Article

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: 4.69). 11/2009; 22(12):2864-85. DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21366
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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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    • "Though other recent studies have shown basic emotion views are represented in neural correlates. The mappings are not one-to-one, however, but rather complex distributed networks (Vytal and Hamann, 2010; Hamann, 2012). A newer theory describes dynamical discrete emotions and attempts to address the variability and context-sensitivity of emotions (Colombetti, 2009). "
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    • "Despite the prevalence of basic emotions theory in the latter half of the 20th century, evidence for within-category consistency and specificity is lacking. There are low correlations between measurements of experience, physiology, facial expressions, and behavior for a given emotion (Barrett, 2006; Barrett, Mesquita, Oschner, & Gross, 2007; Mauss, Levenson, McCarter, Wilhelm, & Gross, 2005), and little evidence for specific physiological (Cacioppo, Berntson, Larsen, Poehlmann, & Ito, 2000; Kreibig, 2010; Mauss & Robinson, 2009) or neural signatures (Kassam, Markey, Cherkassky, Loewenstein, & Just, 2013; Kober et al., 2008; Lindquist, Wager, Kober, Bliss-Moreau, & Barrett, 2012; Vytal & Hamann, 2010) across different emotions. Similarly, it is not clear whether different emotions have unique effects on judgment (Lindquist, Siegel, et al., 2013) or whether " prototypical " facial emotion expressions are perceived universally across contexts (Barrett, Mesquita, & Gendron, 2011; Lindquist & Gendron, 2013; Lindquist et al., in press; J. A. Russell, Bachorowski, & Fernández-Dols, 2003). "
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    • "Although some studies reported anatomical specificity in support of discrete (Fusar-Poli et al., 2009; Tettamanti et al., 2012; Vytal & Hamann, 2010) or dimensional (Anderson et al., 2003; Zald, 2003) accounts (see Figure 1), distributed and overlapping activations are generally found (Kober et al., 2008; Murphy et al., 2003; Phan et al., 2002), with part of the apparent specificity perhaps reflecting stimulus properties rather than emotional processes (Sabatinelli et al., 2011). While these data argue against a simple one-to-one mapping between specific emotions and individual brain regions, it remains possible that particular emotions or dimensions are implemented in separate neuronal circuits at a finer level of organization. "
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