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Neurobiological Basis of Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

This study has been completed.
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
William Killgore, Mclean Hospital Identifier:
First received: October 31, 2012
Last updated: November 1, 2012
Last verified: November 2012

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to accurately perceive and identify emotions in oneself and others, understand and use emotions to enhance cognitive processes, and effectively manage one's own emotions as well as those of others. Two major approaches to the construct of emotional intelligence have emerged. These two approaches can be broadly defined as the Trait and Ability Approaches. The Trait Approach, which is typically assessed via self-report measures such as that Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory, appears to be strongly related to existing models of personality and coping. The other major approach to EI follows an Ability Model, assuming that EI is similar to but distinct from other types of cognitive intelligence, and involves measurement of a variety of skills and abilities related to emotional processing. An understanding of the neurobiological substrate of emotional intelligence is beginning to emerge. One influential theory that is particularly relevant to the neurobiology of emotional intelligence is the "somatic marker hypothesis," yet there still remains a limited understanding of the neurobiological basis of EI. The proposed investigation will attempt to provide the most comprehensive study to date examining the behavioral, psychological, functional, and brain structural correlates of EI. The proposed study will use neuroimaging techniques to examine the relationship between current measures of EI, behavioral expression of emotionally competent capacities, brain functional responses, and structural cerebral organization.

The specific questions to be addressed and their associated hypotheses are:

  1. The two major approaches to EI (i.e., Trait vs. Ability) will show only modest, though significant positive correlations with one another.
  2. EI Trait measures will be highly correlated with measures of personality but weakly correlated with specific skills such as facial affect identification, emotional decision-making, and affectively based judgments, whereas EI Ability measures will correlate more highly with specific emotional skill measures.
  3. During functional MRI affective challenge tasks, EI scores will be negatively correlated with activity within the Somatic Marker Circuitry suggested by Damasio and colleagues (i.e., ventromedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insular cortex), as suggested by the neural efficiency hypothesis.

Emotional Intelligence

Study Type: Observational
Study Design: Observational Model: Cohort
Time Perspective: Cross-Sectional
Official Title: The Neurobiological Basis and Potential Modification of Emotional Intelligence Through Affective / Behavioral Training

Further study details as provided by Mclean Hospital:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Score on ability measure (MSCEIT) of emotional intelligence [ Time Frame: Measure administered on the day of the MRI scan ]

Enrollment: 70
Study Start Date: September 2009
Study Completion Date: May 2012
Primary Completion Date: May 2012 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Healthy individuals
Healthy individuals ranging in age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and years of education


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 45 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes
Sampling Method:   Non-Probability Sample
Study Population
Between 70 and 80 healthy, English speaking, right-handed, adults between the ages of 18 and 45 participated. Attempts were made to include equal numbers of men and women to permit the broadest generalization to the population and to permit direct assessment of gender effects, an issue that has received considerable attention recently regarding the neurobiology of affective processes. Subjects were not excluded on the basis of ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Healthy participants were recruited via local advertisements, including email broadcasts such as the Harvard Hospital and Partners Healthcare systems, internet advertisements, and posting of IRB-approved flyers in various community centers. IRB-approved print advertisements were posted in local newspapers.

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Age range between 18 and 45
  • Right handed
  • Primary language must be English

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Any history of neurological illness, current DSM-IV Axis I disorder, lifetime history of major depression or psychotic disorder, or head injury with loss of consciousness > 30 minutes
  • Complicating medical conditions that may influence the outcome of neuropsychological assessment or functional imaging (e.g., HIV)
  • Mixed or left-handedness
  • Current score of 15 or greater on Beck Depression Inventory
  • Abnormal visual acuity that is not corrected by contact lenses
  • Metal within the body, claustrophobia, or other contraindications for neuroimaging
  • Less than 9th grade education
  • Evidence of impaired reading comprehension
  • Excess alcohol use (Males: regular intake of 5+ drinks on one occasion or >2 drinks per day on average for past 2 months; Females: 4+ drinks per day or >1 drink per day on average for past 2 months)
  • History of alcoholism or substance use disorder
  • Use of illicit drugs
  • Best of 4 learning trials of Memory Suppression Task Training below 85%
  • Indication of invalid responding, potentially including elevated Omission Rate, Inconsistency Index, or Positive/Negative Impression scales on EQi, or elevated Omission Rate or Scatter score on MSCEIT
  Contacts and Locations
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Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT01721356

Sponsors and Collaborators
Mclean Hospital
Principal Investigator: William D Killgore, PhD Mclean Hospital
  More Information

Responsible Party: William Killgore, Associate Professor, Mclean Hospital Identifier: NCT01721356     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: W81XWH-09-1-0730
Study First Received: October 31, 2012
Last Updated: November 1, 2012 processed this record on April 28, 2017