Self-control training (SCT) is one way to enhance self-controlled behavior. We conducted a novel and exploratory functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment to examine how SCT affects neural responses in a situation that elicits a self-control response: anger provocation. Forty-five healthy young men and women completed two-weeks of SCT or a behavioral monitoring task and were then insulted during scanning. We found significant changes in functional activation and connectivity using a lenient error threshold, which were not observed using a stricter threshold. Activation in the posterior insula was greater for the control compared to the SCT group at post-provocation, trait aggression correlated with neural responses to SCT, and SCT was associated with specific amygdala-cortical connections. Neural changes occurred even though SCT did not affect participants’ performance on an inhibition task, reports of trying to control their anger, or their experience of anger. This dissociation prevented clear interpretation about whether the neural changes were indicative of specific anger or anger control processes. Although replication with high-powered studies is needed, we provide evidence that SCT affects neural responses in the context of anger provocation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by a Discovery Project (DP120102453) and Future Fellowship (FT140100291) from the Australian Research Council to TFD. Gadi Gilam was supported by a NIH grant (R01DA035484). Joanne R. Beames was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award. We thank Kate Blundell for help with data collection, and Neuroscience Research Australia, Randwick, for access to the fMRI used in this experiment.
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- Self-control training
- dorsal anterior cingulate
- posterior insula