Research Digest – March 2020

Author: Gabriel Qi

For our March 2020 ANA Listserv Research Digest, I will introduce an article about
neurorehabilitation with cultural considerations, and another about cultural differences
in social emotion processing, which was also one of the first articles that fascinated me
by explaining how deeply culture shapes human neuroscience/neuropsychology.

The first article is about cultural issues in the context of neurorehabilitation, which
include but are not limited to language and ethnicity. Saldivar, Gonzalez, Vega, and
Sykora (2016) provided several case examples of working with patients from diverse
cultural backgrounds in an acute inpatient rehabilitation facility. Particularly relevant to
ANA, several cases presented involve patients from Asian countries or of Asian descent:

  • Mr. K, born in Korea and raised in South America, had difficulty in social
    interaction and mood regulation after sustaining a right parietal lobe stroke. It was also
    learned that he had limited abilities in both Korean and Spanish languages even at
    premorbid baseline, which added to his social withdrawal and post-stroke adjustment.
  • Ms. J is an 85-year-old Japanese American woman with no significant medical,
    psychiatric, or substance abuse history, who suffered a fall and head injury. She
    exhibited varying levels of alertness and orientation, as well as hallucinations, revealed
    through the use of Japanese interpretations. Psychologists were consulted to
    differentiate between TBI and cultural variables and to determine her capacity for
    medical decision-making.
  • Ms. U, a 55-year-old Gujarati (Indian) woman was referred for outpatient
    psychotherapy after a traumatic brain injury due to concerns from daughter and son-in-law. Adaptation of psychotherapeutic modality in this context was discussed.
    I worked with Drs. Saldivar, Gonzalez, and Sykora at Rancho Los Amigos, and felt that I
    learned immensely from them when working with an enormously diverse population in
    Southern California. I loved reading this chapter. It was like seeing them at work. LOL.
    (BTW, I know it can be difficult to locate book chapters, so if you are interested, feel free
    to back-channel me for a copy of the chapter for personal/educational use.)

With a more theoretical and emotional spin, I introduce the second article. ImmordinoYang, Yang, and Damasio (2014) obtained simultaneous data of fMRI and
electrocardiogram from Chinese, Chinese American, and Non-Asian American
participants when they were asked to report the strengths of their feelings in response
to admiration and compassion-themed stories. They found that Chinese participants’
feeling strength was associated with ventral anterior insula activity, whereas their NonAsian American counterparts showed particular association with dorsal anterior insular
activity. The ventral part of the anterior insular is associated with autonomic modulation,
and the dorsal part with visceral-somatosensory and cognitive processes. The results
provided new insights into culture’s influence on the neural processing of social emotions,
for previous studies conducted with Western subjects almost solely suggested
correlations between social emotions with visceral states (e.g., Zaki et al. 2012). As the
authors concluded, “[m]ore broadly, the results suggest that the brain’s ability to
construct conscious experiences of social emotion is less closely tied to visceral
processes than neurobiological models predict and at least partly open to cultural
influence and learning.”

Food for thought this month:

How is culture relevant in an inpatient rehabilitation setting for clinical

Here are the links to access the articles this month:




• Saldivar, A., Gonzalez, F., Vega, M., & Sykora, C. (2015). Language, ethnicity,
culture, and the neurorehabilitation patient experience. Multicultural
Neurorehabilitation: Clinical Prinicipals for Rehabilitation Professionals, (pp. 75-
• Immordino-Yang, M. H. (2013). Studying the effects of culture by integrating
neuroscientific with ethnographic approaches. Psychol. Inq. 24, 42–46.
• Immordino-Yang, M. H., Yang, X. F., & Damasio, H. (2014). Correlations between
social-emotional feelings and anterior insula activity are independent from
visceral states but influenced by culture. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 8,

  1. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00728
    • Zaki, J., Davis, J. I., and Ochsner, K. N. (2012). Overlapping activity in anterior
    insula during interoception and emotional experience. Neuroimage 62, 493–499.
    doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.05.012