Mood-dependent integration in discourse comprehension: Happy and sad moods affect consistency processing via different brain networks

According to recent research on language comprehension, the semantic features of a text are not the only determinants of whether incoming information is understood as consistent. Listeners’ pre-existing affective states play a crucial role as well. The current fMRI experiment examines the effects of happy and sad moods during comprehension of consistent and inconsistent story endings, focusing on brain regions previously linked to two integration processes: inconsistency detection, evident in stronger responses to inconsistent endings, and fluent processing (accumulation), evident in stronger responses to consistent endings. The analysis evaluated whether differences in the BOLD response for consistent and inconsistent story endings correlated with self-reported mood scores after a mood induction procedure. Mood strongly affected regions previously associated with inconsistency detection. Happy mood increased sensitivity to inconsistency in regions specific for inconsistency detection (e.g., left IFG, left STS), whereas sad mood increased sensitivity to inconsistency in regions less specific for language processing (e.g., right med FG, right SFG). Mood affected more weakly regions involved in accumulation of information. These results show that mood can influence activity in areas mediating well-defined language processes, and highlight that integration is the result of context-dependent mechanisms. These findings also exemplify the brain’s ability to reorganize its functions, as language comprehension is achieved with different networks according to people’s mood.

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Last updated September 2014