Repetition-related reductions in neural activity during emotional simulations of future events

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Abstract

© 2015 Szpunar et al. Simulations of future experiences are often emotionally arousing, and the tendency to repeatedly simulate negative future outcomes has been identified as a predictor of the onset of symptoms of anxiety. Nonetheless, next to nothing is known about how the healthy human brain processes repeated simulations of emotional future events. In this study, we present a paradigm that can be used to study repeated simulations of the emotional future in a manner that overcomes phenomenological confounds between positive and negative events. The results show that pulvinar nucleus and orbitofrontal cortex respectively demonstrate selective reductions in neural activity in response to frequently as compared to infrequently repeated simulations of negative and positive future events. Implications for research on repeated simulations of the emotional future in both non-clinical and clinical populations are discussed.

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Szpunar, K. K., Jing, H. G., Benoit, R. G., & Schacter, D. L. (2015). Repetition-related reductions in neural activity during emotional simulations of future events. PLoS ONE, 10(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0138354

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