Brain Mechanisms of Social Threat Effects on Working Memory

Cerebral Cortex DOI:10.1093/cercor/bhu206

Posted: 28 Oct 2016

See all articles by Vanessa van Ast

Vanessa van Ast

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Julie Spicer

Columbia University

Edward Smith

Columbia University

Sonja Schmer-Galunder

Columbia University

Israel Liberzon

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

James Abelson

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Tor Wager

University of Colorado at Boulder

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Social threat can have adverse effects on cognitive performance, but the brain mechanisms underlying its effects are poorly understood. We investigated the effects of social evaluative threat on working memory (WM), a core component of many important cognitive capabilities. Social threat impaired WM performance during an N-back task and produced widespread reductions in activation in lateral prefrontal cortex and intraparietal sulcus (IPS), among other regions. In addition, activity in frontal and parietal regions predicted WM performance, and mediation analyses identified regions in the bilateral IPS that mediated the performance-impairing effects of social threat. Social threat also decreased connectivity between the IPS and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, while increasing connectivity between the IPS and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region strongly implicated in the generation of autonomic and emotional responses. Finally, cortisol response to the stressor did not mediate WM impairment but was rather associated with protective effects. These results provide a basis for understanding interactions between social and cognitive processes at a neural systems level.

Suggested Citation

van Ast, Vanessa and Spicer, Julie and Smith, Edward and Schmer-Galunder, Sonja and Liberzon, Israel and Abelson, James and Wager, Tor, Brain Mechanisms of Social Threat Effects on Working Memory (2014). Cerebral Cortex DOI:10.1093/cercor/bhu206 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2857947

Vanessa Van Ast

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences ( email )

Kloveniersburgwal 48
Amsterdam, 1012 CX
Netherlands

Julie Spicer

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Edward Smith

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Sonja Schmer-Galunder

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Israel Liberzon

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

James Abelson

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Tor Wager (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

Boulder, CO

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