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After a fight with a partner, brain activity predicts emotional resiliency
Date:3/9/2010

Common wisdom tells us that for a successful relationship partners shouldn't go to bed angry. But new research from a psychologist at Harvard University suggests that brain activityspecifically in the region called the lateral prefrontal cortexis a far better indicator of how someone will feel in the days following a fight with his or her partner.

Individuals who show more neural activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex are less likely to be upset the day after fighting with partners, according to a study in this month's Biological Psychiatry. The findings point to the lateral prefrontal cortex's role in emotion regulation, and suggest that improved function within this region may also improve day-to-day mood.

"What we found, as you might expect, was that everybody felt badly on the day of the conflict with their partners," says lead author Christine Hooker, assistant professor of psychology in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "But the day after, people who had high lateral prefrontal cortex activity felt better and the people who had low lateral prefrontal cortex activity continued to feel badly."

Hooker's co-authors are zlem Ayduk, Anett Gyurak, Sara Verosky, and Asako Miyakawa, all of the University of California at Berkeley.

Research has previously shown that the lateral prefrontal cortex is associated with emotion regulation in laboratory tests, but the effect has never been proven to be connected to experiences in day-to-day life.

This study involved healthy couples in a relationship for longer than three months. While in an fMRI scanner, participants viewed pictures of their partners with positive, negative, or neutral facial expressions and their neural activity was recorded while reacting to the images. While in the lab, participants were also tested for their broader cognitive control skills, such as their ability to control impulses and the shift and focus of attention.

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Contact: Amy Lavoie
amy_lavoie@harvard.edu
617-496-9982
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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