We’ve all had experiences we’d prefer not to remember. That’s especially true for people who have gone through a traumatic event such as childhood abuse, combat-related PTSD, or a bad accident. But there may be positive health applications for identifying, predicting, and retrieving negative emotions in the brain, according to two new studies.
In the first, Luke Chang, assistant professor of psychology and brain sciences at Dartmouth, identified a brain pattern under fMRI imaging that can predict a “neural signature of negative emotion.” In the study, recently published in PLOS Biology, Chang and his fellow researchers showed 183 participants pulled from the general population negative photos ranging from bodily injuries to human feces, as well as neutral photos. Thirty additional participants were subjected to painful heat.
Researchers identified the different networks in the brain that all work together during a participant’s negative emotional experience, which they call a “brain signature.” Then, they used machine-learning algorithms to find global patterns of brain activity that best predicted the participants’ responses. “What we’re calling a ‘brain signature’ is basically a configuration—a brain pattern that is predictive of a state,” Chang tells mental_floss. He compares the process to the way that Netflix predicts who is watching a certain type of show based on the watcher’s choices in programming. READ MORE