Exploring the emotional brain: Neural correlates of homeostatic and sensory-evoked emotions and their interaction in emotional rivalry

Meier, Lea (2015). Exploring the emotional brain: Neural correlates of homeostatic and sensory-evoked emotions and their interaction in emotional rivalry. (Dissertation, Universitätsklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Psychiatrische Neurophysiologie, Medizinische Fakultät)

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Human emotions are essential for survival. They are vital for the satisfaction of basic needs, the regulation of personal life and successful integration into social structures. Depending on which aspect of an emotion is used in its definition, many different theories offer possible answers to the questions of what emotions are and how they can be distinguished. The systematic investigation of emotions in cognitive neuroscience is relatively new, and neuroimaging studies specifically focussing on the neural correlates of different categories of emotions are still lacking. Therefore, the current thesis aimed at investigating the behavioural and neurophysiological correlates of different human emotional levels and their interaction in healthy subjects. We differentiated between emotions according to their cerebral entry site and neural processing pathways: homeostatic emotions, which are elicited by metabolic changes and processed by the interoceptive system (such as thirst, hunger, and need for air), and sensory-evoked emotions, which are evoked by external inputs via the eyes, ears or nose, or their corresponding mental representations and processed in the brain as sensory perception (e.g. fear, disgust, or pride). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and behavioural parameters, we examined both the specific neural underpinnings of a homeostatic emotion (thirst) and a sensory-evoked emotion (disgust), and their interaction in a situation of emotional rivalry when both emotions were perceived simultaneously. This thesis comprises three research articles reporting the results of this research. The first paper presents disgust-related brain imaging data in a thirsty and a satiated condition. We found that disgust mainly activated the anterior insular cortex. In the thirsty condition, however, we observed an interaction effect between disgust and thirst: when thirsty, the subjects rated the disgusting stimulus as less repulsive. On the neurobiological level, this reduction of subjective disgust was accompanied by significantly reduced neural activity in the insular cortex. These results provide new neurophysiological evidence for a hierarchical organization among homeostatic and sensory-evoked emotions, revealing that in a situation of emotional conflict, homeostatic emotions are prioritized over sensory-evoked emotions. In the second paper, findings on brain perfusion over four different thirst stages are reported, with a special focus on the parametric progression of thirst. Cerebral perfusion differences over all thirst stages were found in the posterior insular cortex. Taking this result together with the findings of the first paper, the insular cortex seems to be a key player in human emotional processing, since it comprises specific representations of homeostatic and sensory-evoked emotions and also represents the site of cortical interaction between the two levels of emotions. Finally, although this thesis focussed on the homeostatic modulation of disgust, we were also interested in whether dehydration modulates taste perception. The results of this behavioural experiment are described in the third paper, where we show that dehydration alters the perception of neutral taste stimuli.

Item Type:

Thesis (Dissertation)

Division/Institute:

04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Psychiatric Neurophysiology (discontinued)
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Health Sciences (GHS)

UniBE Contributor:

Meier, Lea; Dierks, Thomas and Strik, Werner

Subjects:

600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health

Language:

English

Submitter:

Lea Meier

Date Deposited:

14 Dec 2015 10:20

Last Modified:

03 Mar 2016 11:16

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/73986

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