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Research uncovers patterns in the resting brains of highly sensitive people


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You know that raw overwhelming people have reported after months of a pandemic, exacerbated by economic problems and social unrest? Does fatigue and compulsive scrolling of social media strike a familiar chord?

These crazy emotions give us an insight into how regular life can be for people with sensory treatment sensitivity (SPS), a biological trait that about a third of the population possesses. In a world of constant information overload and stress, it is a hallmark that can result in a range of behaviors, from emotional outbursts to withdrawal, overwhelm and procrastination.

“Behaviorally, we observe it as being more cautious and cautious as we approach new things,”

; said Bianca Acevedo, a researcher at UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. “You may be able to see this behavior anywhere, from fruit flies to humans.” In a new situation, those with traits are more likely to hang back and see what happens, she explained.

“Another broad way of thinking about what biologists have used to understand people’s individual differences in reactions to different things is that the person with high sensitivity will be more responsive, for better or worse,” Acevedo continued. So while people with high sensitivity may become more rattled by unpleasant situations, they may also experience higher levels of creativity, deeper ties with others, and an increased understanding of beauty.

The mechanism behind these depths and heights and extra caution lies in the way brains of highly sensitive people process information: They make it deeper, Acevedo said. And in a paper published in the journal Neuropsychobiology, she and her colleagues continue to get into where in the brain this deeper treatment takes place.

“One of the advances in this research so far has been that in most of the previous brain imaging studies of sensitivity, we have tended to look at responses to stimuli,” Acevedo said. “This was a study where we just looked at what the brain at rest does and how sensitivity affects it.”

Leading their volunteer subjects to a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner located in the basement of the UCSB’s Psychology Building, the researchers performed an “empathy task” in which participants were shown descriptions of happy, sad, or neutral events followed by similar emotional faces of their partners. and strangers. The volunteers were asked to count seven backwards from a large number “to wash the effects of experiencing any kind of emotion” between the face photo displays.

“Then they were asked to give some answers to tell us how they felt when they were shown each face picture,” Acevedo said. Thereafter, participants were instructed to relax while their brains were scanned.

“What we found was a pattern that suggested that during this rest, after doing something that was emotionally charged, their brain showed activity that suggested depth to processing,” she said, “and this depth of processing. is a cardinal feature of high sensitivity. “

Among the most robust signals in participants who scored with higher levels of SPS was a greater connection between the precuneus and hippocampus, a circuit implicated in episodic memory consolidation and spontaneous memory. Consolidating memory is important, Acevedo said, to prepare a person for future similar situations and how to respond to them.

Meanwhile, weaker connections were found between the periaqueductal gray and the amygdala, a region important for modulating pain and anxiety, as well as between the insula and hippocampus, a circuit thought to be important for emotion therapy and stress regulation. These negative compounds may be the reason why sensitive people report overstimulation and higher anxiety, Acevedo said. In particular, the “robust negative connection” of the hippocampus and insula suggests “higher order, predominantly memory consolidation” rather than the usual automated reactions typically triggered by stressful events.

The results of this paper represent a significant advance in the growing understanding of sensory processing sensitivity, a trait found among an estimated 1.4 billion of the global population. The findings may also have some clinical relevance to those with mood swings, such as anxiety, said Acevedo, whose book, “The Highly Sensitive Brain,” is a finalist for the 2021 Association of American Publishers Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) Award in Neuroscience. A way to help with that tension and trouble focusing, whether or not you consider yourself very sensitive?

“Take a break,” Acevedo said. “For all of us, but especially for the very sensitive, it can be beneficial to take a few minutes break and not necessarily do anything but relax. We’ve seen it on the behavioral level and the level of the brain.”

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More information:
Bianca P. Acevedo et al. Sensory Processing Sensitivity predicts individual differences in resting functional function associated with the depth of treatment, Neuropsychobiology (2021). DOI: 10.1159 / 000513527

Provided by the University of California – Santa Barbara

Citation: Research Reveals Patterns in Resting Brains in Highly Sensitive People (2021, May 4) Retrieved May 5, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-05-uncovers-patterns-resting-brains-highly.html

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