Poster Session E, Monday, March 25, 2:30 – 4:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
Neural activity during episodic counterfactual thinking in anxious and non-anxious individuals
Natasha Parikh1, Kevin S. LaBar1, M. Zachary Rosenthal1, Jacqueline DeRosa1, Gregory W. Stewart1, Felipe De Brigard1; 1Duke University
When people mentally revisit past regretful decisions, they often imagine alternative ways in which such events could have occurred instead. For individuals with anxiety, episodic counterfactual thinking (eCFT) can become persistent and debilitating. Yet, little is known about neural differences between anxious and non-anxious individuals during eCFT, and less is known about the effects of eCFT on the autobiographical memories (AM) they are derived from. The current study explores these issues. Participants provided 45 regretful memories and rated them on emotional impact. During fMRI, participants first remembered their AM. The AM were assigned to three conditions. In the remember condition, participants simply moved on to the next memory. Otherwise, participants then imagined better ways (upward eCFT condition) or worse ways (downward eCFT condition) the memory could have occurred. Finally, participants reactivated all AM, re-rated their emotional impact, and recalled the condition in which each was presented previously. We found that people with higher anxiety showed activation in lateral prefrontal, insula, and caudate during upward eCFT creation but more temporal pole activity during downward eCFT creation. Furthermore, people with higher anxiety also showed differential engagement of structures such as the parahippocampal and middle temporal gyri during AM recall as a function of having been previously reactivated either in an upward or a downward eCFT. Together, these results suggest that people with higher, but not lower, levels of anxiety are differently recruiting the brain during counterfactual creation, and these neural differences are carried into the way the associated AM is later reactivated.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic