Publications by authors named "Carlos Ventura-Bort"

12 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Cortical thickness and resting-state cardiac function across the lifespan: A cross-sectional pooled mega-analysis.

Psychophysiology 2020 Oct 10. Epub 2020 Oct 10.

Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research (NORMENT), Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.

Understanding the association between autonomic nervous system [ANS] function and brain morphology across the lifespan provides important insights into neurovisceral mechanisms underlying health and disease. Resting-state ANS activity, indexed by measures of heart rate [HR] and its variability [HRV] has been associated with brain morphology, particularly cortical thickness [CT]. While findings have been mixed regarding the anatomical distribution and direction of the associations, these inconsistencies may be due to sex and age differences in HR/HRV and CT. Previous studies have been limited by small sample sizes, which impede the assessment of sex differences and aging effects on the association between ANS function and CT. To overcome these limitations, 20 groups worldwide contributed data collected under similar protocols of CT assessment and HR/HRV recording to be pooled in a mega-analysis (N = 1,218 (50.5% female), mean age 36.7 years (range: 12-87)). Findings suggest a decline in HRV as well as CT with increasing age. CT, particularly in the orbitofrontal cortex, explained additional variance in HRV, beyond the effects of aging. This pattern of results may suggest that the decline in HRV with increasing age is related to a decline in orbitofrontal CT. These effects were independent of sex and specific to HRV; with no significant association between CT and HR. Greater CT across the adult lifespan may be vital for the maintenance of healthy cardiac regulation via the ANS-or greater cardiac vagal activity as indirectly reflected in HRV may slow brain atrophy. Findings reveal an important association between CT and cardiac parasympathetic activity with implications for healthy aging and longevity that should be studied further in longitudinal research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13688DOI Listing
October 2020

Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS) Improves High-Confidence Recognition Memory but Not Emotional Word Processing.

Front Psychol 2020 9;11:1276. Epub 2020 Jul 9.

Department of Biological Psychology and Affective Science, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.

Previous clinical research found that invasive vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) enhanced word recognition memory in epileptic patients, an effect assumed to be related to the activation of brainstem arousal systems. In this study, we applied non-invasive transcutaneous auricular VNS (tVNS) to replicate and extend the previous work. Using a single-blind, randomized, between-subject design, 60 healthy volunteers received active or sham stimulation during a lexical decision task, in which emotional and neutral stimuli were classified as words or non-words. In a subsequent recognition memory task (1 day after stimulation), participants' memory performance on these words and their subjective memory confidence were tested. Salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) levels, a putative indirect measure of central noradrenergic activation, were also measured before and after stimulation. During encoding, pleasant words were more accurately detected than neutral and unpleasant words. However, no tVNS effects were observed on task performance or on overall sAA level changes. tVNS also did not modulate overall recognition memory, which was particularly enhanced for pleasant emotional words. However, when hit rates were split based on confidence ratings reflecting familiarity- and recollection-based memory, higher recollection-based memory performance (irrespective of emotional category) was observed during active stimulation than during sham stimulation. To summarize, we replicated prior findings of enhanced processing and memory for emotional (pleasant) words. Whereas tVNS showed no effects on word processing, subtle effects on recollection-based memory performance emerged, which may indicate that tVNS facilitates hippocampus-mediated consolidation processes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01276DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7363946PMC
July 2020

Behavioral and neural evidence of enhanced long-term memory for untrustworthy faces.

Sci Rep 2019 12 16;9(1):19217. Epub 2019 Dec 16.

Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology, University of Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany.

In daily life, we automatically form impressions of other individuals on basis of subtle facial features that convey trustworthiness. Because these face-based judgements influence current and future social interactions, we investigated how perceived trustworthiness of faces affects long-term memory using event-related potentials (ERPs). In the current study, participants incidentally viewed 60 neutral faces differing in trustworthiness, and one week later, performed a surprise recognition memory task, in which the same old faces were presented intermixed with novel ones. We found that after one week untrustworthy faces were better recognized than trustworthy faces and that untrustworthy faces prompted early (350-550 ms) enhanced frontal ERP old/new differences (larger positivity for correctly remembered old faces, compared to novel ones) during recognition. Our findings point toward an enhanced long-lasting, likely familiarity-based, memory for untrustworthy faces. Even when trust judgments about a person do not necessarily need to be accurate, a fast access to memories predicting potential harm may be important to guide social behaviour in daily life.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-55705-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6915708PMC
December 2019

Neural correlates of emotion-attention interactions: From perception, learning, and memory to social cognition, individual differences, and training interventions.

Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2020 01 22;108:559-601. Epub 2019 Aug 22.

Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA; Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA. Electronic address:

Due to their ability to capture attention, emotional stimuli tend to benefit from enhanced perceptual processing, which can be helpful when such stimuli are task-relevant but hindering when they are task-irrelevant. Altered emotion-attention interactions have been associated with symptoms of affective disturbances, and emerging research focuses on improving emotion-attention interactions to prevent or treat affective disorders. In line with the Human Affectome Project's emphasis on linguistic components, we also analyzed the language used to describe attention-related aspects of emotion, and highlighted terms related to domains such as conscious awareness, motivational effects of attention, social attention, and emotion regulation. These terms were discussed within a broader review of available evidence regarding the neural correlates of (1) Emotion-Attention Interactions in Perception, (2) Emotion-Attention Interactions in Learning and Memory, (3) Individual Differences in Emotion-Attention Interactions, and (4) Training and Interventions to Optimize Emotion-Attention Interactions. This comprehensive approach enabled an integrative overview of the current knowledge regarding the mechanisms of emotion-attention interactions at multiple levels of analysis, and identification of emerging directions for future investigations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.08.017DOI Listing
January 2020

Enhanced spontaneous retrieval of cues from emotional events: An ERP study.

Biol Psychol 2019 11 20;148:107742. Epub 2019 Aug 20.

Department of Psychology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany. Electronic address:

Recent evidence points to enhanced episodic memory retrieval not only for emotional items but also for neutral information encoded in emotional contexts. However, prior research only tested instructed explicit recognition, and hence here we investigated whether memory retrieval is also heightened for cues from emotional contexts when retrieval is not explicitly probed. During the first session of a two-session experiment, neutral objects were presented on different background scenes varying in emotional and neutral contents. One week later, objects were presented again (with no background) intermixed with novel objects. In both sessions, participants were instructed to attentively watch the stimuli (free viewing procedure), and during the second session, ERPs were also collected to measure the ERP Old/New effect, an electrophysiological correlate of episodic memory retrieval. Analyses were performed using cluster-based permutation tests in order to identify reliable spatio-temporal ERP differences. Based on this approach, old relative to new objects, were associated with larger ERP positivity in an early (364-744 ms) and late time window (760-1148 ms) over distinct central electrode clusters. Interestingly, significant late ERP Old/New differences were only observed for objects previously encoded with emotional, but not neutral scenes (504 to 1144 ms). Because these ERP differences were observed in a non-instructed retrieval context, our results indicate that long-term, spontaneous retrieval for neutral objects, is particularly heightened if encoded within emotionally salient contextual information. These findings may assist in understanding mechanisms underlying spontaneous retrieval of emotional associates and the utility of ERPs to study maladaptive involuntary memories in trauma- and stress-related disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2019.107742DOI Listing
November 2019

Chronic stress and emotion: Differential effects on attentional processing and recognition memory.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2019 09 10;107:93-97. Epub 2019 May 10.

Department of Psychology, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24/25, 14476, Potsdam, Germany.

Previous research indicates that acute stress around the time of learning facilitates attention and memory for emotionally salient information. Despite accumulating evidence for these acute stress effects, less is known about the role of chronic stress. In the present study, we therefore tested emotional and neutral scene processing and later recognition memory in female participants using hair cortisol concentrations as a biological marker for chronic stress. Event-related potentials recorded during picture viewing indicated enhanced late positive potentials (LPPs) for emotional, relative to neutral contents. These brain potentials varied as a function of long-term hair cortisol levels: hair-cortisol levels were positively related to overall LPP amplitudes. Results from recognition memory testing one week after encoding revealed better memory for emotional relative to neutral scenes. Hair-cortisol levels, however, were related to poorer memory accuracy. Taken together, our results indicate that chronic stress enhanced attentional processing during encoding of new stimuli and impaired later recognition memory. Results are discussed with regard to putatively opposite effects of chronic stress on certain brain regions (e.g., amygdala and hippocampus).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.05.008DOI Listing
September 2019

Effects of Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS) on the P300 and Alpha-Amylase Level: A Pilot Study.

Front Hum Neurosci 2018 21;12:202. Epub 2018 Jun 21.

Department of Psychology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.

Recent research suggests that the P3b may be closely related to the activation of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine (LC-NE) system. To further study the potential association, we applied a novel technique, the non-invasive transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS), which is speculated to increase noradrenaline levels. Using a within-subject cross-over design, 20 healthy participants received continuous tVNS and sham stimulation on two consecutive days (stimulation counterbalanced across participants) while performing a visual oddball task. During stimulation, oval non-targets (standard), normal-head (easy) and rotated-head (difficult) targets, as well as novel stimuli (scenes) were presented. As an indirect marker of noradrenergic activation we also collected salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) before and after stimulation. Results showed larger P3b amplitudes for target, relative to standard stimuli, irrespective of stimulation condition. Exploratory analyses, however, revealed that, in comparison to standard stimuli, easy (but not difficult) targets produced larger P3b (but not P3a) amplitudes during active tVNS, compared to sham stimulation. For sAA levels, although main analyses did not show differential effects of stimulation, direct testing revealed that tVNS (but not sham stimulation) increased sAA levels after stimulation. Additionally, larger differences between tVNS and sham stimulation in P3b magnitudes for easy targets were associated with larger increase in sAA levels after tVNS, but not after sham stimulation. Despite preliminary evidence for a modulatory influence of tVNS on the P3b, which may be partly mediated by activation of the noradrenergic system, additional research in this field is clearly warranted. Future studies need to clarify whether tVNS also facilitates other processes, such as learning and memory, and whether tVNS can be used as therapeutic tool.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00202DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6021745PMC
June 2018

Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) enhances conflict-triggered adjustment of cognitive control.

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 2018 08;18(4):680-693

Department of Psychology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.

Response conflicts play a prominent role in the flexible adaptation of behavior as they represent context-signals that indicate the necessity for the recruitment of cognitive control. Previous studies have highlighted the functional roles of the affectively aversive and arousing quality of the conflict signal in triggering the adaptation process. To further test this potential link with arousal, participants performed a response conflict task in two separate sessions with either transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS), which is assumed to activate the locus coeruleus-noradrenaline (LC-NE) system, or with neutral sham stimulation. In both sessions the N2 and P3 event-related potentials (ERP) were assessed. In line with previous findings, conflict interference, the N2 and P3 amplitude were reduced after conflict. Most importantly, this adaptation to conflict was enhanced under tVNS compared to sham stimulation for conflict interference and the N2 amplitude. No effect of tVNS on the P3 component was found. These findings suggest that tVNS increases behavioral and electrophysiological markers of adaptation to conflict. Results are discussed in the context of the potentially underlying LC-NE and other neuromodulatory (e.g., GABA) systems. The present findings add important pieces to the understanding of the neurophysiological mechanisms of conflict-triggered adjustment of cognitive control.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13415-018-0596-2DOI Listing
August 2018

Event-related potentials of emotional and neutral memories: The role of encoding position and delayed testing.

Psychophysiology 2018 07 19;55(7):e13069. Epub 2018 Feb 19.

Department of Psychology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.

Previous research found that memory is not only better for emotional information but also for neutral information that has been encoded in the context of an emotional event. In the present ERP study, we investigated two factors that may influence memory for neutral and emotional items: temporal proximity between emotional and neutral items during encoding, and retention interval (immediate vs. delayed). Forty-nine female participants incidentally encoded 36 unpleasant and 108 neutral pictures (36 neutral pictures preceded an unpleasant picture, 36 followed an unpleasant picture, and 36 neutral pictures were preceded and followed by neutral pictures) and participated in a recognition memory task either immediately (N = 24) or 1 week (N = 25) after encoding. Results showed better memory for emotional pictures relative to neutral pictures. In accordance, enhanced centroparietal old/new differences (500-900 ms) during recognition were observed for unpleasant compared to neutral pictures, most pronounced for the 1-week interval. Picture position effects, however, were only subtle. During encoding, late positive potentials for neutral pictures were slightly lower for neutral pictures following unpleasant ones, but only at trend level. To summarize, we could replicate and extend previous ERP findings showing that emotionally arousing events are better recollected than neutral events, particularly when memory is tested after longer retention intervals. Picture position during encoding, however, had only small effects on elaborative processing and no effects on memory retrieval.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13069DOI Listing
July 2018

Item and source memory for emotional associates is mediated by different retrieval processes.

Neuropsychologia 2020 08 12;145:106606. Epub 2017 Dec 12.

Department of Psychology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany. Electronic address:

Recent event-related potential (ERP) data showed that neutral objects encoded in emotional background pictures were better remembered than objects encoded in neutral contexts, when recognition memory was tested one week later. In the present study, we investigated whether this long-term memory advantage for items is also associated with correct memory for contextual source details. Furthermore, we were interested in the possibly dissociable contribution of familiarity and recollection processes (using a Remember/Know procedure). The results revealed that item memory performance was mainly driven by the subjective experience of familiarity, irrespective of whether the objects were previously encoded in emotional or neutral contexts. Correct source memory for the associated background picture, however, was driven by recollection and enhanced when the content was emotional. In ERPs, correctly recognized old objects evoked frontal ERP Old/New effects (300-500 ms), irrespective of context category. As in our previous study (Ventura-Bort et al., 2016b), retrieval for objects from emotional contexts was associated with larger parietal Old/New differences (600-800 ms), indicating stronger involvement of recollection. Thus, the results suggest a stronger contribution of recollection-based retrieval to item and contextual background source memory for neutral information associated with an emotional event.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.12.015DOI Listing
August 2020

When neutral turns significant: brain dynamics of rapidly formed associations between neutral stimuli and emotional contexts.

Eur J Neurosci 2016 09 26;44(5):2176-83. Epub 2016 Jul 26.

Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology, University of Greifswald, Franz-Mehring-Str. 47, 17487, Greifswald, Germany.

The ability to associate neutral stimuli with motivationally relevant outcomes is an important survival strategy. In this study, we used event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate brain dynamics of associative emotional learning when participants were confronted with multiple heterogeneous information. Participants viewed 144 different objects in the context of 144 different emotional and neutral background scenes. During each trial, neutral objects were shown in isolation and then paired with the background scene. All pairings were presented twice to compare ERPs in response to neutral objects before and after single association. After single pairing, neutral objects previously encoded in the context of emotional scenes evoked a larger P100 over occipital electrodes compared to objects that were previously paired with neutral scenes. Likewise, larger late positive potentials (LPPs) were observed over parieto-occipital electrodes (450-750 ms) for objects previously associated with emotional relative to neutral contexts. The LPP - but not P100 - enhancement was also related to subjective object/context binding. Taken together, our ERP data provide evidence for fast emotional associative learning, as reflected by heightened perceptual and sustained elaborative processing for neutral information previously encountered in emotional contexts. These findings could assist in understanding binding mechanisms in stress and anxiety, as well as in addiction and eating-related disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ejn.13319DOI Listing
September 2016

Binding neutral information to emotional contexts: Brain dynamics of long-term recognition memory.

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 2016 Apr;16(2):234-47

Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology, University of Greifswald, Franz-Mehring-Str. 47, 17487, Greifswald, Germany.

There is abundant evidence in memory research that emotional stimuli are better remembered than neutral stimuli. However, effects of an emotionally charged context on memory for associated neutral elements is also important, particularly in trauma and stress-related disorders, where strong memories are often activated by neutral cues due to their emotional associations. In the present study, we used event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate long-term recognition memory (1-week delay) for neutral objects that had been paired with emotionally arousing or neutral scenes during encoding. Context effects were clearly evident in the ERPs: An early frontal ERP old/new difference (300-500 ms) was enhanced for objects encoded in unpleasant compared to pleasant and neutral contexts; and a late central-parietal old/new difference (400-700 ms) was observed for objects paired with both pleasant and unpleasant contexts but not for items paired with neutral backgrounds. Interestingly, objects encoded in emotional contexts (and novel objects) also prompted an enhanced frontal early (180-220 ms) positivity compared to objects paired with neutral scenes indicating early perceptual significance. The present data suggest that emotional--particularly unpleasant--backgrounds strengthen memory for items encountered within these contexts and engage automatic and explicit recognition processes. These results could help in understanding binding mechanisms involved in the activation of trauma-related memories by neutral cues.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13415-015-0385-0DOI Listing
April 2016