Publications

Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Neuroimage. 2015 Jul 15. pii: S1053-8119(15)00636-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.07.025. [Epub ahead of print]

Mortality salience modulates cortical responses to painful somatosensory stimulation: Evidence from slow wave and delta band activity

Social psychology studies show that awareness of one's eventual death profoundly influences human cognition and behaviour by inducing defensive reactions against end-of-life-related anxiety. Much less is known about the impact of reminders of mortality on brain activity. Here we tested whether reminders of mortality can induce a modulation of the slow electroencephalographic activity triggered by somatosensory nociceptive or auditory threatening stimulation and if this modulation is related to mood and anxiety as well as personality traits. We found a specific slow wave (SW) modulation only for nociceptive stimulation and only following mortality salience induction (compared to reminders of an important failed exam). The enhancement of SW negativity at the scalp vertex was associated with increased state anxiety and negative mood, whereas higher self-esteem was associated with reduced SW amplitude. In addition, mortality salience was linked to an increased amplitude of frontal delta band, which was correlated also with increased positive mood and higher self-esteem. The results indicate that SW and delta spectral activity may represent both proximal and distal defences associated with reminders of death and that neurophysiological correlates of somatosensory representation of painful and threatening stimuli may be useful for existential neuroscience studies.

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