Late-life anxiety is an increasingly relevant psychiatric condition that often goes unnoticed and/or untreated compared to anxiety in younger populations. Consequently, assessing the presence and severity of clinical anxiety in older adults an important challenge for researchers and clinicians alike. The Geriatric Anxiety Scale is a 30-item geriatric-specific measure of anxiety severity, grouped in three subscales (Somatic, Affective, and Cognitive), with solid evidence for the reliability and validity of its scores in clinical and community samples. Translated into several languages, it has been proven to have strong psychometric properties. In Italy only one recent preliminarily investigative study has appeared on its psychometric properties. However, sample data was largely collected from one specific Italian region (Lombardy) alone. Here, our aim in testing the items of the GAS in a sample of 346 healthy subjects (50% females; 52% from Southern Italy), with mean age of 71.74 years, was 2-fold. First, we aimed to determine factor structure in a wider sample of Italian participants. Confirmatory factor analysis showed that the GAS fits an originally postulated three-factor structure reasonably well. Second, results support gender invariance, entirely supported at the factorial structure, and at the intercept level. Latent means can be meaningfully compared across gender groups. Whereas the means of F1 (Somatic) and F3 (Affective) for males were significantly different from those for females, the means for F2 (Cognitive) were not. More specifically, in light of the negative signs associated with these statistically significant values, the finding showed that F1 and F3 for males appeared to be less positive on average than females. Overall, the GAS displayed acceptable convergent validity with matching subscales highly correlated, and satisfactory internal discriminant validity with lower correlations between non-matching subscales. Implications for clinical practice and research are discussed.
Difficulties in source monitoring (SM) tasks observed in healthy older adults may be linked to associative memory deficits since SM requires individuals to correctly bind and later remember these bound features to discriminate the origin of a memory. Therefore, focusing attention on discriminating factors that may attenuate older adults’ difficulties in attributing contextual information to memories is necessary. We investigated the effect of affective information on source monitoring in younger and older adults by manipulating the type of affective information (pictures and music) and assessing the ability to remember spatial and temporal source details for affective pictures encoded while listening to classical music. Older and younger adults viewed a series of affective IAPS pictures presented on the left or right side of the computer screen in two different lists. At test, participants were asked to remember if the picture was seen (right/left), in which list (list1/list2) or whether it was new. Results showed that spatial information was attributed better than temporal information and emotional pictures were attributed better than neutral pictures in both younger and older adults. In addition, although music significantly increased source memory performance in both younger and older participants compared to the white noise condition, the pleasantness of music differentially affected memory for source details. The authors discuss findings in terms of an interaction between music, emotion and cognition in aging.
Aftereffects have been documented for a variety of perceptual categories spanning from body gender to facial emotion, thus becoming an important tool in the study of high-level vision and its neural bases. We examined whether the perceived valence of a complex scene is subject to aftereffects, by observing the participants’ evaluation of the valence of a test picture preceded by a different picture. For this study, we employed an adaptation paradigm with positive and negative images used as adapters, and positive, negative, and neutral images used as tests. Our results show that adaptation to complex emotional pictures induces assimilative aftereffects: participants judged neutral tests more positively following positive adapters and more negatively following negative adapters. This depended on the prolonged adaptation phase (10 s), as the results of a second experiment, in which adapters lasted for 500 ms, did not show aftereffects. In addition, the results show that assimilative aftereffects of negative and positive adapters also manifested themselves on non-neutral (negative and positive) targets, providing evidence that the global emotional content of complex pictures is suitable to induce assimilative aftereffects.
Activation of medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC) has been typically found during reality monitoring tasks (i.e., distinguishing between internal self-generated vs external information). No study, however, has yet investigated whether transcranial Random Noise Stimulation (tRNS) over the mPFC leads to a reduction in reality-monitoring misattributions in aging. In particular, stimulating mPFC should increase the number of cognitive operations engaged while encoding and this distinctive information may help older adults to discriminate between internal and external sources better. In addition, given that older adults are more sensitive to positively-charged information compared to younger adults and that mPFC is typically recruited during encoding of positive stimuli with reference to themselves, activation of mPFC should further sustain source retrieval in older adults. In this double-blind, sham-controlled study, we examined whether tRNS over the mPFC of healthy younger and older adults during encoding enhances subsequent reality monitoring for seen versus imagined emotionally-charged words. Our findings show that tRNS enhances reality monitoring for positively-charged imagined words in the older adult group alone, highlighting the role that mPFC plays in their memory for positive information. In line with the control-based account of positivity effects, our results add evidence about the neurocognitive processes involved in reality monitoring when older adults face emotionally-charged events.
Numerous studies have reported age-related differences in memory for emotional information. One explanation places emphasis on an emotion processing preference in older adults that reflects their socioemotional self-relevant goals. Here, we evaluate the degree to which this preference in memory may be modulated by color. In 2 experiments, younger and older adults were asked to study a series of affective words (Experiment 1) or affective pictures (Experiment 2) and then presented with an immediate yes/no memory recognition task. In particular, words and pictures were colored according to the following valence-color associations: positive-green, negative-red, and neutral-blue. Each study condition included both congruent (e.g., positive-green) and incongruent associations (e.g., positive-red). For both experiments, participants showed an advantage for congruent associations compared with other types of valence-color pairings that emphasized a robust joint effect of color and affective valence in memory. More specifically, older adults’ memory was sensitive to positive-green stimuli only. We discussed results in line with mechanisms underlying positivity effects in memory and the effect of color on emotional memory encoding. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved).
Lack of motivation, or apathy, is a clinically significant feature among dementia patients. The current study aimed to assess the effectiveness of a brief emotional shaping intervention developed to reduce apathy and increase willingness-to-do in Alzheimer's Dementia patients. To this end, 26 Alzheimer patients diagnosed with apathy according to the Apathy Evaluation Scale (AES, Marin et al.,1991) and 26 healthy older controls performed an emotional shaping task intended to unconsciously foster willingness-to-do. Participants were randomly assigned to either a positive or a neutral conditioning situation. Results showed how the positively conditioned group was associated with improved willingness-to-do in both patients and controls compared to the neutrally conditioned group. Our findings suggest that unconscious emotional processing can be used to treat apathy symptoms and increase willingness-to-do in Alzheimer's Dementia.
Interest in the role of the noradrenergic system in the modulation of emotional memories has recently increased. This study briefly reviews this timely line of research with a specific focus on aging. After having identified surprisingly few studies that investigated emotional memory in older adults from a neurobiological perspective, we found a significant interaction between noradrenergic activity and emotional memory enhancement in older adults. This pattern of data are explained both in terms of a top-down modulation of behavioral processes (e.g., changes in priority and individual goals) and in terms of greater activity of noradrenergic system during aging. Altogether, both behavioral and genetic variations studies (e.g., Alpha 2 B Adrenoceptor genotype) have shown that healthy older adults are able to circumvent or minimize the experience of negative emotions and stabilize or even enhance positive emotional experiences. Future studies are highly warranted to better clarify the relationship between noradrenaline and emotional memories in the aging brain.
The aim of the present study was to examine serial visual processing of facial emotion in a group of younger and older adults. Participants performed a visual serial search task in which they searched displays of schematic faces with positive, negative or neutral mouth expressions. Our findings show that older adults did particularly well when detecting positive target faces. Differently, their response times were slower on positive faces compared to negative and neutral faces. Explanations in terms of attentional disengagement mechanisms that may generate an age-related positivity effect are discussed.
Emotional face recognition is impaired in bipolar disorder, but it is not clear whether this is specific for the illness. Here, we investigated how aging and bipolar disorder influence dynamic emotional face recognition. Twenty older adults, 16 bipolar patients, and 20 control subjects performed a dynamic affective facial recognition task and a subsequent rating task. Participants pressed a key as soon as they were able to discriminate whether the neutral face was assuming a happy or angry facial expression and then rated the intensity of each facial expression. Results showed that older adults recognized happy expressions faster, whereas bipolar patients recognized angry expressions faster. Furthermore, both groups rated emotional faces more intensely than did the control subjects. This study is one of the first to compare how aging and clinical conditions influence emotional facial recognition and underlines the need to consider the role of specific and common factors in emotional face recognition.
Emotional meta-memory can be defined as the knowledge people have about the strategies and monitoring processes that they can use to remember their emotionally charged memories. Although meta-memory per se has been studied in many cognitive laboratories for many years, fewer studies have explicitly focused on meta-memory for emotionally charged or valenced information. In this brief review, we analyzed a series of behavioral and neuroimaging studies that used different meta-memory tasks with valenced information in order to foster new research in this direction, especially in terms of commonalities/peculiarities of the emotion and meta-memory interaction. In addition, results further support meta-cognitive models that take emotional factors into account when defining meta-memory per se.
In this study, we investigated whether age-related differences in emotion regulation priorities influence online dynamic emotional facial discrimination. A group of 40 younger and a group of 40 older adults were invited to recognize a positive or negative expression as soon as the expression slowly emerged and subsequently rate it in terms of intensity. Our findings show that older adults recognized happy expressions faster than angry ones, while the direction of emotional expression does not seem to affect younger adults’ performance. Furthermore, older adults rated both negative and positive emotional faces as more intense compared to younger controls. This study detects age-related differences with a dynamic online paradigm and suggests that different regulation strategies may shape emotional face recognition.
Among many benefits of facial attractiveness, there is evidence that more attractive politicians are more likely to be elected. Recent research found this effect to be most pronounced in congressional districts with high disease threat—a result attributed to an adaptive disease avoidance mechanism, whereby the association of low attractiveness with poor health is particularly worrisome to voters who feel vulnerable to disease. We provided a more direct test of this explanation by examining the effects of individuals’ own health and age. Supporting a disease avoidance mechanism, less healthy participants showed a stronger preference for more attractive contenders in U.S. Senate races than their healthier peers, and this effect was stronger for older participants, who were generally less healthy than younger participants. Stronger effects of health for older participants partly reflected the absence of positive bias toward attractive candidates among the healthiest, suggesting that healthy older adults may be unconcerned about disease threat or sufficiently wise to ignore attractiveness.
This study tested the hypothesis that affective content may undermine rather than facilitate working memory (WM) performance. To this end, participants performed a running WM task with positive, negative and neutral words. In typical running memory tasks, participants are presented with lists of unpredictable length and are asked to recall the last three or four items. We found that accuracy with affective words decreased as lists lengthened, whereas list length did not influence recall of neutral words. We interpreted this pattern of results in terms of a limited resource model of WM in which valence represents additional information that needs to be manipulated, especially in the context of difficult trials.
Prolonged exposure to a stimulus results in a subsequent perceptual bias. This perceptual adaptation aftereffect occurs not only for simple stimulus features but also for high-level stimulus properties (e.g., faces’ gender, identity and emotional expressions). Recent studies on aftereffects demonstrate that adaptation to human bodies can modulate face perception because these stimuli share common properties. Those findings suggest that the aftereffect is not related to the physical property of the stimulus but to the great number of semantic attributes shared by the adapter and the test. Here, we report a novel cross-category adaptation paradigm with both silhouette face profiles (Experiment 1.1) and frontal view faces (Experiment 2) as adapters, testing the aftereffects when viewing an androgynous test body. The results indicate that adaptation to both silhouette face profiles and frontal view faces produces gender aftereffects (e.g., after visual exposure to a female face, the androgynous body appears as more male and vice versa). These findings confirm that high-level perceptual aftereffects can occur between cross-categorical stimuli that share common properties.