Poster F11, Tuesday, March 27, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
Brain activation during thoughts of one’s own death and its association with the fear of death in older adults
Kanan Hirano1, Kentaro Oba1, Toshiki Saito1, Shohei Yamazaki1, Ryuta Kawashima1, Motoaki Sugiura1; 1Tohoku University
To face at one’s own death and to manage the fear of it are important existential, psychological, and clinical issues especially for the elderly. While recent neuroimaging studies investigated the brain responses to death-related stimuli, none has examined if the brain activation was indeed self-relevant and how it is related to the fear of death. In this study, we addressed these issues using an fMRI and questionnaire measurements. During the fMRI measurement, 35 elderly participants (aged 60-72) were presented with death-related (D) or unrelated (ND) words, and evaluated their relevance to oneself or other (prime minister). They also completed a questionnaire to measure their degree of the fear of death. While several cortical areas were activated during the death-related thought (i.e., D – ND), the left supplementary motor area (SMA) only showed activation during self-relevance judgment. We also conducted a regression analysis with the degree of the fear of death on activation during the death-related thought, and identified negative correlation in the right supramarginal gyrus (SMG) during self-relevance judgment only. The activation of the SMA during death-related thought was previously implicated in the inhibition of the threat and our finding confirmed this notion by demonstrating its specificity during thought on one’s own death. Given the role of the right SMG in the bodily self-representation, the observed negative correlation of its activation and the fear of death may reflect fear-associated distancing of the physical self and death demonstrated in previous behavioral studies.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Development & aging