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Vedder, Aline; Smigielski, Lukasz; Gutyrchik, Evgeny; Bao, Yan; Blautzik, Janusch; Pöppel, Ernst; Zaytseva, Yuliya; Russell, Edmund (2015): Neurofunctional Correlates of Environmental Cognition: An fMRI Study with Images from Episodic Memory.
In: PLOS ONE 10(4), e0122470
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Abstract

This study capitalizes on individual episodic memories to investigate the question, how different environments affect us on a neural level. Instead of using predefined environmental stimuli, this study relied on individual representations of beauty and pleasure. Drawing upon episodic memories we conducted two experiments. Healthy subjects imagined pleasant and non-pleasant environments, as well as beautiful and non-beautiful environments while neural activity was measured by using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Although subjects found the different conditions equally simple to visualize, our results revealed more distribut-ed brain activations for non-pleasant and non-beautiful environments than for pleasant and beautiful environments. The additional regions activated in non-pleasant (left lateral prefrontal cortex) and non-beautiful environments (supplementary motor area, anterior cortical midline structures) are involved in self-regulation and top-down cognitive control. Taken together, the results show that perceptual experiences and emotional evaluations of environments within a positive and a negative frame of reference are based on distinct patterns of neural activity. We interpret the data in terms of a different cognitive and processing load placed by exposure to different environments. The results hint at the efficiency of subject-generated representations as stimulus material.