Previous studies have suggested that trait differences in emotional awareness (tEA) are clinically relevant, and associated with differences in neural structure/function. While multiple leading theories suggest that conscious awareness requires widespread information integration across the brain, no study has yet tested the hypothesis that higher tEA corresponds to more efficient brain-wide information exchange. Twenty-six healthy volunteers (13 females) underwent a resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging scan, and completed the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS; a measure of tEA) and the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI-II; a measure of general intelligence quotient [IQ]). Using a whole-brain (functionally defined) region of interest (ROI) atlas, we computed several graph theory metrics to assess the efficiency of brain-wide information exchange. After statistically controlling for differences in age, gender and IQ, we first observed a significant relationship between higher LEAS scores and greater average degree (i.e. overall whole-brain network density). When controlling for average degree, we found that higher LEAS scores were also associated with shorter average path lengths across the collective network of all included ROIs. These results jointly suggest that individuals with higher tEA display more efficient global information exchange throughout the brain. This is consistent with the idea that conscious awareness requires global accessibility of represented information.
- Conscious access
- Emotional awareness
- Graph theory
- Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience