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The Effects of Prior Cognitive Control Task Exposure on Responses to Emotional Tasks in Healthy Participants

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 November 2010

Amanda W. Calkins
Affiliation:
Boston University, USA
Christen M. Deveney
Affiliation:
Boston University, USA
Meara L. Weitzman
Affiliation:
Boston University, USA
Bridget A. Hearon
Affiliation:
Boston University, USA
Greg J. Siegle
Affiliation:
University of Pittsburgh, USA
Michael W. Otto
Affiliation:
Boston University, USA
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Background: Recent advances have been made in the application of cognitive training strategies as interventions for mental disorders. One novel approach, cognitive control training (CCT), uses computer-based exercises to chronically increase prefrontal cortex recruitment. Activation of prefrontal control mechanisms have specifically been identified with attenuation of emotional responses. However, it is unclear whether recruitment of prefrontal resources alone is operative in this regard, or whether prefrontal control is important only in the role of explicit emotion regulation. This study examined whether exposure to cognitive tasks before an emotional challenge attenuated the effects of the emotional challenge. Aims: We investigated whether a single training session could alter participants' reactivity to subsequent emotional stimuli on two computer-based tasks as well as affect ratings made during the study. We hypothesized that individuals performing the Cognitive Control (CC) task as compared to those performing the Peripheral Vision (PV) comparison task would (1) report reduced negative affect following the mood induction and the emotion task, and (2) exhibit reduced reactivity (defined by lower affective ratings) to negative stimuli during both the reactivity and recovery phases of the emotion task and (3) show a reduced bias towards threatening information. Method: Fifty-nine healthy participants were randomized to complete CC tasks or PV, underwent a negative mood induction, and then made valence and arousal ratings for IAPS images, and completed an assessment of attentional bias. Results: Results indicated that a single-session of CC did not consistently alter participants' responses to either task. However, performance on the CC tasks was correlated on subsequent ratings of emotional images. Conclusions: While overall these results do not support the idea that affective responding is altered by making healthy volunteers use their prefrontal cortex before the affective task, they are discussed in the context of study design issues and future research directions.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies 2010

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