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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2010) 22 (12): 2864–2885.
Published: 01 December 2010
AbstractView article PDF
What is the basic structure of emotional experience and how is it represented in the human brain? One highly influential theory, discrete basic emotions, proposes a limited set of basic emotions such as happiness and fear, which are characterized by unique physiological and neural profiles. Although many studies using diverse methods have linked particular brain structures with specific basic emotions, evidence from individual neuroimaging studies and from neuroimaging meta-analyses has been inconclusive regarding whether basic emotions are associated with both consistent and discriminable regional brain activations. We revisited this question, using activation likelihood estimation (ALE), which allows spatially sensitive, voxelwise statistical comparison of results from multiple studies. In addition, we examined substantially more studies than previous meta-analyses. The ALE meta-analysis yielded results consistent with basic emotion theory. Each of the emotions examined (fear, anger, disgust, sadness, and happiness) was characterized by consistent neural correlates across studies, as defined by reliable correlations with regional brain activations. In addition, the activation patterns associated with each emotion were discrete (discriminable from the other emotions in pairwise contrasts) and overlapped substantially with structure–function correspondences identified using other approaches, providing converging evidence that discrete basic emotions have consistent and discriminable neural correlates. Complementing prior studies that have demonstrated neural correlates for the affective dimensions of arousal and valence, the current meta-analysis results indicate that the key elements of basic emotion views are reflected in neural correlates identified by neuroimaging studies.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2007) 19 (5): 776–798.
Published: 01 May 2007
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The ability to cope adaptively with emotional events by volitionally altering one's emotional reactions is important for psychological and physical health as well as social interaction. Cognitive regulation of emotional responses to aversive events engages prefrontal regions that modulate activity in emotion-processing regions such as the amygdala. However, the neural correlates of the regulation of positive emotions remain largely unexplored. We used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the neural correlates of cognitively increasing and decreasing emotional reactions to positive and negative stimuli. Participants viewed negative, positive, and neutral pictures while attempting to increase, decrease, or not alter their emotional reactions. Subjective reactions were assessed via on-line ratings. Consistent with previous studies, increasing negative and positive emotion engaged primarily left-lateralized prefrontal regions, whereas decreasing emotion activated bilateral prefrontal regions. Different activations unique to increasing versus decreasing emotion were observed for positive and negative stimuli: Unique increase-related activations were observed only for positive stimuli, whereas unique decrease-related activations were observed only for negative stimuli. Regulation also modulated activity in the amygdala, a key emotion-processing region. Regulation effects on amygdala activity were larger for positive than for negative stimuli, potentially reflecting a greater malleability of positive emotional reactions. Increasing and decreasing positive and negative emotion can thus increase and decrease subjective reactions and associated amygdala activity in line with regulatory goals, and is associated with different patterns of prefrontal activation as a function of emotional valence and regulatory goal.
Neural Bases of Motivated Reasoning: An fMRI Study of Emotional Constraints on Partisan Political Judgment in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2006) 18 (11): 1947–1958.
Published: 01 November 2006
AbstractView article PDF
Research on political judgment and decision-making has converged with decades of research in clinical and social psychology suggesting the ubiquity of emotion-biased motivated reasoning. Motivated reasoning is a form of implicit emotion regulation in which the brain converges on judgments that minimize negative and maximize positive affect states associated with threat to or attainment of motives. To what extent motivated reasoning engages neural circuits involved in “cold” reasoning and conscious emotion regulation (e.g., suppression) is, however, unknown. We used functional neuroimaging to study the neural responses of 30 committed partisans during the U.S. Presidential election of 2004. We presented subjects with reasoning tasks involving judgments about information threatening to their own candidate, the opposing candidate, or neutral control targets. Motivated reasoning was associated with activations of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, insular cortex, and lateral orbital cortex. As predicted, motivated reasoning was not associated with neural activity in regions previously linked to cold reasoning tasks and conscious (explicit) emotion regulation. The findings provide the first neuroimaging evidence for phenomena variously described as motivated reasoning, implicit emotion regulation, and psychological defense. They suggest that motivated reasoning is qualitatively distinct from reasoning when people do not have a strong emotional stake in the conclusions reached.