Resting state functional connectivity correlates of emotional awareness
Multiple neuroimaging studies have now linked emotional awareness (EA), as measured by the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS), with activation in regions of neural networks associated with both conceptualization (i.e., default mode network [DMN] regions) and interoception (i.e., salience network [SN] regions) – consistent with the definition of EA as one's ability to appropriately recognize, conceptualize, and articulate the emotions of self and other in fine-grained, differentiated ways. However, no study has yet tested the hypothesis that greater LEAS scores are associated with greater resting state functional connectivity (FC) within these networks. Twenty-six adults (13 female) underwent resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging, and also completed the LEAS. Using pre-defined functional ROIs from the DMN and SN, we observed that LEAS scores were significantly positively correlated with FC between several regions of both of these networks, even when controlling for differences in general intelligence (IQ). These results suggest that higher EA may be associated with more efficient information exchange between brain regions involved in both interoception- and conceptualization-based processing, which could plausibly contribute to more differentiated bodily feelings and more fine-grained conceptualization of those feelings.