Although the brain enables us to perceive the external world and our body, it remains unknown whether brain processes themselves can be perceived. Brain tissue does not have receptors for its own activity. However, the ability of humans to acquire self-control of brain processes indicates that the perception of these processes may also be achieved by learning. In this study patients learned to control low-frequency components of their EEG: the so-called slow cortical potentials (SCPs). In particular ''probe'' sessions, the patients (...) estimated the quality of the SCP shift they had produced in the preceding trial. The correspondence between the recorded SCP amplitudes and the subjective estimates increased with training. The ability to perceive the SCPs was related to the ability to control them; this perception was not mediated by peripheral variables such as changes in muscle tonus and cannot be reduced to simple vigilance monitoring. These data provide evidence that humans can learn to perceive the neural activity of their brain. Alternative interpretations are discussed. (shrink)
The persistence of both inflammatory and neuropathic pain can only be explained when learning processes are taken into account in addition to sensitizing mechanisms. Learning processes such as classical and operant conditioning create memories for pain that are based on altered synaptic connections in supraspinal structures and persist without peripheral input. [coderre & katz; dickenson; wiesenfeld-hallin et al.].
Extensive research has demonstrated that rs1360780, a common single nucleotide polymorphism within the FKBP5 gene, interacts with early-life stress in predicting psychopathology. Previous results suggest that carriers of the TT genotype of rs1360780 who were exposed to child abuse show differences in structure and functional activation of emotion-processing brain areas belonging to the salience network. Extending these findings on intermediate phenotypes of psychopathology, we examined if the interaction between rs1360780 and child abuse predicts resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) between the amygdala (...) and other areas of the salience network. We analyzed data of young European adults from the general population (N = 774; mean age = 18.76 years) who took part in the IMAGEN study. In the absence of main effects of genotype and abuse, a significant interaction effect was observed for rsFC between the right centromedial amygdala and right posterior insula (p <.025, FWE-corrected), which was driven by stronger rsFC in TT allele carriers with a history of abuse. Our results suggest that the TT genotype of rs1360780 may render individuals with a history of abuse more vulnerable to functional changes in communication between brain areas processing emotions and bodily sensations, which could underlie or increase the risk for psychopathology. (shrink)
Facial expressions of pain may be best conceptualized as an example of an evolved propensity to communicate distress, rather than as a distinct category of facial expression. The operant model goes beyond the evolutionary account, as it can explain how the (facial) expression of pain can become maladaptive as a result of its capability to elicit attention and caring behavior in the observer.