Event Abstract

Cortical source imaging of emotional processing in physiological and pathological aging

  • 1 Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Greece

Emotions are fundamental to human functioning on a daily basis throughout the entire life span. Burgeoning evidence indicates a relatively well-preserved emotional processing in aging in contrast to the well-known physical and cognitive decline. Indeed, older adults tend to prioritize positive information when compared to young adults (positivity bias), while the preference for negative stimuli (negativity bias) present in young adults tends to reduce in older adults. Theoretical assumptions for the underlying improved emotional trajectory in aging, either emphasize selective motivational changes towards short term emotional goals that enhance the experience of emotion in the present moment, or conceptualize motivational changes as compensatory mechanisms helping to counteract the age related decline. In addition to these strategies, it is plausible that the lifelong learning and practice in emotional processing may increase the efficacy of older adults in tackling emotions. Finally, it has been recently suggested that emotional processing depends on cognitive control. The implication is that older adults of declining cognition will require as many cognitive resources as possible for the successful emotional processing. Thus, the processing of emotions in adults of reduced cognitive abilities (i.e. Mild Cognitive Impairment, MCI, and Alzheimer’s disease, AD) is not yet conclusive, since evidence indicates that damage in prefrontal control areas correlates to the absence of the positive bias in AD patients. It is important to investigate the role of the dimensions of emotion, namely valence and arousal, in relation to the distinction of aging into either healthy or pathological. To this aim, we investigated the cortical source imaging underpinning emotional processing via electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings. Given their role in emotional processing, we hypothesized that the early posterior negativity (EPN), the P300, and the late positive potential (LPP), would index distinct valence and/or arousal effects for healthy aging and for the neurodegenerative aspects of aging. We compared cognitively healthy older (60+) to young (18-38 years old) adults, as well as to age matched patients diagnosed with MCI. In particular, the sample comprised of 20 healthy young adults (mean age= 27.78 ± 5.20, 7 males), 20 cognitively healthy older adults (mean age= 68.22 ± 3.69, 6 males), and 20 MCI patients (mean age= 69.74 ± 4.48, 7 males), all with normal or corrected to normal visual acuity. EEG recordings were performed using a Nihon Kohden system with 64 active electrodes. Current Density Reconstructions (CDRs) of brain responses of each subject, and each condition, were modelled using standardized low resolution electromagnetic tomography (sLORETA). Statistical Parametric Mapping 8 (SPM8, http://www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/spm) was used to statistically assess the corresponding CDRs for valence, arousal and their interaction. Results for the EPN showed statistically significant differences (p<0.05, AlphaSim corrected) in the cortical responses of cognitively healthy old adults and MCI patients in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) for high arousal. Results for P300 showed that healthy old adults have statistically significant increased activity (p<0.05, AlphaSim corrected) in the middle cingulate cortex (MCC) for unpleasant and low arousing stimuli in comparison to both young adults and MCI patients. Further analysis revealed that young adults exhibit more activity in this region than MCI patients. Thus, the process of unpleasant and low arousing stimuli requires increased MCC activity in healthy aging, an effect which is diminished in pathological aging. Our findings for LPP showed that young adults exhibit more activity in the precuneus (PCu) for unpleasant and high arousing stimuli in comparison to healthy old adults (p<0.05, AlphaSim corrected). Our results may have important implications with regard to potential interventions aiming to ameliorate outcomes of emotional aging for elderly individuals that do not follow a positive emotional trajectory.


This research was supported by the European CIP-ICT- PSP.2008.1.4 Long Lasting memories (LLM) project (Project No. 238904) (www.longlastingmemories.eu), as well as, its subsequent business exploitation scheme, namely, LLM Care, which is a self-funded initiative at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (www.llmcare.gr).

Keywords: EEG, sLORETA, cortical imaging, emotional processing, Arousal, Valence, healthy aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment, MCI

Conference: SAN2016 Meeting, Corfu, Greece, 6 Oct - 9 Oct, 2016.

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation in SAN2016 Conference

Topic: Posters

Citation: Styliadis C, Paraskevopoulos E and Bamidis PD (2016). Cortical source imaging of emotional processing in physiological and pathological aging. Conference Abstract: SAN2016 Meeting. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2016.220.00082

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Received: 29 Jul 2016; Published Online: 01 Aug 2016.

* Correspondence: Dr. Panagiotis D Bamidis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Thessaloniki, 54124, Greece, bamidis@med.auth.gr

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