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Neural Correlates of Emotion-Cognition Interactions in Healthy Functioning and Adolescent Psychopathology Open Access


Other title
Mental Health
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Shafer, Andrea T
Supervisor and department
Singhal, Anthony (Centre for Neuroscience, Psychology)
Dixon, Roger (Centre for Neuroscience, Psychology)
Dolcos, Florin (Centre for Neuroscience, Beckman Institute, Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Beaulieu, Christian (Centre for Neuroscience, Biomedical Engineering)
Heller, Wendy (Beckman Institute, Psychology, Gender and Women's Studies)
Centre for Neuroscience

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The current dissertation implemented two large studies involving brain imaging and behavioral methods to expand our current understanding of the impact of emotion on cognition. Study one focused on the immediate and long-term impact of emotion on cognition in healthy functioning. Study two focused on identifying alterations in emotional and cognitive processing related to adolescent psychopathology. In Study one, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was implemented in conjunction with; (I-i) an attentional capture paradigm containing different levels of emotional and cognitive challenge, (I-ii) the subsequent memory paradigm where memory for stimuli with different levels of emotional challenge from the attentional capture paradigm were examined, and (I-iii) another subsequent memory paradigm where memory for lure items used in the first subsequent memory paradigm were examined. The structure of this study allowed for the investigation of; (I-i) two competing theories of how emotion and attention interact, (I-ii) factors linking the immediate impact of emotional distraction on goal-oriented task performance and its long-term impact on memory, and (I-iii) brain activity linked to different memory operations occurring during the retrieval of emotional memories. Data were collected on healthy, young adults aged 18 to 35 years. Findings from study one provided novel insights and significant contributions to the cognitive neuroscience of emotion and emotional memory by; (I-i) reconciling two competing theories on the interaction between emotion and attention by taking into consideration the amount of both the emotional and cognitive challenge present, (I-ii) identifying that automatic mechanisms are critical in forming a direct relationship with the immediate impairing and long-term enhancing impact of emotion on cognition, and (I-iii) showing medial temporal lobe activity related to the memory-enhancing effect of emotion at retrieval could be delineated and linked to disparate memory operations (i.e., encoding and retrieval) that both occur during retrieval. In study two, a multi-modal imaging approach was implemented to investigate differences in emotional and cognitive processing in adolescents with Axis-I affective-, attentional- and behavioral-based psychiatric disorders. More specifically, in study two changes in the brain associated with adolescent psychopathology were examined by; (II-i) implementing a modified emotional oddball paradigm in conjunction with electroencephalogram recordings and event-related potential (ERP) analyses to assess differences in emotional response and in the emotional modulation of cognition, (II-ii) implementing a modified emotional oddball paradigm in conjunction with fMRI and whole-brain regional as well as network-based analyses to assess differences in executive processes important for response inhibition, and (II-iii) diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and whole-brain voxel based analyses to assess differences in white matter microstructure. Data were collected on 20 healthy and 20 clinical adolescents aged 11 to 17 years. Findings from study two provided novel insights and significant contributions to clinical and pediatric neuroscience by; (II-i) providing ERP evidence of increased susceptibility to emotional distraction and emotional modulation of attentional control processes for clinical adolescents, (II-ii) providing fMRI evidence of malfunctional cognitive control and affective networks during goal-oriented processing for clinical adolescents, and (II-iii) providing DTI evidence that differences in white matter microstructure and the developmental trajectory of white matter are part of neuronal sequela associated with adolescent psychopathology.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Shafer, A. T., & Dolcos, F. (2012). Neural correlates of opposing effects of emotional distraction on perception and episodic memory: an event-related FMRI investigation. Front Integr Neurosci, 6, 70. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2012.00070Shafer, A. T., Matveychuk, D., Penney, T., O'Hare, A. J., Stokes, J., & Dolcos, F. (2012). Processing of Emotional Distraction Is Both Automatic and Modulated by Attention: Evidence from an Event-related fMRI Investigation. J Cogn Neurosci, 24(5), 1233-1252.Shafer, A. T., & Dolcos, F. (2014). Dissociating retrieval success from incidental encoding activity during emotional memory retrieval, in the medial temporal lobe. Front Behav Neurosci, 8, 177. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00177Singhal, A., Shafer, A. T., Russell, M., Gibson, B., Wang, L., Vohra, S., & Dolcos, F. (2012). Electrophysiological correlates of fearful and sad distraction on target processing in adolescents with attention deficit-hyperactivity symptoms and affective disorders. Front Integr Neurosci, 6, 119. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2012.00119

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