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Thoughts of Death Modulate Psychophysical and Cortical Responses to Threatening Stimuli

Valentini, Elia and Koch, Katharina and Aglioti, Salvatore Maria (2014) 'Thoughts of Death Modulate Psychophysical and Cortical Responses to Threatening Stimuli.' PLoS ONE, 9 (11). e112324-e112324. ISSN 1932-6203

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Existential social psychology studies show that awareness of one's eventual death profoundly influences human cognition and behaviour by inducing defensive reactions against end-of-life related anxiety. Much less is known about the impact of reminders of mortality on brain activity. Therefore we explored whether reminders of mortality influence subjective ratings of intensity and threat of auditory and painful thermal stimuli and the associated electroencephalographic activity. Moreover, we explored whether personality and demographics modulate psychophysical and neural changes related to mortality salience (MS). Following MS induction, a specific increase in ratings of intensity and threat was found for both nociceptive and auditory stimuli. While MS did not have any specific effect on nociceptive and auditory evoked potentials, larger amplitude of theta oscillatory activity related to thermal nociceptive activity was found after thoughts of death were induced. MS thus exerted a top-down modulation on theta electroencephalographic oscillatory amplitude, specifically for brain activity triggered by painful thermal stimuli. This effect was higher in participants reporting higher threat perception, suggesting that inducing a death-related mind-set may have an influence on body-defence related somatosensory representations.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cerebral Cortex; Humans; Pain; Death; Electroencephalography; Acoustic Stimulation; Anxiety; Awareness; Thinking; Psychophysics; Evoked Potentials, Auditory; Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory; Adult; Female; Male
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 25 May 2016 10:51
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2022 00:50

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