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. 2015 Apr 22;35(16):6506-16.
doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4489-14.2015.

Neurogenetic Variations in Norepinephrine Availability Enhance Perceptual Vividness

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Free PMC article

Neurogenetic Variations in Norepinephrine Availability Enhance Perceptual Vividness

Rebecca M Todd et al. J Neurosci. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Emotionally salient aspects of the world are experienced with greater perceptual vividness than mundane ones; however, such emotionally enhanced vividness (EEV) may be experienced to different degrees for different people. We examined whether BOLD activity associated with a deletion variant of the ADRA2b gene coding for the α2b adrenoceptor modulates EEV in humans. Relative to noncarriers, ADRA2b deletion carriers showed higher levels of perceptual vividness, with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) showing greater modulation by EEV. Deletion carriers were also more sensitive to the featural salience of the images, suggesting a more pervasive role of norepinephrine in perceptual encoding. Path analysis revealed that, whereas a simple model by which the amygdala modulated the lateral occipital complex best characterized EEV-related activity in noncarriers, contributions of an additional VMPFC pathway best characterized deletion carriers. Thus, common norepinephrine-related neurogenetic differences enhance the subjective vividness of perceptual experience and its emotional enhancement.

Keywords: ADRA2b; attention; emotion; emotionally enhanced vividness; fMRI; neurogenetics.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Task design for Noise Estimation fMRI experiment. A standard, created by phase scrambling the comparison image, was overlaid with 10%, 15%, or 20% noise. The standard was followed by the target image overlaid with 15% noise. Following image offset, participants moved a cursor on a scale to indicate noise for the image relative to the standard from “a lot less noise” to “same as standard” to “a lot more noise.”
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Key pathways emphasized by the BANE model (Markovic et al., 2014). Green dashed lines indicate norepinephrine (NE) pathways. Red lines indicate projections to the locus coeruleus (LC). Thicker lines indicate direct modulation of visual cortex activity in affect-biased attention. Norepinephrine (NE) activity is implicated in both stimulus encoding and selective attention (Sara, 2009). A salient stimulus activates LC neurons, which project widely to cortical and subcortical regions. OFC/VMPFC, Orbitofrontal/ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Reprinted from Behavioral and Brain Research. Copyright (2014), with permission from Elsevier.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
The influence of ADRA2b on behavioral and neural measures of emotionally enhanced vividness (EEV). a, Difference scores for ratings of inverse noise estimation (NsEst−1) for negative and positive > neutral stimuli in noncarriers and carriers of the ADRA2b deletion variant. Deletion carriers show greater EEV than noncarriers. b, Statistical maps showing parametric modulation by EEV in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) for ADRA2b carriers > noncarriers, and in the lateral occipital complex (LOC) showing modulation by EEV across both groups (n = 37). c, d, Illustration of trial-by-trial modulation of VMPFC (c) and left LOC (LLOC; d) by EEV over the time course of the hemodynamic response for ADRA2b deletion carriers (n = 21) and noncarriers (n = 18). The trial axes are rank ordered (from right to left) from highest (1) to lowest (150) ratings of EEV.
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
a, Parsimonious model predicting emotionally enhanced vividness (EEV) in noncarriers (n = 18) of the ADRA2b polymorphism by left lateral occipital complex (LLOC) activity mediated by the left amygdala (LAM). b, Complex model predicting EEV in deletion carriers (n = 21) of the ADRA2b polymorphism. The dual-route model demonstrates that the left amygdala mediates the effect of LLOC on EEV and simultaneously ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) contributes to EEV. For both models, β-estimates for each path are shown. Significant paths are indicated by solid lines, dashed lines indicate nonsignificance. Bidirectional arrows between left amygdala and VMPFC indicate covariance of these regions, which exhibited a high level of correlated activity (r = 0.46, p < 0.001), and the covariance statistic indicating the relation between the two variables is shown.

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