Insular activity during passive viewing of aversive stimuli reflects individual differences in state negative affect
Mériau, K., Kazzer, P., Wartenburger, I., Prehn, K., Villringer, A., van der Meer, E., Heekeren, H. R. – 2008
People differ with regard to how they perceive, experience, and express negative affect. While trait negative affect reflects a stable, sustained personality trait, state negative affect represents a stimulus limited and temporally acute emotion. So far, little is known about the neural systems mediating the relationship between negative affect and acute emotion processing. To address this issue we investigated in a healthy female sample how individual differences in state negative affect are reflected in changes in blood oxygen level-dependent responses during passive viewing of emotional stimuli. To assess autonomic arousal we simultaneously recorded changes in skin conductance level. At the psychophysiological level we found increased skin conductance level in response to aversive relative to neutral pictures. However, there was no association of state negative affect with skin conductance level. At the neural level we found that high state negative affect was associated with increased left insular activity during passive viewing of aversive stimuli. The insula has been implicated in interoceptive processes and in the integration of sensory, visceral, and affective information thus contributing to subjective emotional experience. Greater recruitment of the insula in response to aversive relative to neutral stimuli in subjects with high state negative affect may represent increased processing of salient aversive stimuli.