Publications by authors named "Isabelle Blanchette"

46 Publications

Exploring the mechanisms responsible for the modulating role of frowning in emotional reasoning: An ERP study.

Brain Cogn 2021 May 23;152:105750. Epub 2021 May 23.

Psychology Department, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351 boulevard des Forges, Trois-Rivières (Qc), Canada. Electronic address:

Studies show that emotions impact reasoning, and that emotions are embodied. A recent study revealed that emotions embodied in facial expressions can modulate the impact of emotional content on reasoning accuracy. In the current study, we aimed to explore the mechanisms responsible for the impact of frowning on emotional reasoning using electrophysiology. We examined two reasoning-related ERPs: the N400 related to inference process and the N2 related to conflict detection. We also measured the LPP, associated with sustained attention to emotional stimuli. Twenty-six participants completed a reasoning task with emotional content while we recorded their brain activity with electroencephalography. In one block, they were instructed to solve syllogisms while voluntarily frowning. In another block, they were asked to solve syllogisms while contracting a non-facial muscle. Results revealed that frowning influenced sustained attention towards emotional stimuli, as measured through LPP. Frowning also showed a trend for a deleterious effect on the inference process measured through the N400. In line with the dual process models, this suggests that frowning impacts sustained attention, but surprisingly it might also impact Type 2 processes. This study provides useful insight regarding the link between reasoning and emotions in the body.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2021.105750DOI Listing
May 2021

Stressful Life Events Are Related to More Negative Interpretations, but Not Under Acute Stress.

Psychol Rep 2021 May 8:332941211014150. Epub 2021 May 8.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Canada.

Studies have identified deleterious effects of stress on multiple cognitive processes such as memory and attention. Little is known about the impact of stress on interpretation. We investigated how an induced acute stress and more long-term stress related to life events were associated with interpretations of ambiguous stimuli. Fifty participants answered a questionnaire indexing the number of stressful life events. A median split was used to compare those reporting few or more events. Half of participants performed an arithmetic task that induced acute stress; they were compared to a control group performing a less stressful task. We measured the interpretation of ambiguous visual stimuli, which participants had to judge as "negative" or "positive". We found a significant interaction between the number of stressful life events and the induced acute stress on the proportion of positive interpretations. In the control group, participants reporting more stressful events produced less positive interpretations than those reporting few events. In the induced stress condition, no significant difference was found. Life events tend to influence interpretation in the absence of an acute stressor, which seems to be more influent in the short term.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/00332941211014150DOI Listing
May 2021

Reduction of Pain and Spinal Nociceptive Transmission by Working Memory is Load Dependant.

J Pain 2021 Feb 10. Epub 2021 Feb 10.

Department of Anatomy, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada; CogNAC Research Group, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada. Electronic address:

Working memory (WM) engagement produces pain inhibition. However, it remains unclear whether higher WM load increases this effect. The aim of this study was to investigate the interaction between WM load and pain inhibition by WM and examine the contribution of cerebrospinal mechanism. Thirty-eight healthy volunteers were assigned to one of 2 n-back groups for which WM load was different (2-back or 3-back). The experimental protocol comprised 5 counterbalanced conditions (0-back, n-back, pain, 0-back with pain, and n-back with pain). Pain and the nociceptive flexion reflex (NFR) were evoked by transcutaneous electrical stimulation of the sural nerve. Pain was significantly different between conditions, but not between n-back groups. Both the 0-back and n-back tasks reduced pain compared with pain alone, but the n-back task produced stronger pain inhibition compared with the 0-back task. NFR amplitude was significantly different between conditions but not between n-back groups. NFR was inhibited by the 0-back and n-back tasks, with no difference between the 2 tasks. These findings indicate that pain inhibition by WM is increased by WM load, but only to a certain point. NFR inhibition by WM suggests that inhibition of pain by WM depends, at least in part, on cerebrospinal mechanism. PERSPECTIVE: This behavioral and electrophysiological study shows that engaging in a cognitive task reduces pain by decreasing spinal nociceptive transmission, depending on task difficulty. These findings may yield better nonpharmacological pain therapies based on individual differences in working memory performance and capacity as well as several factors that regulate working memory.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2021.02.001DOI Listing
February 2021

Negative emotions influence EEG correlates of inference formation during analogical reasoning.

Int J Psychophysiol 2021 Apr 4;162:49-59. Epub 2021 Feb 4.

Department of Psychology, Université Laval, Canada.

Previous research indicates that negative emotions influence cognitive resource utilization during analogical reasoning. However, no research has yet demonstrated an influence of negative emotions on inference formation during analogical reasoning. For this reason, we used evoked response potentials to investigate how negatively valenced content affects inference formation during analogical reasoning. Participants generated inferences about the missing term of 256 four-term analogies consisting of a first pair (A is to B), a second incomplete pair (as C is to?), and a probe term (D). We manipulated the affective valence of the terms (negative/neutral) forming the first two pairs and the soundness of the analogies. In Experiment 1, the terms were words and the relations were semantic in nature. We recorded the N400 event-related component time-locked to the probe term. The effect of analogy soundness on N400 amplitude was weaker when both pairs of terms were negative than when one or both pairs were neutral. In Experiment 2, we used analogies with negatively or neutrally conditioned symbols as terms, and visuospatial transformations as relations. We recorded the P3b event-related component time-locked to the final term of the analogy. The effect of analogy soundness on P3b amplitude was weaker when the first pair of terms was negatively conditioned than when they were neutrally conditioned. Results of both experiments suggested that negatively valenced content impairs the formation of inferences during analogical reasoning, as indicated by reduced effects of analogy soundness on N400 and P3b in the presence of negatively valenced content.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2021.02.002DOI Listing
April 2021

Impact of Music on Working Memory in Rwanda.

Front Psychol 2020 28;11:774. Epub 2020 Apr 28.

Groupe de Recherche CogNAC, Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Québec, QC, Canada.

Previous research shows that listening to pleasant, stimulating and familiar music is likely to improve working memory performance. The benefits of music on cognition have been widely studied in Western populations, but not in other cultures. The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of music on working memory in a non-Western sociocultural context: Rwanda. One hundred and nineteen participants were randomly assigned to a control group (short story) or one of four different musical conditions varying on two dimensions: arousal (relaxing, stimulating) and cultural origin (Western, Rwandan). Working memory was measured using a behavioral task, the n-back paradigm, before and after listening to music (or the short story in the control condition). Unlike in previous studies with Western samples, our results with this Rwandan sample did not show any positive effect of familiar, pleasant and stimulating music on working memory. Performance on the n-back task generally improved from pre to post, in all conditions, but this improvement was less important in participants who listened to familiar Rwandan music compared to those who listened to unfamiliar Western music or to a short story. The study highlights the importance of considering the sociocultural context in research examining the impact of music on cognition. Although different aspects of music are considered universal, there may be cultural differences that limit the generalization of certain effects of music on cognition or that modulate the characteristics that favor its beneficial impact.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00774DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198829PMC
April 2020

The psychological correlates of transitional justice in Rwanda: A long-term assessment.

Psychol Trauma 2020 Oct 20;12(7):774-784. Epub 2020 Apr 20.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec a ` Trois-Rivières.

Objective: We tested the psychological correlates of the Gacaca tribunals, a massive program of transitional justice put in place by the Rwandan government following the 1994 genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi.

Method: The sample consisted of 679 Rwandese participants, among which 373 (55%) were survivors of the genocide. We contrasted three groups of participants: (1) those who had never attended the Gacaca ( = 229), the control group, (2) those who had attended without testifying ( = 275), the attendance group, and (3) those who had attended and testified ( = 120), the testimony group. In the analyses, we controlled for the level of genocide-related negative consequences that participants reported.

Results: The attendance group presented lower levels of PTSD and depression symptoms than both the control and testimony groups. Both attendance and testimony groups had more positive opinions of the Gacaca and higher openness to reconciliation than the control group.

Conclusions: contrary to what has been reported in two previous studies, participation in the Gacaca was not, in our data, negatively related to mental health or to social cohesion. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tra0000583DOI Listing
October 2020

The impact of trauma exposure on explicit and implicit memory.

Anxiety Stress Coping 2020 01 11;33(1):1-18. Epub 2019 Sep 11.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Canada.

The present study aimed to determine whether explicit and implicit memory systems are modulated by the type of content (neutral, emotional trauma-related and generally-emotional) in sexual abuse victims who did not develop PTSD, compared to non-exposed controls. A mixed-factorial design with Content (neutral, trauma-related, generally-emotional) as a within-subject variable and Group (victims, controls) as a between-subject variable was used in two experiments. In both experiments, participants were required to learn three stories presented orally: a neutral, an emotional trauma-related (sexual abuse) and a generally-emotional story. In Experiment 1, participants' memory was tested with two explicit tasks (free recall and Remember/Know/Guess) and one implicit task (word-fragment completion task). In Experiment 2, a modified version of the word-fragment completion task was presented, followed by an awareness questionnaire to ensure the implicit character of the test. Victims showed lower performances with neutral contents, relative to controls, in explicit and implicit tasks. However, this difference was not observed with trauma-related contents suggesting this information is preferentially processed by trauma-exposed participants (with increased attentional resources). Our results show that trauma exposure may itself be associated with implicit and explicit memory alterations, even for individuals who did not develop PTSD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2019.1664477DOI Listing
January 2020

Is it dangerous? The role of an emotional visual search strategy and threat-relevant training in the detection of guns and knives.

Br J Psychol 2020 May 12;111(2):275-296. Epub 2019 Jun 12.

Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada.

Counter-terrorism strategies rely on the assumption that it is possible to increase threat detection by providing explicit verbal instructions to orient people's attention to dangerous objects and hostile behaviours in their environment. Nevertheless, whether verbal cues can be used to enhance threat detection performance under laboratory conditions is currently unclear. In Experiment 1, student participants were required to detect a picture of a dangerous or neutral object embedded within a visual search display on the basis of an emotional strategy 'is it dangerous?' or a semantic strategy 'is it an object?'. The results showed a threat superiority effect that was enhanced by the emotional visual search strategy. In Experiment 2, whilst trainee police officers displayed a greater threat superiority effect than student controls, both groups benefitted from performing the task under the emotional than semantic visual search strategy. Manipulating situational threat levels (high vs. low) in the experimental instructions had no effect on visual search performance. The current findings provide new support for the language-as-context hypothesis. They are also consistent with a dual-processing account of threat detection involving a verbally mediated route in working memory and the deployment of a visual template developed as a function of training.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12404DOI Listing
May 2020

Peritraumatic dissociation and post-traumatic stress disorder in individuals exposed to armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

J Trauma Dissociation 2019 Oct-Dec;20(5):582-593. Epub 2019 Apr 8.

Laboratoire de Psychologie Médicale et d'Addictologie, Université Libre de Bruxelles , Brussels , Belgium.

The purpose of this study was to verify the hypothesis that there is an association between peritraumatic dissociation (PD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in individuals exposed to recurrent armed conflict. More specifically, we sought to evaluate whether PD differentially predicts PTSD according to the degree of exposure to the potentially traumatic event (PTE), the level of education, and gender. A total of 120 individuals between 17 and 75 years of age, including 51 women, completed the Traumatic Events List, the Peritraumatic Dissociative Experiences Questionnaire, and the French version of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist Scale, as well as a questionnaire providing information regarding sociodemographic details. The group of participants with high scores for PD had significantly more PTSD. PD differentially predicts PTSD depending on the level of education and gender of the individual. Those who had been physically assaulted and raped, as well as the less educated, were more likely to be dissociated during PTE· exposure compared to witnesses and those with a higher level of education. The primary target population for prevention and early management should comprise individuals with high levels of PD, low levels of education, and women.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15299732.2019.1597814DOI Listing
June 2020

The local perceptual bias of a non-remote and educated population.

Psychol Res 2020 Jul 26;84(5):1211-1222. Epub 2019 Feb 26.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Canada.

In 1977, Navon argued that perception is biased towards the processing of global as opposed to local visual information (or the forest before the trees) and implicitly assumed this to be true across places and cultures. Previous work with normally developing participants has supported this assumption except in one extremely remote African population. Here, we explore local-global perceptual bias in normally developing African participants living much less remotely than the African population tested previously. These participants had access to modern artefacts and education but presented with a local bias on a similarity-matching Navon task, contrary to Navon's assumptions. Nevertheless, the urban and more educated amongst these participants showed a weaker local bias than the rural and less educated participants, suggesting an effect of urbanicity and education in driving differences in perceptual bias. Our findings confirm the impact of experience on perceptual bias and suggest that differences in the impact of education and urbanicity on lifestyles around the world can result in profound differences in perceptual style. In addition, they suggest that local bias is more common than previously thought; a global bias might not be universal after all.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01158-6DOI Listing
July 2020

Lateralized Affective Word Priming and Gender Effect.

Front Psychol 2018 11;9:2591. Epub 2019 Jan 11.

Centre de Recherche, Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal & Faculté de Médecine, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada.

Affective priming research suggests that processing of affective words is a quick and short lived process. Using the divided visual field (DVF) paradigm, investigations of the lateralization of affective word processing have yielded inconsistent results. However, research on semantic processing of words generally suggests that the left hemisphere (LH) is the location where rapid processing occurs. We investigated the processing of affective (emotional) words using a combination of the DVF and affective priming paradigms, and four stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs)-0, 150, 300, and 750 ms. The priming pattern yielded by males ( = 32) showed quick priming (at 0-ms SOA) of affective words in the LH; there was slower right hemisphere (RH) priming of affective words (at 750-ms SOA). In females ( = 28), both hemispheres were associated with quick priming of affective words (at 300-ms SOA in the LH and at 150-ms SOA in the RH). Results demonstrate the capability of both cerebral hemispheres in the processing of words with affective meaning, along with leading role of the left hemisphere in this process. This is similar to the results of semantic research that suggest access to word meanings occurs in both hemispheres, but different mechanisms might be involved. While the LH seems to prime affective words quickly regardless of gender, gender differences are likely in the RH in that affective word processing probably occurs slowly in males but rapidly in females. This gender difference may result from increased sensitivity to the emotional feature of affective words in females.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02591DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6336702PMC
January 2019

Improving working memory and pain inhibition in older persons using transcranial direct current stimulation.

Neurosci Res 2019 Nov 4;148:19-27. Epub 2019 Jan 4.

Department of Chiropractic, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351 Boul. Des Forges, C.P. 500, Trois-Rivières, QC, G9A 5H7, Canada; CogNAC Research Group, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351 Boul. Des Forges, C.P. 500, Trois-Rivières, QC, G9A 5H7, Canada. Electronic address:

The aim of the present study was to examine whether transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) could enhance working memory and pain inhibition in older persons. Fifteen volunteers (7 women, 8 men; mean ± SD: 64 ± 4.4 y.o.) participated in two tDCS sessions during which an n-back task was performed with two levels of working memory load, while painful stimulation was delivered at the ankle. The experiment included five within-subject counterbalanced conditions (pain alone and 0-back or 2-back with or without pain) performed twice during each session. Compared with the pre-tDCS baseline, anodal tDCS decreased response times and improved pain inhibition by working memory in the 2-back condition (p < 0.01), but not in the 0-back or pain alone conditions, while sham tDCS produced no effect (all p > 0.3). These results indicate that working memory and pain inhibition can be improved by tDCS in older persons.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neures.2018.12.007DOI Listing
November 2019

Reasoning and concurrent timing: a study of the mechanisms underlying the effect of emotion on reasoning.

Cogn Emot 2019 08 23;33(5):1020-1030. Epub 2018 Oct 23.

b Département de psychologie , Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières , Trois-Rivières , Canada.

Negative emotions typically have an adverse effect on reasoning, especially analytic or logical reasoning. This effect can be explained using an attentional framework in which emotion detracts limited-capacity cognitive resources which are required for reasoning. Another possibility is that the effect of emotion on reasoning is mediated by arousal, as previous research has shown that physiological arousal can be associated with decreased reasoning performance. In this research, we used a dual-task paradigm combining a syllogistic reasoning task and a time production task. Prospective timing allows to disentangle the effects of attention and arousal: time productions should lengthen if emotion takes up cognitive resources that are therefore not available for timing, whereas time productions should shorten if emotional reasoning results from increased arousal. Results from two experiments confirm the adverse impact of emotion on logical reasoning performance. Reasoning about emotional contents led to lengthened time productions, which suggests that the capture of limited cognitive resources is the main factor accounting for the adverse effect of emotion on reasoning and not arousal.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2018.1535427DOI Listing
August 2019

Memory for neutral, emotional and trauma-related information in sexual abuse survivors.

Eur J Psychotraumatol 2018 25;9(1):1476439. Epub 2018 Sep 25.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada.

Previous studies have shown that trauma-exposed individuals, including survivors of sexual abuse, show inferior performance in episodic memory tasks compared to non-exposed controls. This, however, has mainly been tested using neutral content. Our goal in this study was to determine whether this relative impairment in episodic memory extends to generally emotional and trauma-related content. Twenty-seven sexual abuse survivors and 27 control women participated in the study. They listened to stories with three content types (neutral, generally emotional and trauma-related) and performed a free-recall task immediately and 30 minutes later. Sexual abuse survivors showed poorer recall of neutral material compared to control participants. Lower recall was also observed for generally emotional content. However, importantly, there was no difference between groups in the recall of trauma-related content. The main novel contribution of this study is the demonstration that verbal episodic memory is not impaired for non-autobiographical trauma-related content in sexual abuse survivors. We discuss how this could be explained by personal relevance and attentional capture.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2018.1476439DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6161603PMC
September 2018

Long-term cognitive correlates of exposure to trauma: Evidence from Rwanda.

Psychol Trauma 2019 Feb 20;11(2):147-155. Epub 2018 Aug 20.

Departement de Psychologie, Universite de Nimes.

Research increasingly shows links between trauma exposure, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and cognitive functioning. We know relatively little about the long-term cognitive correlates of exposure to trauma, especially in civilian populations exposed to war and political violence.

Objective: Our goal was to examined short-term memory (STM) and executive function 20 years after the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda. We hypothesized that performance on these tasks would be negatively related to trauma exposure and to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

Method: In two studies, 470 Rwandan participants answered questionnaires measuring the severity of experiences that occurred during the 1994 genocide and current levels of PTSD symptoms. In both studies, we tested STM using a forward digit span task. In the second study, we also measured executive function using a semantic fluency task.

Results: There were modest but significant negative links between the severity of experiences during the genocide and STM function more than 20 years after. Current levels of PTSD symptoms were also related to STM and executive function.

Conclusions: This study reveals the important link between exposure to highly emotional events and cognitive function and highlights the need to attend not only to the mental health but also to the cognitive health of populations exposed to political violence. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tra0000388DOI Listing
February 2019

Emotional Response Categorization in Adolescents and Young Adults.

Psychol Rep 2019 Aug 29;122(4):1349-1371. Epub 2018 Jun 29.

EA 2114, Psychologie des Ages de la Vie et Adaptation, Université de Tours, Tours, France.

Categorization is based on cognitive mechanisms allowing the development of internal representations of the environment that guide behavior. This study tests the influence of emotions on categorization in adolescents and young adults. After a mood induction (negative, positive, or neutral), we compared how 68 adolescents aged 13 to 15 and 57 young adults aged 21 to 29 categorized emotional concepts using a lexical emotional categorization task. Participants had to choose which of three associates, of different emotional valence (positive, negative or neutral), was more similar to a target concept. The aim of this study was to determine if adolescents rely on the emotional dimension in categorization more than adults. The results show that the emotional state can influence the cognitive process of categorization in adolescence, particularly in the negative mood.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0033294118784864DOI Listing
August 2019

Can threat detection be enhanced using processing strategies by police trainees and officers?

Acta Psychol (Amst) 2018 Jun 2;187:9-18. Epub 2018 May 2.

Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Groupe de recherche CogNAC (Cognition, Neurosciences, Affect et Comportement), Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada. Electronic address:

The ability to detect threatening stimuli is an important skill for police officers. No research has yet examined whether implementing different information processing strategies can improve threat detection in police officers and police trainees. The first aim of our study was to compare the effect of strategies accentuating the processing of the emotional or the semantic dimension of stimuli on attention towards threatening and neutral information. The second aim was to consider the impact of PTSD symptoms on threat detection, as a function of processing strategies, in police officers and trainees. In a cueing paradigm, participants had to respond to a target that was presented following a threatening or neutral cue. Participants then answered a question, known beforehand, concerning the cue. The question was used to induce a more emotional or semantic processing strategy. Results showed that when the processing strategy was emotional, police trainees and officers were faster to detect the target when it followed a threatening cue, compared to a neutral cue, independently of its spatial location. This was not the case when the processing strategy was semantic. This study shows that induced processing strategies can influence attentional mechanisms related to threat detection in police trainees and police officers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2018.04.010DOI Listing
June 2018

tDCS Stimulation of the dlPFC Selectively Moderates the Detrimental Impact of Emotion on Analytical Reasoning.

Front Psychol 2018 19;9:568. Epub 2018 Apr 19.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada.

There is evidence of a detrimental effect of emotion on reasoning. Recent studies suggest that this relationship is mediated by working memory, a function closely associated with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). Relying on transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), the present research explores the possibility that anodal stimulation of the dlPFC has the potential to prevent the effect of emotion on analytical reasoning. Thirty-four participants took part in a lab experiment and were tested twice: one session using offline anodal stimulation (with a 2 mA current stimulation applied to the left dlPFC for 20 min), one session using a control (sham) stimulation. In each session, participants solved syllogistic reasoning problems featuring neutral and emotionally negative contents. Results showed that anodal stimulation diminished the deleterious effect of emotion on syllogistic reasoning, but only for a subclass of problems: problems where the conclusion was logically valid. We discuss our results in the light of the reasoning literature as well as the apparent variability of tDCS effects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00568DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5917063PMC
April 2018

Enhancement of pain inhibition by working memory with anodal transcranial direct current stimulation of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

J Physiol Sci 2018 Nov 15;68(6):825-836. Epub 2018 Feb 15.

Department of Chiropractic, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351 Boul. Des Forges, C.P. 500, Trois-Rivières, QC, G9A 5H7, Canada.

The aim of this study was to examine whether transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) enhances pain inhibition by improving working memory (WM). Forty healthy volunteers participated in two tDCS sessions. Pain was evoked by electrical stimulation at the ankle. Participants performed an n-back task (0-back and 2-back). The experimental protocol comprised five counterbalanced conditions (0-back, 2-back, pain, 0-back with pain and 2-back with pain) that were performed twice (pre-tDCS baseline and during tDCS). Compared with the pre-tDCS baseline values, anodal tDCS decreased response times for the 2-back condition (p < 0.01) but not for the 0-back condition (p > 0.5). Anodal tDCS also decreased pain ratings marginally in the 2-back with pain condition, but not the 0-back with pain condition (p = 0.052 and p > 0.2, respectively). No effect was produced by sham tDCS for any condition (p > 0.2). These results indicate that tDCS of the left DLPFC may enhance pain inhibition by improving WM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12576-018-0598-4DOI Listing
November 2018

Sexual Abuse Exposure Alters Early Processing of Emotional Words: Evidence from Event-Related Potentials.

Front Hum Neurosci 2017 15;11:655. Epub 2018 Jan 15.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada.

This study aimed to compare the time course of emotional information processing between trauma-exposed and control participants, using electrophysiological measures. We conceived an emotional Stroop task with two types of words: trauma-related emotional words and neutral words. We assessed the evoked cerebral responses of sexual abuse victims without post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and no abuse participants. We focused particularly on an early wave (C1/P1), the N2pc, and the P3b. Our main result indicated an early effect (55-165 ms) of emotionality, which varied between non-exposed participants and sexual abuse victims. This suggests that potentially traumatic experiences modulate early processing of emotional information. Our findings showing neurobiological alterations in sexual abuse victims (without PTSD) suggest that exposure to highly emotional events has an important impact on neurocognitive function even in the absence of psychopathology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00655DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5775215PMC
January 2018

Twenty years later, the cognitive portrait of openness to reconciliation in Rwanda.

Br J Psychol 2018 May 21;109(2):362-385. Epub 2017 Nov 21.

Psychology Department, University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada.

With this work, we intended to draw a cognitive portrait of openness to reconciliation. No study had yet examined the potential contribution of high-level cognitive functioning, in addition to psychological health, to explaining attitudes towards reconciliation in societies exposed to major trauma such as post-genocide Rwanda. We measured the contribution of general cognitive capacity, analytical thinking, and subjective judgements. Our results show that higher cognitive capacity is not associated with greater openness to reconciliation. On the other hand, proneness to think analytically about the genocide predicts more favorable attitudes towards reconciliation. The latter effect is associated with more tempered judgements about retrospective facts (e.g., number of genocide perpetrators) and prospective events (e.g., risk of genocide reoccurrence). This work establishes the importance of cognitive functioning in the aftermath of political violence: A better understanding of the influence of information processing on openness to reconciliation may help improve reconciliation policies and contribute to reducing risks of conflict reoccurrence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12275DOI Listing
May 2018

Reasoning strategies modulate gender differences in emotion processing.

Cognition 2018 01 23;170:76-82. Epub 2017 Sep 23.

Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Canada.

The dual strategy model of reasoning has proposed that people's reasoning can be understood asa combination of two different ways of processing information related to problem premises: a counterexample strategy that examines information for explicit potential counterexamples and a statistical strategy that uses associative access to generate a likelihood estimate of putative conclusions. Previous studies have examined this model in the context of basic conditional reasoning tasks. However, the information processing distinction that underlies the dual strategy model can be seen asa basic description of differences in reasoning (similar to that described by many general dual process models of reasoning). In two studies, we examine how these differences in reasoning strategy may relate to processing very different information, specifically we focus on previously observed gender differences in processing negative emotions. Study 1 examined the intensity of emotional reactions to a film clip inducing primarily negative emotions. Study 2 examined the speed at which participants determine the emotional valence of sequences of negative images. In both studies, no gender differences were observed among participants using a counterexample strategy. Among participants using a statistical strategy, females produce significantly stronger emotional reactions than males (in Study 1) and were faster to recognize the valence of negative images than were males (in Study 2). Results show that the processing distinction underlying the dual strategy model of reasoning generalizes to the processing of emotions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2017.09.012DOI Listing
January 2018

Emotion-Cognition Interaction in Nonhuman Primates: Cognitive Avoidance of Negative Stimuli in Baboons (Papio papio)

Psychol Sci 2017 01 12;28(1):3-11. Epub 2016 Nov 12.

2 LPC UMR 7290, CNRS, Aix Marseille Université.

It is well established that emotion and cognition interact in humans, but such an interaction has not been extensively studied in nonhuman primates. We investigated whether emotional value can affect nonhuman primates' processing of stimuli that are only mentally represented, not visually available. In a short-term memory task, baboons memorized the location of two target squares of the same color, which were presented with a distractor of a different color. Through prior long-term conditioning, one of the two colors had acquired a negative valence. Subjects were slower and less accurate on the memory task when the targets were negative than when they were neutral. In contrast, subjects were faster and more accurate when the distractors were negative than when they were neutral. Some of these effects were modulated by individual differences in emotional disposition. Overall, the results reveal a pattern of cognitive avoidance of negative stimuli, and show that emotional value alters cognitive processing in baboons even when the stimuli are not physically present. This suggests that emotional influences on cognition are deeply rooted in evolutionary continuity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797616671557DOI Listing
January 2017

Cognitive Load Mediates the Effect of Emotion on Analytical Thinking.

Exp Psychol 2016 Nov;63(6):343-350

1 Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada.

Although the detrimental effect of emotion on reasoning has been evidenced many times, the cognitive mechanism underlying this effect remains unclear. In the present paper, we explore the cognitive load hypothesis as a potential explanation. In an experiment, participants solved syllogistic reasoning problems with either neutral or emotional contents. Participants were also presented with a secondary task, for which the difficult version requires the mobilization of cognitive resources to be correctly solved. Participants performed overall worse and took longer on emotional problems than on neutral problems. Performance on the secondary task, in the difficult version, was poorer when participants were reasoning about emotional, compared to neutral contents, consistent with the idea that processing emotion requires more cognitive resources. Taken together, the findings afford evidence that the deleterious effect of emotion on reasoning is mediated by cognitive load.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1027/1618-3169/a000333DOI Listing
November 2016

Working memory function is linked to trauma exposure, independently of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Cogn Neuropsychiatry 2016 11 6;21(6):494-509. Epub 2016 Oct 6.

b Département de Psychologie , Université de Nîmes , Nîmes , France.

Introduction: The purpose of the study was to examine how working memory (WM) may be related to exposure to potentially traumatic events and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Method: In four studies, we measured WM function using adaptations of the running span and the reading span tasks. We compared the performance of women reporting experiences of sexual abuse to control participants (total n = 144 controls and 84 victims). We measured severity of the sexual abuse experiences as well as exposure to general life stress.

Results: In all studies, trauma-exposed participants showed significantly lower WM function compared to control participants. In addition to traditional null hypothesis testing, we used a mini-meta analysis to estimate the combined estimated effect size of this difference, which was in the moderate range (d = 0.43 with 0.15-0.70 95% confidence interval). Regression equations showed that PTSD symptoms did not mediate the relationship between trauma exposure and WM function.

Conclusions: Our results show that trauma exposure per se can be associated with important cognitive correlates even in individuals who do not develop psychopathological reactions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13546805.2016.1236015DOI Listing
November 2016

Independent effects of relevance and arousal on deductive reasoning.

Cogn Emot 2017 08 4;31(5):1012-1022. Epub 2016 May 4.

b Département de Psychologie , Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières , Trois-Rivières , Canada.

Emotional content can have either a deleterious or a beneficial impact on logicality. Using standard deductive-reasoning tasks, we tested the hypothesis that the interplay of two factors - personal relevance and arousal - determines the nature of the effect of emotional content on logicality. Arousal was assessed using measures of skin conductance. Personal relevance was manipulated by asking participants to reason about semantic contents linked to an emotional event that they had experienced or not. Findings showed that (1) personal relevance exerts a positive effect on logicality while arousal exerts a negative effect, and that (2) these effects are independent of each other.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2016.1179173DOI Listing
August 2017

Emotional words can be embodied or disembodied: the role of superficial vs. deep types of processing.

Front Psychol 2015 9;6:975. Epub 2015 Jul 9.

Centre de Recherche, Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal and Faculté de Médecine, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC Canada.

Emotional words are processed rapidly and automatically in the left hemisphere (LH) and slowly, with the involvement of attention, in the right hemisphere (RH). This review aims to find the reason for this difference and suggests that emotional words can be processed superficially or deeply due to the involvement of the linguistic and imagery systems, respectively. During superficial processing, emotional words likely make connections only with semantically associated words in the LH. This part of the process is automatic and may be sufficient for the purpose of language processing. Deep processing, in contrast, seems to involve conceptual information and imagery of a word's perceptual and emotional properties using autobiographical memory contents. Imagery and the involvement of autobiographical memory likely differentiate between emotional and neutral word processing and explain the salient role of the RH in emotional word processing. It is concluded that the level of emotional word processing in the RH should be deeper than in the LH and, thus, it is conceivable that the slow mode of processing adds certain qualities to the output.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00975DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4496550PMC
July 2015

The tree to the left, the forest to the right: political attitude and perceptual bias.

Cognition 2015 Jan 3;134:155-64. Epub 2014 Nov 3.

Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351 boulevard des Forges, CP 500, Trois-Rivières G9A 5H7, Canada. Electronic address:

A prominent model suggests that individuals to the right of the political spectrum are more cognitively rigid and less tolerant of ambiguity than individuals to the left. On the basis of this model, we predicted that a psychological mechanism linked to the resolution of visual ambiguity--perceptual bias--would be linked to political attitude. Perceptual bias causes western individuals to favour a global interpretation when scrutinizing ambiguous hierarchical displays (e.g., alignment of trees) that can be perceived either in terms of their local elements (e.g., several trees) or in terms of their global structure (e.g., a forest). Using three tasks (based on Navon-like hierarchical figures or on the Ebbinghaus illusion), we demonstrate (1) that right-oriented Westerners present a stronger bias towards global perception than left-oriented Westerners and (2) that this stronger bias is linked to higher cognitive rigidity. This study establishes for the first time that political ideology, a high-level construct, is directly reflected in low-level perception. Right- and left-oriented individuals actually see the world differently.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2014.10.006DOI Listing
January 2015

An ERP investigation of conditional reasoning with emotional and neutral contents.

Brain Cogn 2014 Nov 15;91:45-53. Epub 2014 Sep 15.

School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, United Kingdom.

In two experiments we investigate conditional reasoning using event-related potentials (ERPs). Our goal was to examine the time course of inference making in two conditional forms, one logically valid (Modus Ponens, MP) and one logically invalid (Affirming the Consequent, AC). We focus particularly on the involvement of semantically-based inferential processes potentially marked by modulations of the N400. We also compared reasoning about emotional and neutral contents with separate sets of stimuli of differing linguistic complexity across the two experiments. Both MP and AC modulated the N400 component, suggesting the involvement of a semantically-based inferential mechanism common across different logical forms, content types, and linguistic features of the problems. Emotion did not have an effect on early components, and did not interact with components related to inference making. There was a main effect of emotion in the 800-1050 ms time window, consistent with an effect on sustained attention. The results suggest that conditional reasoning is not a purely formal process but that it importantly implicates semantic processing, and that the effect of emotion on reasoning does not primarily operate through a modulation of early automatic stages of information processing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2014.08.001DOI Listing
November 2014

Emotional Stroop interference in trauma-exposed individuals: a contrast between two accounts.

Conscious Cogn 2014 Aug 22;28:104-12. Epub 2014 Jul 22.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351 Boul. des Forges, CP 500, Trois-Rivières, G9A 5H7 Québec, Canada. Electronic address:

In the Emotional Stroop task, trauma-exposed victims are slowed when naming the colour print of trauma-related words, showing the presence of interference. This interference has been assumed to reflect emotional reactions triggered by experience-relevant emotional content which interfere with the task. However, it may equally reflect the activation of task-competing thoughts triggered by experience-relevant semantic content, thus resulting from cognitive- rather than emotion-driven processes. This study contrasted these possibilities by measuring the relationship between Emotional Stroop interference, on the one hand, and severity of sexual-abuse experience, subjective ratings of emotionality, and working-memory measures, on the other. Whereas there was no relationship between working-memory measures and interference, providing no support for the cognitive-based account, experience severity, emotionality ratings and abuse-related interference were all positively related, providing support for the emotion-based account. These findings support the idea that the Emotional Stroop task can be used as a diagnostic tool for emotion-filtering impairment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2014.06.009DOI Listing
August 2014