The ability to understand emotions is associated with interoception-related insular activation and white matter integrity during aging.

Olga R DobrushinaMarina V Krotenkova


Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) is a major cause of cognitive impairment in elderly people. While most research focuses on the role of the classical vascular risk factors in SVD, a description of the psychophysiological mechanisms leading to the age-related brain damage may open new possibilities for prophylaxis. In the current study, we evaluated the associations between emotional abilities, interoception, and age-related vascular white matter degeneration. The work was influenced, first, by multiple studies recognizing alexithymia as a cardiovascular risk factor; second, by theories of emotions linking body's allostasis and emotional regulation; and third, by neuroimaging data highlighting the shared role of the insular cortex in interoceptive and emotional processing. In a sample of older female adults (N = 30), we performed the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test, functional MRI using the heartbeat detection task, and evaluation of white matter microstructural integrity using diffusion weighted imaging. The ability to understand and analyze emotions-one of the four components of emotional intelligence-was found to be associated with higher interoception-related activation of the right anterior insula and pr...Continue Reading


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