Negative Mood Affects Brain Processing of Visceral Sensation

S. J. Coen
L. Yaguez
Q. Aziz
M. T. Mitterschiffthaler
M. Brammer
S. C. Williams
L. J. Gregory


BACKGROUND & AIMS: A link between negative emotional state and abnormal visceral sensation has been frequently reported. However, the influence of negative emotion on brain processing of painful visceral sensations has not been investigated. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and negative emotional stimuli to investigate the effects of negative emotion on brain processing of esophageal sensation. METHODS: Twelve healthy male volunteers (age range, 21-32 years) participated in the study. Negative emotion was induced using emotionally valent music. fMRI images were acquired during 2 experimental runs; throughout these, volunteers received randomized nonpainful and painful distentions to the esophagus during neutral and negative emotion. Subjective perception of each stimulus was acquired, as were mood ratings. RESULTS: Sadness ratings increased significantly following negative mood induction (P < .01). There was no significant effect of emotion on subjective perception of painful and nonpainful stimulation (P > .05). Following painful stimulation, brain activity increased in the right hemisphere during negative emotion and was localized to the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC; BA24/32), anterior insula, and inferior frontal gyrus. Following nonpainful stimulation during negative emotion, brain activity increased in the right anterior insula and ACC (BA24 and 32). CONCLUSIONS: This study provides new information about the influence of negative affect on central processing of visceral pain. Evidence of right hemispheric dominance during negative emotion indicates this hemisphere is predominately associated with sympathetic activity (arousal, negative affect) and that the right insula and right ACC are integral to subjective awareness of emotion through interoception.