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The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) has positive effects on the processing of emotional stimuli such as facial expressions. To date, research has focused primarily on conditions of overt visual attention.
We investigated whether a single intranasal dose of OT (24 IU) would modulate the allocation of attentional resources towards positive and negative facial expressions using a dot-probe paradigm in a sample of 69 healthy men. Attentional capacity for these facial cues was limited by presentation time (100 or 500 ms). In addition, we controlled for overt visual attention by recording eye movements using a remote eye tracker.
Reaction times (RTs) in the dot-probe paradigm revealed a pronounced shift of attention towards happy facial expressions presented for 100 ms after OT administration, whereas there were no OT-induced effects for longer presentation times (500 ms). The results could not be attributed to modulations of overt visual attention as no substance effects on gazes towards the facial target were observed.
The results suggest that OT increased covert attention to happy faces, thereby supporting the hypothesis that OT modulates early attentional processes that might promote prosocial behavior.
Although attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is thought to be an inhibitory disorder, the question remains of how specific the inhibitory deficit is in adults and whether it distinguishes ADHD from borderline personality disorder (BPD), with which it shares several clinical features, particularly impulsiveness.
The study assessed various motor and cognitive inhibitory functions (inhibition of prepotent, ongoing and interfering responses) in addition to working memory in adult ADHD patients with and without BPD, compared to subjects with BPD alone and controls. In addition, questionnaire data on various aspects of impulsiveness and anger regulation were assessed in all groups.
ADHD patients performed worse than BPD individuals and controls in two inhibitory tasks: the stop signal task and the conflict module of the Attentional Network Task (ANT). In addition, they exhibited longer reaction times (RTs) and higher intra-individual variance in nearly all attentional tasks. The co-morbid group exhibited poor performance on the stop signal task but not on the conflict task. The BPD group barely differed from controls in neuropsychological performance but overlapped with ADHD in some behavioural problems, although they were less severe on the whole.
Impaired inhibition is a core feature in adults with ADHD. In addition, slow RTs and high intra-individual variance in performance may reflect deficits in the regulation of activation and effort in ADHD patients. ADHD and BPD share some symptoms of behavioural dysregulation without common cognitive deficits, at least in the attentional realm.
Intense and rapidly changing mood states are a major feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD), which is thought to arise from affective vulnerability.
There have been only a few studies investigating affective processing in BPD, and particularly neither psychophysiological nor neurofunctional correlates of abnormal emotional processing have been identified so far.
Studies are reported using psychophysiological or functional neuroimaging methodology.
The psychophysiological study did not indicate a general emotional hyperresponsiveness in BPD. Low autonomic arousal seemed to reflect dissociative states in borderline subjects experiencing intense emotions. In the functional magnetic resonance imaging study enhanced amygdala activation was found in BPD, and it is suggested to reflect the intense and slowly subsiding emotions commonly observed in response to even low-level stressors.
Implications for psychotherapy are discussed.
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