Introduction: Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a well-documented aspect of social and interpersonal functioning, but the underlying neural mechanisms for this capacity remain poorly understood. Here we used advanced brain connectivity techniques to explore the associations between EI and effective connectivity (EC) within four functional brain networks. Methods: The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) was used to collect EI data from 55 healthy individuals (mean age = 30.56±8.3 years, 26 males). The MSCEIT comprises two area cores – experiential EI (T1) and strategic EI (T2). The T1 core included two sub-scales – perception of emotions (S1) and using emotions to facilitate thinking (S2), and the T2 core included two sub-scales – understanding of emotions (S3) and management of emotions (S4). All participants underwent structural and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) scans. The spectral dynamic causal modeling approach was implemented to estimate EC within four networks of interest – the default-mode network (DMN), dorsal attention network (DAN), control-execution network (CEN) and salience network (SN). The strength of EC within each network was correlated with the measures of EI, with correlations at pFDR < 0.05 considered as significant. Results: There was no significant association between any of the measures of EI and EC strength within the DMN and DAN. For CEN, however, we found that there were significant negative associations between EC strength from the right anterior prefrontal cortex (RAPFC) to the left anterior prefrontal cortex (LAPFC) and both S2 and T1, and significant positive associations between EC strength from LAPFC to RAPFC and S2. EC strength from the right superior parietal cortex (SPC) to RAPFC also showed significant negative association with S4 and T2. For the SN, S3 showed significant negative association with EC strength from the right insula to RAPFC and significant positive association with EC strength from the left insula to dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (DACC). Conclusions: We provide evidence that the negative ECs within the right hemisphere, and from the right to left hemisphere, and positive ECs within the left hemisphere and from the left to right hemisphere of CEN (involving bilateral frontal and right parietal region) and SN (involving right frontal, anterior cingulate and bilateral insula) play a significant role in regulating and processing emotions. These findings also suggest that measures of EC can be utilized as important biomarkers to better understand the underlying neural mechanisms of EI.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience