Comparison of brain activity correlating with self-report versus narrative attachment measures during conscious appraisal of an attachment figure

Zimri S. Yaseen, Xian Zhang, J. Christopher Muran, Arnold Winston, Igor I. Galynker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives: The Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) has been the gold standard of attachment assessment, but requires special training. The Relationship Scales Questionnaire (RSQ) is a widely used self-report measure. We investigate how each correlates with brain activity during appraisal of subjects' mothers. Methods: Twenty-eight women were scored on the AAI, RSQ, and mood measures. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, subjects viewed their mothers in neutral-, valence-, and salience-rating conditions. We identified regions where contrasts in brain activity between appraisal and neutral viewing conditions correlated with each measure of attachment after covarying for mood. AAI and RSQ measures were then compared in terms of the extent to which regions of correlating brain activity overlapped with “default mode network” (DMN) vs. executive frontal network (EFN) masks and cortical vs. subcortical masks. Additionally, interactions with mood were examined. Results: Salience and valence processing associated with increased thalamo-striatal, posterior cingulate, and visual cortex activity. Salience processing decreased PFC activity, whereas valence processing increased left insula activity. Activity correlating with AAI vs. RSQ measures demonstrated significantly more DMN and subcortical involvement. Interactions with mood were observed in the middle temporal gyrus and precuneus for both measures. Conclusion: The AAI appears to disproportionately correlate with conscious appraisal associated activity in DMN and subcortical structures, while the RSQ appears to tap EFN structures more extensively. Thus, the AAI may assess more interoceptive, ‘core- self’-related processes, while the RSQ captures higher-order cognitions involved in attachment. Shared interaction effects between mood and AAI and RSQ-measures may suggest that processes tapped by each belong to a common system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number90
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberMAR2016
StatePublished - 14 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • AAI
  • Adult attachment
  • Attachment
  • Attachment measures
  • FMRI
  • RSQ


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