Measuring Attachment Representation in an fMRI Environment: A Pilot Study

Anna Buchheim, Susanne Erk, Carol George, Horst Kächele, Martin Ruchsow, Manfred Spitzer, Tilo Kircher, Henrik Walter
2006 Psychopathology  
activation during continuous speech yielded results consistent with the literature. Brain activation was demonstrated in expected visual and semantic brain regions. Furthermore, we found that the rate of articulation was positively correlated with the blood oxygenation leveldependent effect and with activation in the right superior temporal gyrus. The results of theoretically derived attachment hypotheses regarding organized versus unresolved/disorganized attachment representations showed no
more » ... ferences at the chosen level of signifi cance when comparing the 'all attachment pictures' effect between both groups (resolved vs. unresolved). More interestingly, we found a signifi cant interaction effect between the sequence of pictures and attachment category. Only the unresolved participants showed increasing activation of medial temporal regions, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, in the course of the AAP task. This pattern was demonstrated especially at the end of the AAP where the pictures are drawn to portray traumatic situations. We interpret these results as confi rming our hypothesis, linking unresolved attachment to emotional dysregulation of the attachment system. These results are discussed in relation to assessing attachment in an fMRI environment, attachment theory and future research in this area. Abstract This exploratory study is the fi rst to examine the neural correlates of attachment status in adults. The study examined the feasibility of assessing attachment in the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) environment and investigated theoretically derived hypotheses regarding predicted differences in the brain activation patterns of individuals whose attachment status was organized (resolved) versus disorganized (unresolved) with respect to attachment trauma (e.g., as associated with loss through death, abuse, threat of abandonment). Adult attachment was assessed using the Adult Attachment Projective (AAP), a new projective measure that we thought might be suitable for use in the fMRI environment. This measure was used to obtain a preliminary picture of the neural processes associated with the activation of attachment in 11 healthy female adults. Results are reported from a second-level analysis (p ! 0.001 uncorrected) and confi rm that the AAP is a feasible measure for use in a neuroimaging environment. Cerebral
doi:10.1159/000091800 pmid:16531690 fatcat:ogi7ee3ckrfjnhq2b75pbzwohe