Neuroimaging Support for Discrete Neural Correlates of Basic Emotions: A Voxel-based Meta-analysis

Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 4.09). 11/2009; 22(12):2864-85. DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21366
Source: PubMed


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.

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Available from: Katherine Vytal, Oct 10, 2015
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    • "We argue that paradigms in which participants are instructed to reinterpret a stimulus " top-down " are in fact evoking a reconceptualization of the sensory information present in that particular situation. Moreover, regions involved in emotion regulation (Buhle et al. 2013; Diekhof et al. 2011) are also commonly involved during emotion experience (Lindquist et al. 2012; Vytal & Hamann, 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Negative stimuli do not only evoke fear or disgust, but can also evoke a state of "morbid fascination" which is an urge to approach and explore a negative stimulus. In the present neuroimaging study, we applied an innovative method to investigate the neural systems involved in typical and atypical conceptualizations of negative images. Participants received false feedback labeling their mental experience as fear, disgust or morbid fascination. This manipulation was successful; participants judged the false feedback correct for 70% of the trials on average. The neuroimaging results demonstrated differential activity within regions in the 'neural reference space for discrete emotion' depending on the type of feedback. We found robust differences in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex comparing morbid fascination to control feedback. More subtle differences in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex were also found between morbid fascination feedback and the other emotion feedback conditions. The present study is the first to forward evidence about the neural representation of the experimentally unexplored state of morbid fascination. In line with a constructionist framework, our findings suggest that neural resources associated with the process of conceptualization contribute to the neural representation of this state. © The Author (2015). Published by Oxford University Press. For Permissions, please email:
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    • "For the central nervous system, several neuroanatomical structures are known to be involved in the processing of affective information, such as amygdala and the limbic system, orbitofrontal and medial-prefrontal cortices (see Barrett et al., 2007). Despite the long-standing debate about their specific involvement (with constructivists (Lindquist and Barrett, 2012) versus localist (Vytal and Hamann, 2010) positions as extreme poles), there is a long line of research showing the accessibility of affective states from neurophysiological measurements. Especially for electroencephalography (EEG), measuring the electrical potentials from the brain, several characteristics of brain activity have been found sensitive to emotional stimulation and states. "
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    • "valence and arousal [9] [10] [11]. The findings suggest that specific neural correlates for these key elements of basic emotions do exist and can be identified by neuroimaging techniques [12]. Electroencephalogram (EEG) represents one of the modalities frequently applied for emotion recognition in recent studies. "
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