Export file:


  • RIS(for EndNote,Reference Manager,ProCite)
  • BibTex
  • Text


  • Citation Only
  • Citation and Abstract

Dominant and opponent relations in cortical function: An EEG study of exam performance and stress

1 Department of Higher Nervous Activity and Psychophysiology, Faculty of Biology, St. Petersburg State University, St.-Petersburg, Russia
2 Department of Anatomy and Physiology of Humans and Animals, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, St.-Petersburg, Russia
3 International Research Center of the Functional Materials and Devices of Optoelectronics and Electronics, ITMO University, Saint Petersburg, Russia
4 Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

This paper analyzes the opponent dynamics of human motivational and affective processes, as conceptualized by RS Solomon, from the position of AA Ukhtomsky’s neurophysiological principle of the dominant and its applications in the field of human electroencephalographic analysis. As an experimental model, we investigate the dynamics of cortical activity in students submitting university final course oral examinations in naturalistic settings, and show that successful performance in these settings depends on the presence of specific types of cortical activation patterns, involving high indices of left-hemispheric and frontal cortical dominance, whereas the lack thereof predicts poor performance on the task, and seems to be associated with difficulties in the executive regulation of cognitive (intellectual) and motivational processes in these highly demanding and stressful conditions. Based on such knowledge, improved educational and therapeutic interventions can be suggested which take into account individual variability in the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying adaptation to motivationally and intellectually challenging, stressful tasks, such as oral university exams. Some implications of this research for opponent-process theory and its closer integration into current neuroscience research on acquired motivations are discussed.
  Article Metrics


1. Solomon RL, Corbit J (1974) An opponent-process theory of motivation: I. Temporal dynamics of affect. Psychol Rev 81: 119–145.

2. Solomon RL (1980) The opponent-process theory of acquired motivation: The costs of pleasure and the benefits of pain. Am Psychol 35: 691–712.    

3. Solomon RL (1991) Acquired motivation and affective opponent-processes. In: В M. J (ed.), Neurobiology of Learning, Emotion, and Affect. New York: Raven Press Ltd., 307–347.

4. Ukhtomsky AA (1966) The Dominant, Leningrad: Leningrad State University.

5. Nadin M (Ed.) (2015) Anticipation: Learning from the Past. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 13–150.

6. Pavlova LP (2017) Dominants of the Working Brain: A Systemic Psychophysiological Approach to EEG Analysis, St.-Petersburg: Inform-Navigator.

7. AlShorman O, Ali T, Irfan M (2017) EEG Analysis for Pre-learning Stress in the Brain. In: Asian Simulation Conference. Springer, Singapore, 447–455.

8. Robotham D, Julian C (2006) Stress and the higher education student: a critical review of the literature. J Furth High Educ 30: 107–117.    

9. Strack J, Esteves F (2015) Exams? Why worry? Interpreting anxiety as facilitative and stress appraisals. Anxiety Stress Coping 28: 205–214.

10. Lewis RS, Weekes NY, Wang TH (2007) The effect of a naturalistic stressor on frontal EEG asymmetry, stress, and health. Biol Psychol 75: 239–247.    

11. Jena SK (2015) Examination stress and its effect on EEG. Int J Med Sci Pub Health 11: 1493–1497.

12. Weekes N, Lewis R, Patel F, et al. (2006) Examination stress as an ecological inducer of cortisol and psychological responses to stress in undergraduate students. Stress 9: 199–206.    

13. Hewig, J., Schlotz, W., Gerhards, F., et al. (2008) Associations of the cortisol awakening response (CAR) with cortical activation asymmetry during the course of an exam stress period. Psychoneuroendocrinology 33: 83–91.    

14. Wiet SG, Goldstein L (1979) Successful and unsuccessful university students: Quantitative hemispheric EEG differences. Biological Psychology 8: 273–284.    

15. Spangler, G., Pekrun, R., Kramer, K., et al. (2002) Students' emotions, physiological reactions, and coping in academic exams. Anxiety Stress Coping 15: 413–432.    

16. Pavlova LP (2015) Individuality of brain dominants as a problem of special education and pedagogy. In: Nadin, M. (ed.) Anticipation: Learning from the Past, Cham: Springer International Publishing, 471–491.

17. Pavlova LP, Romanenko AF (1988) A Systemic Approach to Psychophysiology of the Human Brain, Leningrad: Nauka, 1988.

18. Kotchoubey B, Tretter F, Braun HA (2016) Methodological problems on the way to integrative human neuroscience. Front Integr Neurosci 10: 1–19.

19. Krakauer, JW, Ghazanfar AA, Gomez-Marin A., et al. (2017) Neuroscience needs behavior: correcting a reductionist Bias. Neuron 93: 480–490.    

20. Fingelkurts AA, Fingelkurts AA (2010) Short-term EEG spectral pattern as a single event in EEG phenomenology. Open Neuroimaging J 4: 130–156.

21. Fingelkurts AA, Fingelkurts AA (2015) Operational architectonics methodology for EEG analysis: theory and results. In: Sakkalis V (ed.), Modern Electroencephalographic Assessment Techniques: Theory and Applications, New York: Humana Press, 1–59.

22. Comer CS, Harrison PK, Harrison DW (2015) The dynamic opponent relativity model: an integration and extension of capacity theory and existing theoretical perspectives on the neuropsychology of arousal and emotion. SpringerPlus 4: 345–366.    

23. Luria AR (1980) Higher Cortical Functions in Man, New York: Basic Books.

24. Rusinov VS (1973) The Dominant Focus: Electrophysiological Investigations, New York: Springer Science & Business Media.

25. Kurismaa A (2015) Perspectives on Time and Anticipation in the Theory of Dominance, In: Nadin, M. (ed.), Anticipation: Learning from the Past, Cham: Springer International Publishing, 37–57.

26. Kositskiy GI, Smirnov VM (1972) The Nervous System and Stress. The principle of Dominance in Pathology (Effect of Nonspecific Stimuli on Inhibition of Pathological Processes), Washington: National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Springfield, Va.

27. Kurismaa A, Pavlova LP (2016) The Dominant as a Model of Chronogenic Change: The Relevance of AA Ukhtomsky's and LS Vygotsky's Traditions for Systemic Cognitive Studies. In Krempe SR, Smith R (eds.), Centrality of History for Theory Construction in Psychology, Germany:Springer International Publishing, 125–149.

28. Kline JP, Blackhart GC, Williams WC (2007) Anterior EEG asymmetries and opponent process theory. Int J Psychophysiol 63: 302–307.    

29. Craig RL, Siegel PS (1979) Does negative affect beget positive affect? A test of the opponent-process theory. Bull Psycho Soc 14: 404–406.

30. Spangler G (1997) Psychological and physiological responses during an exam and their relation to personality characteristics. Psychoneuroendocrinology 22: 423–441.    

31. Chanel G (2009) Emotion Assessment for Affective Computing Based on Brain and Peripheral Signals. Doctoral dissertation, Geneva: University of Geneva., 2009.

32. Ilin YP (1975) "Operational calm" and the optimum regulation of human working capacity, In Essays on the Psychology of Operator Labor, Washington, D.C: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 226–251.

33. Jensen O, Mazaheri A (2010) Shaping functional architecture by oscillatory alpha activity: gating by inhibition. Fron Hum Neurosci 4: 1–8.

34. Klimesch W (2012) Alpha-band oscillations, attention, and controlled access to stored information, Trends Cognit Sci 16: 606–617.

35. Hanslmayr S, Staudigl T, Fellner MC (2012) Oscillatory power decreases and long-term memory: the information via desynchronization hypothesis. Front Hum Neurosci 6: 1–12.

36. Supp GG, Siegel M, Hipp JF, et al. (2011) Cortical hypersynchrony predicts breakdown of sensory processing during loss of consciousness. Curr Biol 21: 1988–1993.    

37. Pfurtscheller G, da Silva FHL (1999) Event-related EEG/MEG synchronization and desynchronization: basic principles. Clin Neurophysiol 110: 1842–1857.    

38. Neuper C, Pfurtscheller G (2001) Event-related dynamics of cortical rhythms: frequency-specific features and functional correlates. Int J Psychophysiol 43: 41–58.    

39. Neuper C, Wörtz M, Pfurtscheller G (2006) ERD/ERS patterns reflecting sensorimotor activation and deactivation. Prog Brain Res 159: 211–222.    

40. Sergeev GA, Pavlova LP, Romanenko AF (1968) Statistical Methods for Human Electroencephalogram Analysis, Leningrad: Nauka.

41. Doskin VA, Lavrent'eva NA, Strongina OM, et al. (1975) "SAN" psychological test applicable to studies in the field of work physiology. Gig Tr Prof Zabol 28–32.

42. Dayan AV, Ogannisyan AO, Gevorkyan ES, et al. (2003) Reaction of cardiac activity of senior pupils of schools providing differentiated education upon examination stress. Hum Physiol 29: 160–165.    

43. Wagner EE (1983) The Hand Test: Manual, Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.

44. Demaree HA, Everhart DE, Youngstrom EA, et al. (2005) Brain lateralization of emotional processing: historical roots and a future incorporating "dominance". Behav Cognit Neurosci Rev 4: 3–20.    

45. Davidson RJ (2004) What does the prefrontal cortex "do" in affect: perspectives on frontal EEG asymmetry research. Biol Psychol 67: 219–234.    

46. Kelley NJ, Hortensius R, Schutter DJ, et al. (2017) The relationship of approach/avoidance motivation and asymmetric frontal cortical activity: A review of studies manipulating frontal asymmetry. Int J Psychophysiol 119: 19–30.    

47. Groenewegen HJ, Uylings HB (2000) The prefrontal cortex and the integration of sensory, limbic and autonomic information. Prog Brain Res 126: 3–28.    

48. Sarter M, Givens B, Bruno JP (2001) The cognitive neuroscience of sustained attention: where top-down meets bottom-up. Brain Res Rev 35: 146–160.    

49. Schulkin J (2004) Allostasis, Homeostasis, and the Costs of Physiological Adaptation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

50. Sterling P (2012) Allostasis: a model of predictive regulation. Physiol Behav 106: 5–15.    

51. Schulkin J (2003) Allostasis: a neural behavioral perspective. Horm Behav 43: 21–27.    

52. Strack J, Lopes PN, Esteves F (2015) Will you thrive under pressure or burn out? Linking anxiety motivation and emotional exhaustion. Cognition Emotion 29: 578–591.

53. McGonigal K (2016) The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at it. New York: Penguin.

54. Gilbert DG, Stunkard ME, Jensen RA, et al. (1996) Effects of exam stress on mood, cortisol, and immune functioning: Influences of neuroticism and smoker-non-smoker status. Personal Individ Differences 21: 235–246.    

55. Mega C, Ronconi L, De Beni R (2014) What makes a good student? How emotions, self-regulated learning, and motivation contribute to academic achievement. J Edu Psychol 106: 121.

56. Pekrun R, Goetz T, Titz W, et al. (2002) Academic emotions in students' self-regulated learning and achievement: A program of qualitative and quantitative research. Edu Psychol 37: 91–105.    

57. Koob GF, Le Moal M (2004) Drug addiction and allostasis. Allostasis, Homeostasis, and the Costs Physiolog Adaptation: 150–163.

58. Ekkekakis P, Hall EE, Petruzzello SJ (2005). Variation and homogeneity in affective responses to physical activity of varying intensities: an alternative perspective on dose–response based on evolutionary considerations. J Sports Sci 23: 477–500.    

59. Woo M, Kim S, Kim J, et al. (2010) The influence of exercise intensity on frontal electroencephalographic asymmetry and self-reported affect. Res Q Exerc Sport 81: 349–359.    

60. Woo M, Kim S, Kim J, et al. (2009) Examining the exercise-affect dose–response relationship: Does duration influence frontal EEG asymmetry? Int J Psychophysiol 72: 166–172.    

61. Regehr C, Glancy D, Pitts A (2013) Interventions to reduce stress in university students: A review and meta-analysis. J Affec Disord 148: 1–11.    

62. Flatt AK (2013) A Suffering Generation: Six Factors Contributing to the Mental Health Crisis in North American Higher Education. Coll Q 16: 1–17.

63. Beiter R, Nash R, McCrady M, et al. (2015) The prevalence and correlates of depression, anxiety, and stress in a sample of college students. J Affect Disord 173: 90–96.    

64. Loprinzi PD, Herod SM, Cardinal BJ (2013) Physical activity and the brain: a review of this dynamic, bi-directional relationship. Brain Res 1539: 95–104.    

65. Heijnen S, Hommel B, Kibele A, et al. (2016) Neuromodulation of aerobic exercise-a review. Front Psychol 6: 1890-1896.

66. Hanslmayr S, Sauseng P, Doppelmayr M (2005) Increasing individual upper alpha power by neurofeedback improves cognitive performance in human subjects. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 30: 1–10.    

67. Gruzelier JH (2014) EEG-neurofeedback for optimising performance: A review of cognitive and affective outcome in healthy participants. Neurosci Biobehav Revi 44: 124–141.    

68. Ratanasiripong P, Sverduk K, Prince J, et al. (2012) Biofeedback and counseling for stress and anxiety among college students. J Coll Stud Dev 53: 742–749.    

69. Astafurov VI, Pavlova LP (1981) Some features of alpha-activity self-control through visual feedback. All-Russian Inst Sci Tech Inf: 4214–4281.

70. Molenaar PC (2007) Psychological methodology will change profoundly due to the necessity to focus on intra-individual variation. Integrative Psychol Behav Sci 41: 35–40.    

71. de Jong T, Van Gog T, Jenks K, et al. (2009) Explorations in Learning and the Brain: On the Potential of Cognitive Neuroscience for Educational Science. New York: Springer Science & Business Media.

72. Stein Z, Fischer KW (2011) Directions for mind, brain, and education: Methods, models, and morality. Edu Philos Theory 43: 56–66.    

73. de-Wit L, Alexander D, Ekroll V, et al. (2016) Is neuroimaging measuring information in the brain? Psychon Bull Rev 23: 1415–1429.    

74. Barry RJ, Clarke AR, Johnstone SJ (2007) EEG differences between eyes-closed and eyes-open resting conditions. Clin Neurophysiol 118: 2765–2773.    

75. Whitham EM, Pope KJ, Fitzgibbon SP (2007) Scalp electrical recording during paralysis: quantitative evidence that EEG frequencies above 20Hz are contaminated by EMG. Clin Neurophysiol 118: 1877–1888.    

76. Corning HK (1946) Lehrbuch der Topographischen Anatomie. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer.

77. Mattson MP, Calabrese EJ (2014) Hormesis. A Revolution in Biology, Toxicology and Medicine. The United States: Humana Press.

78. Nasonov DN (1962) Local Reaction of Protoplasm and Gradual Excitation. Washington D.C: National Science Foundation.

79. Matveev VV (2005) Protoreaction of protoplasm. Cell Mol Biol 51: 715–723.

80. Agutter PS (2007) Cell mechanics and stress: from molecular details to the 'universal cell reaction' and hormesis. BioEssays 29: 324–333.    

81. Agutter PS (2008) Elucidating the mechanism (s) of hormesis at the cellular level: the universal cell response. Am J Pharmacol Toxicol 3: 100–110.    

82. Mattson MP (2008) Awareness of hormesis will enhance future research in basic and applied neuroscience. Crit Rev Toxicol 38: 633–639.    

83. Calabrese EJ (2008) Neuroscience and hormesis: overview and general findings. Crit Rev Toxicol 38: 249–252.    

84. Daw ND, Kakade S, Dayan P (2002) Opponent interactions between serotonin and dopamine. Neural Networks 15: 603–616.    

85. Boureau YL, Dayan P (2011) Opponency revisited: competition and cooperation between dopamine and serotonin. Neuropsychopharmacology 36: 74–97.    

86. Tsitolovsky LE (2015) Endogenous Generation of Goals and Homeostasis. In: Anticipation: Learning from the Past , Cham: Springer International Publishing, 175–191.

87. Viru A (2002) Early contributions of Russian stress and exercise physiologists. J Appl Physiol 92: 1378–1382.    

88. Pavlova LP (2015) Work capacity and anticipation in AA Ukhtomsky's concept of dominance. Int J General Syst 44: 667–685.    

© 2018 the Author(s), licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Download full text in PDF

Export Citation

Article outline

Show full outline
Copyright © AIMS Press All Rights Reserved