Reframing

From OptimalScience

Reframing is one of the core concepts found in OptimalWork. Reframing is the process of deliberately discovering how a perceived threat is actually an opportunity.

The major claims of OptimalWork pertaining to reframing, and their basis in the neuroscientific literature, can be found below.

The Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex[edit]


First, it is our claim that a definite structure within the brain increases activity whenever reframing is performed, and that this structure is the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). We often call this the "appraisal center" of the brain. The vmPFC is a structure deep within the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that controls executive function.

Per the scientific literature, the vmPFC is a multifaceted structure with two primary functions: the weighing of the emotional consequences of a choice, and the conditioning and extinction of negative emotions.

The vmPFC and Emotional Expectation[edit]

First, the vmPFC is the brain structure through which we make emotionally-laden decisions.[1]

When we consider a potential action, the vmPFC enables us to "simulate" the emotional consequences of that action, both good and bad.[2] Using the vmPFC, we register emotional expectations, calculating the "amount" of expected reward and expected penalty that a given action would provide.[3] Thus, the vmPFC is where we deliberately weigh in our minds whether an action will be worth it. We can then make the decision either to welcome that action and the reward it will bring, or to reject that action and the threat it represents. The decision we make here will determine our level of physiological arousal and the branch(es) of the autonomic nervous system that are activated. [Citation Needed]

It appears that this capacity to weigh and "feel" consequences is necessary for the accuracy of decisions that have emotional valence. For example, the vmPFC is well established as the seat of our moral, ideal-based choices.[4][5][6] For the vmPFC, virtue is its own reward, in a very literal sense! The vmPFC also allows us to simulate the minds of others,[7] particularly others' emotional states,[8] which is important in our ability to develop empathy.[9] Economic decision-making occurs primarily with the vmPFC, as expected rewards and punishments are involved.[10][11] In fact, vmPFC activity is chronically reduced in gamblers and addicts, indicating a certain "myopia for the future" that prevents the addict from feeling the full consequences of a choice.[12][13][14]

The neuroscientific literature has several examples of patients who have lost the above capabilities through vmPFC damage,[15][16] although their intelligence and reasoning remains intact. Such patients are perfectly capable of describing the decisions they know they should make, but when actually faced with an emotionally charged decision, the inability to "feel" the good choice makes them incapable of executing it.[17]

Conditioning and Extinction of Negative Emotions[edit]

The vmPFC's second primary function is the generation and regulation of negative emotion, primarily through its interactions with the amygdala.[1]

The vmPFC is extensively and reciprocally connected to the amygdala,[18] which is the brain's automated detector of threats. The amygdala responds both to innate and to conditioned [19][20] threats with fear. Conditioned fear in particular — fear that is learned through negative appraisal and avoidance behaviors — occurs through substantial interactions between the vmPFC and the amygdala.[21]

Through interactions with the amygdala, however, the vmPFC can reverse the very sensitization it helped facilitate. It has a very well established role as the brain's nidus for extinction learning, in which conditioned threat responses are progressively muted and eventually eliminated.[22][23] The vmPFC does this in the present moment through "cognitive reappraisal" or "reversal learning," in which the negative appraisal of a situation is turned into a positive one.[24][25] The vmPFC also facilitates recall of extinction: it suppresses amygdalar activity and subdues the fear response when faced with a previously-aversive stimulus that has been reversed.[26][27][28][29]

The vmPFC's Role in Reframing[edit]

  • Fear Thou Not (see below)


Reframing and the Autonomic Nervous System[edit]


vmPFC can be “taken offline” and suppressed when someone views a situation as a threat (Thayer 2009, Arnsten 1998, ____________ )

vmPFC is active in the regulatory control of emotions (Etkin 2011); its activation suppresses conditioned fear expression by the amygdala (Quirk 2003, Rosenkranz 2003, Likhtik 2005).

vmPFC has substantial projections into the amygdala (Quirk 2003, Rosenkranz 2003, Likhtik 2005, Oschner 2002, Ghashghaei 2007).


Reframing and Left-Right Neuroscience[edit]


Reframing is the ability to see a challenge in its broadest (therefore truest) possible context, which touches on left-right neuroscience.

[To be continued]


References[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hiser J, Koenigs M. The Multifaceted Role of the Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex in Emotion, Decision Making, Social Cognition, and Psychopathology. Biol Psychiatry. 2018 Apr 15;83(8):638-647. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.10.030. Epub 2017 Nov 20. PMID: 29275839; PMCID: PMC5862740.
  2. Juechems K, Balaguer J, Ruz M, Summerfield C. Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Encodes a Latent Estimate of Cumulative Reward. Neuron. 2017 Feb 8;93(3):705-714.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.12.038. PMID: 28182906.
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