Using data from 34 participants who completed an emotion-word Stroop task during functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined the effects of adult attachment on neural activity associated with top-down cognitive control in the presence of emotional distractors. Individuals with lower levels of secure-base-script knowledge-reflected in an adult's inability to generate narratives in which attachment-related threats are recognized, competent help is provided, and the problem is resolved-demonstrated more activity in prefrontal cortical regions associated with emotion regulation (e.g., right orbitofrontal cortex) and with top-down cognitive control (left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and superior frontal gyrus). Less efficient performance and related increases in brain activity suggest that insecure attachment involves a vulnerability to distraction by attachment-relevant emotional information and that greater cognitive control is required to attend to task-relevant, nonemotional information. These results contribute to the understanding of mechanisms through which attachment-related experiences may influence developmental adaptation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (P50 MH079485, R01 MH61358, T32 MH19554) and by the University of Illinois Beckman Institute and Department of Psychology.
- cognitive control
- emotion regulation
- secure-base-script knowledge