clues about how to prevent the decline in memory and thinking that accompanies aging in most of us.”

Read the full article, “Clues to How ‘Super-Agers’ Retain Young Memories”, published in the Harvard Gazette on September 13, 2016.

Are You in Despair? That’s Good

By Lisa Feldman Barrett | The New York Times | June 3, 2016

WHEN the world gets you down, do you feel just generally “bad”? Or do you have more precise emotional experiences, such as grief or despair or gloom?

In psychology, people with finely tuned feelings are said to exhibit “emotional granularity.When reading about the abuses of the Islamic State, for example, you might experience creeping horror or fury, rather than general awfulness. When learning about climate change, you could feel alarm tinged with sorrow and regret for species facing extinction. Confronted with this year’s presidential campaign, you might feel astonished, exasperated or even embarrassed on behalf of the candidates — an emotion known in Mexico as “pena ajena.”

Emotional granularity isn’t just about having a rich vocabulary; it’s about experiencing the world, and yourself, more precisely. This can make a difference in your life. In fact, there is growing scientific evidence that precisely tailored emotional experiences are good for you, even if those experiences are negative. Continue reading »

Multimodal Analysis of Cortical Chemoarchitecture and Macroscale fMRI Resting-State Functional Connectivity

By Martijn P. van den Heuvel, Lianne H. Scholtens, Elise Turk, Dante Mantini, Wim Vanduffel, and Lisa Feldman Barrett | Human Brain Mapping | May 21, 2016

Abstract:

The cerebral cortex is well known to display a large variation in excitatory and inhibitory chemoarchitecture, but the effect of this variation on global scale functional neural communication and synchronization patterns remains less well understood. Here, we provide evidence of the chemoarchitecture of cortical regions to be associated with large-scale region-to-region resting-state functional connectivity. We assessed the excitatory versus inhibitory chemoarchitecture of cortical areas as an ExIn ratio between receptor density mappings of excitatory (AMPA, M1) and inhibitory (GABAA, M2) receptors, computed on the basis of data collated from pioneering studies of autoradiography mappings as present in literature of the human (2 datasets) and macaque (1 dataset) cortex. Cortical variation in ExIn ratio significantly correlated with total level of functional connectivity as derived from resting-state functional connectivity recordings of cortical areas across all three datasets (human I: P = 0.0004; human II: P = 0.0008; macaque: P = 0.0007), suggesting cortical areas with an overall more excitatory character to show higher levels of intrinsic functional connectivity during resting-state. Our findings are indicative of the microscale chemoarchitecture of cortical regions to be related to resting-state fMRI connectivity patterns at the global system’s level of connectome organization.

Read the entire article here.

Functional Connectivity Dynamics During Film Viewing Reveal Common Networks for Different Emotional Experiences

By Gal Raz, Alexandra Touroutoglou, Christine Wilson-Mendenhall, Gadi Gilam, Tamar Lin, Tal GonenYael Jacob, Shir Atzil, Roee Admon, Maya Bleich-Cohen, Adi Maron-Katz, Talma Hendler, and Lisa Feldman Barrett | Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience | May 3, 2016

Abstract:

Recent theoretical and empirical work has highlighted the role of domain-general, large-scale brain networks in generating emotional experiences. These networks are hypothesized to process aspects of emotional experiences that are not unique to a specific emotional category (e.g., “sadness,” “happiness”), but rather that generalize across categories. In this article, we examined the dynamic interactions (i.e., changing cohesiveness) between specific domain-general networks across time while participants experienced various instances of sadness, fear, and anger. We used a novel method for probing the network connectivity dynamics between two salience networks and three amygdala-based networks. We hypothesized, and found, that the functional connectivity between these networks covaried with the intensity of different emotional experiences. Stronger connectivity between the dorsal salience network and the medial amygdala network was associated with more intense ratings of emotional experience across six different instances of the three emotion categories examined. Also, stronger connectivity between the dorsal salience network and the ventrolateral amygdala network was associated with more intense ratings of emotional experience across five out of the six different instances. Our findings demonstrate that a variety of emotional experiences are associated with dynamic interactions of domain-general neural systems.

Read the full article here.