Publications by authors named "Andreas Fink"

111 Publications

Creative, Antagonistic, and Angry? Exploring the Roots of Malevolent Creativity with a Real-World Idea Generation Task.

J Creat Behav 2021 Sep 12;55(3):710-722. Epub 2020 Dec 12.

University of Graz.

Research is currently witnessing more investigations into malevolent creativity-creativity that is used to intentionally harm others. Inspired by previous methods to measure malevolent creativity, in the present study, we introduce a real-world behavioral task designed to capture individuals' capacity for using creativity for the purpose of attaining malevolent goals in response to everyday, provocative situations. In a sample of 105 students, we found malevolent creativity positively correlated with fluency in conventional creative ideation, as well as with self-reported typical malevolent creativity behavior in daily life. Moreover, performance on the malevolent creativity task showed positive correlations with the maladaptive personality trait of antagonism (PID-5) as well as individuals' state anger at the beginning of the experiment. Further, our multiple regression analysis revealed that conventional creative ideation, antagonistic personality, and state anger all explained unique, non-overlapping variance in the capacity for implementing malevolent creativity. As a whole, these findings suggest that different cognitive and affective factors, along with specific personality traits may each contribute to the expression of malevolent creativity in distinct ways. Future investigations striving to further decode the destructive potential of individuals toward others may benefit from this validated behavioral measurement approach to malevolent creativity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jocb.484DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8518065PMC
September 2021

A two-week running intervention reduces symptoms related to depression and increases hippocampal volume in young adults.

Cortex 2021 Nov 24;144:70-81. Epub 2021 Sep 24.

Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Austria.

This study examined the effects of a two-week running intervention on depressive symptoms and structural changes of different subfields of the hippocampus in young adults from the general population. The intervention was realized in small groups of participants in a mostly forested area and was organized into seven units of about 60 min each. The study design included two intervention groups which were tested at three time points and which received the intervention time-delayed: The first group between the first and the second time point, and the second group between the second and the third time point (waiting control group). At each test session, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed and symptoms related to depression were measured by means of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale. Results revealed a significant reduction of CES-D scores after the running intervention. The intervention also resulted in significant increases in the volume of the hippocampus, and reductions of CES-D scores right after the intervention were associated with increases in hippocampal volume. These findings add important new evidence on the beneficial role of aerobic exercise on depressive symptoms and related structural alterations of the hippocampus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2021.08.010DOI Listing
November 2021

Publisher Correction: Antagonism between brain regions relevant for cognitive control and emotional memory facilitates the generation of humorous ideas.

Sci Rep 2021 Sep 6;11(1):18071. Epub 2021 Sep 6.

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Philipps-University Marburg, Rudolf-Bultmann-Straße 8, 35039, Marburg, Germany.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-97696-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8421390PMC
September 2021

Neurophysiological indicators of internal attention: An fMRI-eye-tracking coregistration study.

Cortex 2021 10 19;143:29-46. Epub 2021 Jul 19.

Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Universitätsplatz 2, BioTechMed, Graz, Austria. Electronic address:

Many goal-directed, as well as spontaneous everyday activities (e.g., planning, mind-wandering), rely on an internal focus of attention. This fMRI-eye-tracking coregistration study investigated brain mechanisms and eye behavior related to internally versus externally directed cognition. Building on an established paradigm, we manipulated internal attention demands within tasks utilizing conditional stimulus masking. Internally directed cognition involved bilateral activation of the lingual gyrus and inferior parietal lobe areas as well as wide-spread deactivation of visual networks. Moreover, internally directed cognition was related to greater pupil diameter, pupil diameter variance, blink duration, fixation disparity variance, and smaller amounts of microsaccades. FMRI-eye-tracking covariation analyses further revealed that larger pupil diameter was related to increased activation of basal ganglia and lingual gyrus. It can be concluded that internally and externally directed cognition are characterized by distinct neurophysiological signatures. The observed neurophysiological differences indicate that internally directed cognition is associated with reduced processing of task-irrelevant information and increased mental load. These findings shed further light on the interplay between neural and perceptual mechanisms contributing to an internal focus of attention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2021.07.005DOI Listing
October 2021

Antagonism between brain regions relevant for cognitive control and emotional memory facilitates the generation of humorous ideas.

Sci Rep 2021 05 21;11(1):10685. Epub 2021 May 21.

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Philipps-University Marburg, Rudolf-Bultmann-Straße 8, 35039, Marburg, Germany.

The ability to generate humor gives rise to positive emotions and thus facilitate the successful resolution of adversity. Although there is consensus that inhibitory processes might be related to broaden the way of thinking, the neural underpinnings of these mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we use functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a humorous alternative uses task and a stroop task, to investigate the brain mechanisms underlying the emergence of humorous ideas in 24 subjects. Neuroimaging results indicate that greater cognitive control abilities are associated with increased activation in the amygdala, the hippocampus and the superior and medial frontal gyrus during the generation of humorous ideas. Examining the neural mechanisms more closely shows that the hypoactivation of frontal brain regions is associated with an hyperactivation in the amygdala and vice versa. This antagonistic connectivity is concurrently linked with an increased number of humorous ideas and enhanced amygdala responses during the task. Our data therefore suggests that a neural antagonism previously related to the emergence and regulation of negative affective responses, is linked with the generation of emotionally positive ideas and may represent an important neural pathway supporting mental health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-89843-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8140114PMC
May 2021

Failure to reappraise: Malevolent creativity is linked to revenge ideation and impaired reappraisal inventiveness in the face of stressful, anger-eliciting events.

Anxiety Stress Coping 2021 07 26;34(4):437-449. Epub 2021 Apr 26.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, AUT.

The complexities of daily life often necessitate creative ideas to successfully cope with negative social situations. This study investigated the relationship of two types of creativity that may be elicited by similar contexts but are associated with different goals and impact of ideas: reappraisal inventiveness (the capability to generate manifold reappraisals for negative situations) and malevolent creativity, capturing the inventiveness in intentionally harming others. In 73 women, these variables were assessed by performance tests depicting real-life, anger-eliciting situations. Additionally, participants reported their trait anger and depressive symptoms. Inventiveness (ideational fluency) was positively correlated between the two tasks, probably indicating shared divergent thinking demands. A more intricate pattern emerged for quality aspects of generated ideas. Participants inventing particularly harmful ideas for damaging others generated fewer valid reappraisals and displayed less problem-oriented thinking during reappraisal. Greater inventiveness in damaging others was linked to more revenge-related ideation during reappraisal attempts, which also correlated with self-reported depressive symptoms. A higher capacity for malevolent ideation may potentially hamper successful coping with stressful, anger-eliciting events and, as a result, may advance an adverse spiral of reinforcement. Considering these links may help tailor psychotherapeutic interventions to individuals' specific predispositions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2021.1918682DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8367047PMC
July 2021

Brain activation during the observation of real soccer game situations predicts creative goal scoring.

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 2021 07;16(7):707-715

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz 8010, Austria.

Creativity is an important source of success in soccer players. In order to be effective in soccer, unpredictable, sudden and at the same time creative (i.e. unique, original and effective) ideas are required in situations with high time pressure. Accordingly, creative task performance in soccer should be primarily driven by rapid and automatic cognitive processes. This study investigated if functional patterns of brain activation during the observation/encoding of real soccer game situations can predict creative soccer task performance. A machine learning approach (multivariate pattern recognition) was applied in a sample of 35 experienced male soccer players. The results revealed that brain activation during the observation of the soccer scenes significantly predicted creative soccer task performance, while brain activation during the subsequent ideation/elaboration period did not. The identified brain network included areas such as the angular gyrus, the supramarginal gyrus, the occipital cortex, parts of the cerebellum and (left) supplementary motor areas, which are important for semantic information processing, memory retrieval, integration of sensory information and motor control. This finding suggests that early and presumably automatized neurocognitive processes, such as (implicit) knowledge about motor movements, and the rapid integration of information from different sources are important for creative task performance in soccer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsab035DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8259291PMC
July 2021

Neurophysiological indicators of internal attention: An electroencephalography-eye-tracking coregistration study.

Brain Behav 2020 10 20;10(10):e01790. Epub 2020 Aug 20.

Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Introduction: Many goal-directed and spontaneous everyday activities (e.g., planning, mind wandering) rely on an internal focus of attention. Internally directed cognition (IDC) was shown to differ from externally directed cognition in a range of neurophysiological indicators such as electroencephalogram (EEG) alpha activity and eye behavior.

Methods: In this EEG-eye-tracking coregistration study, we investigated effects of attention direction on EEG alpha activity and various relevant eye parameters. We used an established paradigm to manipulate internal attention demands in the visual domain within tasks by means of conditional stimulus masking.

Results: Consistent with previous research, IDC involved relatively higher EEG alpha activity (lower alpha desynchronization) at posterior cortical sites. Moreover, IDC was characterized by greater pupil diameter (PD), fewer microsaccades, fixations, and saccades. These findings show that internal versus external cognition is associated with robust differences in several indicators at the neural and perceptual level. In a second line of analysis, we explored the intrinsic temporal covariation between EEG alpha activity and eye parameters during rest. This analysis revealed a positive correlation of EEG alpha power with PD especially in bilateral parieto-occipital regions.

Conclusion: Together, these findings suggest that EEG alpha activity and PD represent time-sensitive indicators of internal attention demands, which may be involved in a neurophysiological gating mechanism serving to shield internal cognition from irrelevant sensory information.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1790DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7559625PMC
October 2020

Everyday bodily movement is associated with creativity independently from active positive affect: a Bayesian mediation analysis approach.

Sci Rep 2020 07 20;10(1):11985. Epub 2020 Jul 20.

Department of Psychology, Health Psychology Unit, University of Graz, Univ.-Platz 2, 8010, Graz, Austria.

Previous (predominantly) laboratory studies reported positive relations of physical activity (or everyday bodily movement) with executive functioning, some even showed effects on creative thinking. Furthermore, positive-activated affect was found to be positively associated with everyday bodily movements and creativity. The mechanisms, however, underlying these relationships are poorly understood. The aim of this study was twofold: Firstly, we investigated whether everyday bodily movement was associated with creative performance. Secondly, we examined if positive-activated affect may mediate the association between bodily movement and creative performance. In a sample of 79 participants everyday bodily movement was recorded during five consecutive days using accelerometers. Creativity in the figural and verbal domain was assessed with performance tests, along with self-reported positive-activated affect as a trait. Findings revealed that creativity, positive-activated affect, and everyday bodily movement were associated with each other. However, positive-activated affect did not mediate the association between everyday bodily movement and creative performance. The pattern of findings argues for shared variance between bodily movement and creativity (fluency and originality) that is largely independent from variations in positive-activated affect.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68632-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7371881PMC
July 2020

Motivational Factors in the Typical Display of Humor and Creative Potential: The Case of Malevolent Creativity.

Front Psychol 2020 23;11:1213. Epub 2020 Jun 23.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Research is still disputing if an individual's use of humor in everyday life is also indicative of his or her creative potential. To date, the focus has been mainly restricted to shared cognitive factors, while motivational aspects that may link the production of humor and of creative ideas have been largely neglected. Humor motivation implicates latent social goals the creator pursues through the use of humor. These goals can be benign or more malicious and manifest in an individual's typical display of comic styles. While often overlooked, creativity often serves social functions as well, especially in common everyday situations. Similar to humor, creativity is typically regarded as beneficial for individuals and society. Yet, creative ideas may also originate from less prosocial goals. This is reflected in the concept of malevolent creativity, where novel ideas are generated to deliberately harm others. The present study investigated individuals' typical display of humor, differentiated in eight distinct comic styles in relation to their productivity in a behavioral test for malevolent creativity and general creative potential ( = 106). Individuals with higher scores on comic styles that are affiliated with malicious interpersonal goals - such as hurting or upsetting others or demonstrating superiority over others - were more fluent in producing malevolent creative ideas in the malevolent creativity test. This finding shows that individual differences in humor motivation relate to the capacity of coming up with relevant creative ideas also outside the domain of humor. The pattern of relationships between humor motivation and general creative potential differed from that of malicious creativity and implied the comic style "wit" only, primarily adding to the notion of shared cognitive processes in the production of humor and creative ideas. The study offers a novel perspective for how the inclusion of motivational factors that are inherent to conceptualizations of humor may also benefit creativity research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01213DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7325593PMC
June 2020

Humor comprehension and creative cognition: Shared and distinct neurocognitive mechanisms as indicated by EEG alpha activity.

Neuroimage 2020 06 3;213:116695. Epub 2020 Mar 3.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria. Electronic address:

Humor comprehension is increasingly recognized as showing parallels to more conventional creative cognition; yet our understanding of brain mechanisms underlying creative cognition in a humorous context is still limited. The present study addressed this issue by investigating functional patterns of EEG alpha activity while 93 participants viewed nonverbal humorous cartoons until they indicated having recognized the punch line, and subsequently vocalized their idea as to what constituted it. In a similar fashion, EEG was also assessed during performance of the Alternate Uses Task (AUT), in order to identify similarities and differences in EEG alpha activity implicated in conventional creative cognition vs. humor comprehension. Analyses revealed a pattern of robust task-related alpha power increases in both tasks, which were markedly more right-lateralized at ventral fronto-temporal sites in the humor task as compared to the AUT. Findings are interpreted in line with recent literature on the functional role of alpha activity in the creativity domain. Altogether, this study adds further evidence to the particular role of EEG alpha oscillations in creative cognition and supports the idea that conventional creative ideation and the comprehension of humor share neural mechanisms affiliated to creative cognition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116695DOI Listing
June 2020

Elements of creative thought: Investigating the cognitive and neural correlates of association and bi-association processes.

Neuroimage 2020 04 28;210:116586. Epub 2020 Jan 28.

Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, USA.

Creative thinking relies on the ability to make remote associations and fruitfully combine unrelated concepts. Hence, original associations and bi-associations (i.e., associations to one and two concepts, respectively) are considered elementary cognitive processes of creative cognition. In this work, we investigated the cognitive and brain mechanisms underlying these association processes with tasks that asked for original associations to either one or two adjective stimuli. Study 1 showed that the generation of more original associations and bi-associations was related to several indicators of creativity, corroborating the validity of these association performances as basic processes underlying creative cognition. Study 2 assessed brain activity during performance of these association tasks by means of fMRI. The generation of original versus common associations was related to higher activation in bilateral lingual gyri suggesting that cued search for remote representatives of given properties are supported by visually-mediated search strategies. Parametric analyses further showed that the generation of more original associations involved activation of the left inferior frontal cortex and the left ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which are consistently implicated in constrained retrieval and evaluation processes, and relevant for making distant semantic connections. Finally, the generation of original bi-associations involved higher activation in bilateral hippocampus and inferior parietal lobe, indicating that conceptual combination recruits episodic simulation processes. Together, these findings suggest that the generation of verbally cued, original associations relies not only on verbal semantic memory but involves mental imagery and episodic simulation, offering new insights in the nuanced interplay of memory systems in creative thought.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116586DOI Listing
April 2020

More habitual physical activity is linked to the use of specific, more adaptive cognitive reappraisal strategies in dealing with stressful events.

Stress Health 2020 Aug 9;36(3):274-286. Epub 2020 Feb 9.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Physical activity may improve stress resilience and well-being. However, specific links to individuals' coping abilities with stressful events are sparse. This study tested whether individuals reporting more physical activity in daily life showed a higher capacity for cognitive reappraisal in dealing with potential stressors. Ninety-eight participants reported their regular physical activity in the Freiburger Questionnaire on Physical Activity and completed a maximum performance test of their inventiveness in generating reappraisals for situations depicting real-life stressors. The latter provides scores for overall cognitive reappraisal capacity (quantity of ideas) and preference for specific cognitive reappraisal strategies (quality of ideas; positive reinterpretation; problem-oriented, de-emphasizing reappraisals). Additionally, participants' anxious and depressive dispositions and general creative abilities were assessed. Results showed no association between time spent on physical activities per week and total quantity of generated reappraisal ideas. However, a higher degree of physical activity was specifically linked to a greater relative preference for the reappraisal strategy of positive reinterpretation. Opposite associations emerged for the strategy of de-emphasizing reappraisals. The findings support the notion of more adaptive cognitive reappraisal use in more physically active individuals and may advance research on interrelationships between physical activity and cognitive and affective functions implicated in stress management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/smi.2929DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7497133PMC
August 2020

Functional coupling of brain networks during creative idea generation and elaboration in the figural domain.

Neuroimage 2020 02 23;207:116395. Epub 2019 Nov 23.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Austria.

The neuroscientific investigation of creative cognition has advanced by considering the functional connectivity between brain regions and its dynamic changes over time, which are consistent with stages in the ideation process. Surprisingly, although the communication between neuronal networks takes place in a time-scale of milliseconds, EEG studies investigating a time-course in cortico-cortical communication during creative ideation are rare and findings are typically restricted to the verbal domain. Therefore, this study examined functional coupling using EEG (task-related phase-locking in the upper-alpha range) during creative thinking in the figural domain. Using an innovative computerized experimental paradigm, we specifically investigated the stage of idea generation and the stage of idea elaboration in an adapted picture completion task. The findings confirmed a hypothesized increase of functional coupling from idea generation to elaboration, which was most pronounced in frontal-central as well as frontal-temporal networks. The connectivity in the frontal-parietal/occipital network already increased during idea generation and remained constant during elaboration. Importantly, more original participants generally showed higher functional connectivity in all brain networks. This elevated functional coupling with frontal brain regions might reflect increased executive processes related to internal attention, motor planning, and semantic selection processes supporting highly original thought in the figural domain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116395DOI Listing
February 2020

The propensity to perceive meaningful coincidences is associated with increased posterior alpha power during retention of information in a modified Sternberg paradigm.

Conscious Cogn 2019 11 14;76:102832. Epub 2019 Oct 14.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Austria.

There are ample inter-individual differences in the frequency with which people perceive meaningful coincidences. Previous research has identified increased proactive interference, that is a reduced working memory capacity, as one possible mechanism associated with this phenomenon. The present study aimed at extending this finding into the domain of neuroscience, (1) by assessing EEG alpha oscillations during the retention of information, (2) by replicating the behavioral link between meaningful coincidences and proactive interference. In a sample of 52 participants, the behavioral replication was successful. Furthermore, participants who perceived more meaningful coincidences showed higher alpha power increases at parietal-occipital sites, and at the same time, displayed lower alpha power increases at frontal areas, during retention of information. This neurophysiological activation pattern further underlines the assumption that participants who perceive more meaningful coincidences show lower working memory capacities, since increased alpha power at parietal areas reflects a higher load on working memory demands.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2019.102832DOI Listing
November 2019

Brain Structure Alterations in Poly-Drug Use: Reduced Cortical Thickness and White Matter Impairments in Regions Associated With Affective, Cognitive, and Motor Functions.

Front Psychiatry 2019 20;10:667. Epub 2019 Sep 20.

Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are defined by obsessive and uncontrolled consumption, which is related to neurobiological changes. Based on previous work, this study investigated potential alterations in brain structure in poly-drug use disordered (PUD) patients in comparison to controls from the normal population. This study involved a sample of 153 right-handed men aged between 18 and 41 years, comprising a clinical group of 78 PUD and a group of 75 healthy controls. Group differences in gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM), as well as cortical thickness (CT), were investigated by means of diffusion tensor imaging using automated fiber quantification (AFQ) and voxel-based morphometry. We observed significant WM impairments in PUD, especially in the bilateral corticospinal tracts and the inferior longitudinal fasciculi. Furthermore, we found reduced CT in the PUD group especially in the left insular and left lateral orbitofrontal cortex. There were no group differences in GM. In addition, PUD exhibited a higher amount of psychiatric symptoms (Brief Symptom Inventory) and impairments in cognitive functions (Wonderlic Personnel Test). In line with previous research, this study revealed substantial impairments in brain structure in the PUD group in areas linked with affective, cognitive, and motor functions. We therefore hypothesize a neurologically informed treatment approach for SUD. Future studies should consequently explore a potential positive neuroplasticity in relation to a better therapeutic outcome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00667DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6763614PMC
September 2019

Creative challenge: Regular exercising moderates the association between task-related heart rate variability changes and individual differences in originality.

PLoS One 2019 22;14(7):e0220205. Epub 2019 Jul 22.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Coping with mental challenges is vital to everyday functioning. In accordance with prominent theories, the adaptive and flexible adjustment of the organism to daily demands is well expressed in task-related changes of cardiac vagal control. While many mental challenges are associated with increased effort and associated decreased task-related heart rate variability (HRV), some cognitive challenges go along with HRV increases. Especially creativity represents a cognitive process, which not only results from mental effort but also from spontaneous modes of thinking. Critically, creativity and HRV are associated with regular exercising and fitness. Furthermore, the cross-stressor adaptation theory suggests that changes in cardiac reactions to physical challenges may generalize to mental challenges. In line with this idea the amount of regular exercising was hypothesized to moderate the association between HRV changes and creativity. A sample of 97 participants was investigated. They reported the amount of regular exercise and their ECG was measured at baseline and during a creativity task. An association between task-related HRV changes and originality as a function of participants' amount of regular exercise was found. Participants reporting more regular exercising produced more original ideas when they had higher HRV increases during the task, while more sedentary participants showed the opposite association. Results suggest that individuals with a higher amount of regular exercise achieve higher originality probably via the engagement in more spontaneous modes of thinking, while more sedentary people may primarily benefit from increased mental effort. This supports the conclusion that higher creativity can be achieved by different strategies.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0220205PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6645545PMC
February 2020

Poor control of interference from negative content hampers the effectiveness of humour as a source of positive emotional experiences.

Sci Rep 2019 05 29;9(1):8023. Epub 2019 May 29.

Section of Biological Psychology, Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

The brain-based ability to direct attention away from interfering negative information may co-determine to which degree one may benefit from humour as a source of positive emotional experiences. This should be particularly relevant when it comes to humour that implicates a target the joke makes fun of, which inherently entails rivalry between positive and negative emotional representations. One hundred healthy individuals completed a pictorial negative affective priming task and a nonverbal humour processing task. In line with the notion that during the elaborative processing of malicious jokes, interference from negative emotional representations hampers the experience of amusement, participants took more time to judge their amusement evoked by malicious compared to benign jokes. Lesser ability to distract attention from interfering negative emotional representations was associated with slower judgements of amusement following the processing of malicious jokes, as well as with lower amusement ratings. The time it took participants to comprehend the punch-lines was not affected, neither was the immediate, short-lived pleasure after having comprehended the humour, measured by characteristic transient cardiac activation. The findings suggest that the effective use of humour as a source of positive emotional experiences requires the ability to overcome the dark side of typical humour.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44550-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6541656PMC
May 2019

Effects of an adjunctive, chronotype-based light therapy in hospitalized patients with severe burnout symptoms - a pilot study.

Chronobiol Int 2019 07 9;36(7):993-1004. Epub 2019 May 9.

c Department of Psychology , University of Graz , Graz , Austria.

Light therapy is a well-established treatment option for seasonal affective disorders and is effective in reducing sleep problems and daytime fatigue. Symptoms of severe burnout include feelings of exhaustion and impaired sleep and mood. Thus, light therapy seems promising for burnout treatment. So far, light therapy effects in burnout were investigated in outpatient settings only, with inconclusive results. The present study targeted light therapy effects in an inpatient setting. Participants with severe burnout were recruited in two psychosomatic clinics and randomly assigned to a control group with multimodal psychiatric treatment or an add-on light treatment group. Participants in the latter group were additionally exposed to morning bright light (illuminance: 4246 lux, irradiance: 1802.81 µW.cm) for 3 weeks, 30 minutes a day, timed to their chronotypes. Light effects on burnout symptoms, depression, well-being, daytime sleepiness, sleep quality, and attentional performance were measured twice (pre-/postintervention design). Adjunctive chronotype-based bright light therapy was well tolerated and improved burnout symptoms and well-being without additional effect on severity of depression. Furthermore, reduced daytime sleepiness, improved nighttime sleep quality, a sleep phase advance of 25 minutes, shortened sleep latency, less sleep disturbances and increased sleep duration were observed in the light treatment group. No group differences were found in attentional performance. Chronotype-based bright light therapy seems to be effective in improving burnout symptoms and sleep problems in patients with severe burnout symptoms. Further studies with larger sample sizes and objective measures of sleep are necessary to confirm these preliminary results before practical recommendations can be made.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07420528.2019.1604539DOI Listing
July 2019

Cognitive reappraisal capacity mediates the relationship between prefrontal recruitment during reappraisal of anger-eliciting events and paranoia-proneness.

Brain Cogn 2019 06 10;132:108-117. Epub 2019 Apr 10.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Austria. Electronic address: https://psychologie.uni-graz.at/en/biological-psychology/team/.

Difficulties in emotion regulation, particularly in using adaptive regulation strategies such as cognitive reappraisal, are a commonly observed correlate of paranoia. While it has been suggested that poor implementation of cognitive reappraisal in dealing with aversive events precedes the onset of subclinical paranoid thinking, there is little empirical research on neural activation patterns during cognitive reappraisal efforts that might indicate vulnerability towards paranoid thinking. Prefrontal EEG alpha asymmetry changes were recorded while n = 57 participants were generating alternative appraisals of anger-eliciting events, and were linked to a behavioral measure of basic cognitive reappraisal capacity and self-reported paranoia proneness (assessed by personality facets of hostility and suspiciousness; Personality Inventory for DSM-5). Mediation analysis revealed that less left-lateralized activation at ventrolateral prefrontal sites during reappraisal efforts predicted a higher degree of paranoia proneness. This relationship was mediated through poorer cognitive reappraisal capacity. Matching previous evidence, findings suggest that inappropriate brain activation during reappraisal efforts impairs individuals' capacity to come up with effective alternative interpretations for anger-evoking situations, which may accentuate personality features related to increased paranoid thinking. The findings add to our understanding of neurally underpinned impairments in the capacity to generate cognitive reappraisals and their link to maladaptive personality and behavior.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2019.04.001DOI Listing
June 2019

Gender Differences in Generating Cognitive Reappraisals for Threatening Situations: Reappraisal Capacity Shields Against Depressive Symptoms in Men, but Not Women.

Front Psychol 2019 15;10:553. Epub 2019 Mar 15.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Despite major research interest regarding gender differences in emotion regulation, it is still not clear whether men and women differ in their basic capacity to implement specific emotion regulation strategies, as opposed to indications of the habitual use of these strategies in self-reports. Similarly, little is known on how such basic capacities relate to indices of well-being in both sexes. This study took a novel approach by investigating gender differences in the capacity for generating cognitive reappraisals in adverse situations in a sample of 67 female and 59 male students, using a maximum performance test of the inventiveness in generating reappraisals. Participants' self-perceived efficacy in emotion regulation was additionally assessed. Analyses showed that men and women did not differ in their basic capacity to generate alternative appraisals for anxiety-eliciting scenarios, suggesting similar functional cognitive mechanisms in the implementation of this strategy. Yet, higher cognitive reappraisal capacity predicted fewer depressive daily-life experiences in men only. These findings suggest that in the case of cognitive reappraisal, benefits for well-being in women might depend on a more complex combination of basic ability, habits, and efficacy-beliefs, along with the use of other emotion regulation strategies. The results of this study may have useful implications for psychotherapy research and practice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00553DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6428936PMC
March 2019

Learning Unicycling Evokes Manifold Changes in Gray and White Matter Networks Related to Motor and Cognitive Functions.

Sci Rep 2019 03 13;9(1):4324. Epub 2019 Mar 13.

Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

A three-week unicycling training was associated with (1) reductions of gray matter volume in regions closely linked to visuospatial processes such as spatial awareness, (2) increases in fractional anisotropy primarily in the right corticospinal tract and in the right forceps major of the corpus callosum, and (3) a slowly evolving increase in cortical thickness in the left motor cortex. Intriguingly, five weeks later, during which participants were no longer regularly engaged in unicycling, a re-increase in gray matter was found in the very same region of the rSTG. These changes in gray and white matter morphology were paralleled by increases in unicycling performance, and by improvements in postural control, which diminished until the follow-up assessments. Learning to ride a unicycle results in reorganization of different types of brain tissue facilitating more automated postural control, clearly demonstrating that learning a complex balance task modulates brain structure in manifold and highly dynamic ways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-40533-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6416294PMC
March 2019

Creativity is associated with a characteristic U-shaped function of alpha power changes accompanied by an early increase in functional coupling.

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 2019 08;19(4):1012-1021

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Univ.-Platz 2, A-8010, Graz, Austria.

Although there exists increasing knowledge about brain correlates underlying creative ideation in general, the specific neurocognitive mechanisms implicated in different stages of the creative thinking process are still under-researched. Some recent EEG studies suggested that alpha power during creative ideation varies as a function of time, with the highest levels of alpha power after stimulus onset and at the end of the creative thinking process. The main aim of the present study was to replicate and extend this finding by applying an individual differences approach, and by investigating functional coupling between long distance cortical sites during the process of creative ideation. Eighty-six participants performed the Alternate Uses (AU) task during EEG assessment. Results revealed that more original people showed increased alpha power after stimulus onset and before finalizing the process of idea generation. This U-shaped alpha power pattern was accompanied by an early increase in functional communication between frontal and parietal-occipital sites during the creative thinking process, putatively indicating activation of top-down executive control processes. Participants with lower originality showed no significant time-related variation in alpha power and a delayed increase in long distance functional communication. These findings are in line with dual process models of creative ideation and support the idea that increased alpha power at the beginning of the creative ideation process may indicate more associative modes of thinking and memory processes, while the alpha increases at later stages may indicate executive control processes, associated with idea elaboration/evaluation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13415-019-00699-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6711878PMC
August 2019

Humorous cognitive reappraisal: More benign humour and less "dark" humour is affiliated with more adaptive cognitive reappraisal strategies.

PLoS One 2019 31;14(1):e0211618. Epub 2019 Jan 31.

Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

The capacity to find humorous perspectives in aversive situations may outline a helpful strategy in the context of cognitive reappraisal. Yet, research suggested that some people produce more adaptive humour than others. At the same time, not all forms of cognitive reinterpretation seem to be unequivocally beneficial. The present study aimed to investigate specific cognitive reappraisal strategies that individuals employ in humorous reappraisal of adverse events. In a sample of 95 participants, the use of cognitive reappraisal sub-strategies was assessed in a behavioural test in which participants were required to generate a series of humorous reappraisals of self-relevant, threatening events. These reappraisal sub-strategies (three positive reinterpretation strategies, three de-emphasising strategies) were then related to the habitual use of different kinds of humour as well as the broader DSM-5 personality trait domains and well-being in terms of depressive experiences, assessed by self-report questionnaires. While no robust relationships were found for reappraisal strategies based on de-emphasising, sub-strategies within the positive reinterpretation category showed specific and contrasting associations with the examined traits. Findings indicated that the ability to produce humour is only linked to a favourable pattern of reappraisal strategies when manifested in benign forms of humour. Specific relations also emerged for the broader personality traits. The study suggests that some characteristics that advance the use of benign humour also benefit adaptive emotion regulation. The opposite seems to be true for malicious, or "dark" humour. The introduced behavioural approach to the analysis of humorous cognitive reappraisal may prove useful also in future related research.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0211618PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6355006PMC
November 2019

Modulation of resting-state network connectivity by verbal divergent thinking training.

Brain Cogn 2018 12 25;128:1-6. Epub 2018 Oct 25.

Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria; BioTechMed, Graz, Austria.

A growing body of evidence suggests that creativity is associated with functional connectivity across widespread neural networks, including regions associated with executive processes and cognitive control, along with regions linked to the default mode network (DMN) of the brain. This study investigated whether a three-week verbal divergent thinking training modulates functional connectivity in networks that have been related to creativity. In a task-based functional imaging study (Fink et al., 2015), the employed creativity training was found to modulate brain activity in regions closely associated with semantic memory demands. Hence, the specific aim of this study was to assess whether the observed task-related brain changes relate to changes in functional connectivity patterns of the brain at rest, as assessed by independent component analysis. The participants were tested at three time points with an inter-test interval of four weeks each, and randomly assigned to two groups which received the verbal creativity training time-delayed. Findings revealed that successful training of verbal creativity was mirrored by functional connectivity changes in the DMN, sensorimotor and auditory network, and the attention network. These rather global changes in resting-state functional connectivity supplement the findings of task-based fMRI, where changes in more task specific brain regions were found.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2018.10.008DOI Listing
December 2018

Less differentiated facial responses to naturalistic films of another person's emotional expressions in adolescents and adults with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2019 03 16;89:341-346. Epub 2018 Oct 16.

Department of Psychology, Biological Psychology Unit, University of Graz, Austria.

Background: Reduced facial expressivity (flat affect) and deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors are characteristic symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Based on the important interpersonal functions of facial emotional responsiveness the present study aimed at a comprehensive and differentiated analysis of perceptible facial behavior in response to another person's naturalistic, dynamic facial expressions of emotion.

Methods: In a group of 21 adolescent and adult individuals with High-Funtioning autism spectrum disorder (HF-ASD) and in 21 matched healthy controls we examined perceptible facial responses using the whole range of action units of the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) while participants were watching films displaying continuous, dynamic real-life facial expressions of four universal emotions (cheerfulness, anger, sadness, anxiety). The duration of the 80 s films was in the typical range of casual face-to-face interactions.

Results: Overall, the number of congruent facial muscle movements while watching the emotion-laden stimulus films did not differ in the two groups. However, the comprehensive FACS analysis indicated that participants with HF-ASD displayed less differentiated facial responses to the watched emotional expressions.

Conclusions: The unusual or awkward patterns of facial emotional responses in ASD may hamper the recognition of affect in other people as well as the interaction partner's sense of interpersonal resonance, and thereby lead to social disadvantage in individuals with ASD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2018.10.007DOI Listing
March 2019

White matter alterations and tract lateralization in children with dyslexia and isolated spelling deficits.

Hum Brain Mapp 2019 02 29;40(3):765-776. Epub 2018 Sep 29.

University of Graz, Institute of Psychology, Graz, Austria.

The present study investigated whether children with a typical dyslexia profile and children with isolated spelling deficits show a distinct pattern of white matter alteration compared with typically developing peers. Relevant studies on the topic are scarce, rely on small samples, and often suffer from the limitations of conventional tensor-based methods. The present Constrained Spherical Deconvolution study includes 27 children with typical reading and spelling skills, 21 children with dyslexia and 21 children with isolated spelling deficits. Group differences along major white matter tracts were quantified utilizing the Automated Fiber Quantification software and a lateralization index was calculated in order to investigate the structural asymmetry of the tracts. The two deficit groups mostly displayed different patterns of white matter alterations, located in the bilateral inferior longitudinal fasciculi, right superior longitudinal fasciculus, and cingulum for the group with dyslexia and in the left arcuate fasciculus for the group with isolated spelling deficits. The two deficit groups differed also with respect to structural asymmetry. Children with dyslexia did not show the typical leftward asymmetry of the arcuate fasciculus, whereas the group with isolated spelling deficits showed absent rightward asymmetry of the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus. This study adds evidence to the notion that different profiles of combined or isolated reading and spelling deficits are associated with different neural signatures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hbm.24410DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6492145PMC
February 2019

Brain and soccer: Functional patterns of brain activity during the generation of creative moves in real soccer decision-making situations.

Hum Brain Mapp 2019 02 26;40(3):755-764. Epub 2018 Sep 26.

Institute of Exercise Training and Sport Informatics, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, Germany.

This fMRI study investigated brain activity while soccer players were imagining creative moves in real soccer decision-making situations. After presenting brief video clips of a soccer scene, participants had to imagine themselves as the acting player and think either of a creative or obvious move that might lead to a goal. Findings revealed stronger activation during trials in which the generation of obvious moves was required, relative to trials requiring creative moves. The reversed contrast (creative > obvious) showed no significant effects. Activations were mainly left-lateralized, primarily involving the cuneus, middle temporal gyrus, and the rolandic operculum, which are known to support the processing of multimodal input from different sensory, motor and perceptual sources. Interestingly, more creative solutions in the soccer task were associated with smaller contrast values for the activation difference between obvious and creative trials, or even with more activation in the latter. Furthermore, higher trait creative potential (as assessed by a figural creativity test) was associated with stronger activation differences between both conditions. These findings suggest that with increasing soccer-specific creative task performance, the processing of the manifold information provided by the soccer scenario becomes increasingly important, while in individuals with higher trait creative potential these processes were recruited to a minor degree. This study showed that soccer-specific creativity tasks modulate activation levels in a network of regions supporting various cognitive functions such as semantic information processing, visual and motor imagery, and the processing and integration of sensorimotor and somatosensory information.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hbm.24408DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6492000PMC
February 2019

Age-moderating effect in prepotent response inhibition in boys with Asperger syndrome: a 2.5 years longitudinal study.

Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 2019 Apr 25;269(3):361-364. Epub 2018 Jun 25.

Department of Psychology, Biological Psychology Unit, University of Graz, Univ.-Platz 2, 8010, Graz, Austria.

Following our previous cross-sectional analysis, indicating age-related improvements of response inhibition in a random-motor-generation task (MPT) in adolescents with Asperger syndrome (AS), the present study reports data from a 2.5-year follow-up examination in the original sample. We found more marked improvements within the follow-up interval in younger AS children, while older AS boys as well as typically developing (TD) boys remained at a relatively constant level throughout. The current longitudinal study further substantiates the notion that AS children (on average) catch up with TD children when they grow older as regards the basic inhibition of developing routine response patterns.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00406-018-0915-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6469602PMC
April 2019

EEG alpha activity during imagining creative moves in soccer decision-making situations.

Neuropsychologia 2018 06 24;114:118-124. Epub 2018 Apr 24.

Institute of Exercise Training and Sport Informatics, German Sport University Cologne, Germany.

This study investigated task-related changes of EEG alpha power while participants were imagining creative moves in soccer decision-making situations. After presenting brief video clips of a soccer scene, participants had to imagine themselves as the acting player and to think either of a creative/original or an obvious/conventional move (control condition) that might lead to a goal. Performance of the soccer task generally elicited comparatively strong alpha power decreases at parietal and occipital sites, indicating high visuospatial processing demands. This power decrease was less pronounced in the creative vs. control condition, reflecting a more internally oriented state of information processing characterized by more imaginative mental simulation rather than stimulus-driven bottom-up processing. In addition, more creative task performance in the soccer task was associated with stronger alpha desynchronization at left cortical sites, most prominently over motor related areas. This finding suggests that individuals who generated more creative moves were more intensively engaged in processes related to movement imagery. Unlike the domain-specific creativity measure, individual's trait creative potential, as assessed by a psychometric creativity test, was globally positively associated with alpha power at all cortical sites. In investigating creative processes implicated in complex creative behavior involving more ecologically valid demands, this study showed that thinking creatively in soccer decision-making situations recruits specific brain networks supporting processes related to visuospatial attention and movement imagery, while the relative increase in alpha power in more creative conditions and in individuals with higher creative potential might reflect a pattern relevant across different creativity domains.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2018.04.025DOI Listing
June 2018
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