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It remains unclear how the brain represents external objective sensory events alongside our internal subjective impressions of them-affect. Representational mapping of population activity evoked by complex scenes and basic tastes in humans revealed a neural code supporting a continuous axis of pleasant-to-unpleasant valence. This valence code was distinct from low-level physical and high-level object properties. Although ventral temporal and anterior insular cortices supported valence codes specific to vision and taste, both the medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortices (OFC) maintained a valence code independent of sensory origin. Furthermore, only the OFC code could classify experienced affect across participants. The entire valence spectrum was represented as a collective pattern in regional neural activity as sensory-specific and abstract codes, whereby the subjective quality of affect can be objectively quantified across stimuli, modalities and people.
Population coding of visual, object and affect properties of visual scenes. (a) Correlations of activation patterns across trials were rank-ordered within a participant. In the ideal representation similarity matrix (RSM), trials with similar features (for example, matching valence) demonstrate higher correlations along the diagonal than those with dissimilar features on the off-diagonal. (b) After regressing out other properties and effects of no interest, residual correlations were sorted on the basis of visual features (13 × 13), animacy (13 × 13) or valence (13 × 13) properties, and then separately examined in the EVC, VTC and OFC. Correlation ranks were averaged for each cell, providing visual (13 × 13), animacy (13 × 13) and valence RSMs (13 × 13). Higher correlations were observed along the main diagonal in the visual RSM in the EVC, animacy RSM in the VTC and valence RSM in the OFC. (c) Correlation ranks in the EVC, VTC and OFC were subject to GLM with differences in visual (left), animacy (middle) and valence (right) features as linear predictors. GLM coefficients (DCI) represent to what extent correlations were predicted by the property types. For visual-features DCI, we used t test (EVC: t15 = 6.7, P = 0.00003; VTC: t15 = 8.5, P = 0.000002; OFC: t15 = 0.8, P = 1) and paired t test (EVC versus VTC: t15 = 0.8, P = 1; EVC versus OFC: t15 = 4.2, P = 0.008; VTC versus OFC: t15 = 4.4, P = 0.005). For animacy DCI, we used t test (EVC: t15 = 3.6, P = 0.01; VTC: t15 = 10.3, P = 1.5 × 10−7; OFC: t15 = 3.9, P = 0.006) and paired t test (EVC versus VTC: t15 = −9.0, P = 1.7 × 10−6; EVC versus OFC: t15 = −1.0, P = 1; VTC versus OFC: t15 = 11.3, P = 9.2 × 10−8). For valence DCI, we used t test (EVC: t15 = 2.5, P = 0.11; VTC: t15 = 5.0, P = 0.0008; OFC: t15 = 7.6, P = 7.7 × 10−6) and paired t test (EVC versus VTC: t15 = 1.8, P = 0.81; EVC versus OFC: t15 = −4.2, P = 0.007; VTC versus OFC: t15 = −4.8, P = 0.002). t tests in a region were one-tailed and paired t tests were two-tailed. n = 16 participants. Error bars represent s.e.m. ***P < 0.001, **P < 0.01, *P < 0.05, Bonferroni corrected.
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© 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
a r t I C l e S
Even when we observe exactly the same object, subjective experience
of that object often varies considerably among individuals, allow-
ing us to form unique impressions of the sensory world around us.
Wilhelm Wundt appropriately referred to these aspects of perception
that are inherently the most subjective as ‘affect’1: the way sensory
events affect us. Beyond basic sensory processing and object recogni-
tion, Wundt argued, the most pervasive aspect of human experience
is this internal affective coloring of external sensory events. Despite
its prominence in human experience, little is known about how the
brain represents the affective coloring of perceptual experience com-
pared with the rich neural characterizations of our other perceptual
representations, such as the somatosensory system2, semantics3, and
visual features and categories4–6.
Much of what we glean from external objects is not directly available
on the sensory surface. The brain may transform sensory representa-
tions into higher order object representations (for example, animate,
edible, dangerous, etc.)7. The traditional approach to understanding
how the brain represents these abstractions has been to investigate
the magnitude of activity of specialized neurons or brain regions8,9.
An alternative approach treats neural populations in a region of
cortex as supporting dimensions of higher order object representa-
tions according to their similarity in an abstract feature space6,10 .
Measuring these patterns of neuronal activity has been made possible
by advances in multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA)11,12. For example,
MVPA of human blood oxygen level–dependent (BOLD) response to
visual objects has revealed that low-level feature dimensions can be
decoded on the basis of topographic structure in the early visual cor-
tices12–14 (but see ref. 15). In addition, high-level object dimensions,
such as object categories4 or animacy16, have been revealed in the
distributed population codes of the ventral temporal cortex (VTC).
Although pattern classifier decoding4,17 is sensitive to informa-
tion encoded combinatorially in fine-grained patterns of activity, it
typically focuses on binary distinctions to indicate whether a region
contains information about stimulus type (for example, face ver-
sus chair). By contrast, representational mapping further affords an
examination of the space in which information is represented in a
region (for example, how specific faces are related to each other)10.
By characterizing the representational geometry of regional activity
patterns, representational mapping reveals not only where and what,
but also how information is represented. Representational mapping
emphasizes the relationships between stimulus or experiential prop-
erties and their distances in high-dimensional space defined by the
collective patterns of voxel activity6,10. For example, although population
activity in the primary visual cortex can discriminate distinct colors, the
representational geometry in extrastriate region V4 captures the distances
between colors as they relate to perceptual experience18.
We asked how external events come to be represented as internal
subjective affect compared with other lower level physical and higher
level categorical properties. Supporting Wundt’s assertion of affect as
central to perceptual experience, surveys across dozens of cultures19
have shown the primary dimension capturing the characterization of
the world’s varied contents is the evaluation of their goodness-badness,
which is often referred to as valence20. We examined whether
collective patterns of activity in the human brain support a continuous
dimension of positive-to-negative valence, and where in the neural
hierarchy this dimension is represented. Similarity-dissimilarity in
subjective valence experience would then correspond to population
level activity across stimuli, with representational geometry of activ-
ity patterns indicating that extreme positive and negative valence are
furthest apart.
It has been traditionally thought that affect is not only represented
separately from the perceptual cortices, which represent the sensor y
and perceptual properties of objects21, but also in distinct affective
zones for positive and negative valence22–24. Lesion and neuroimaging
1Human Neuroscience Institute, Department of Human Development, College of Human Ecology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA. 2Department of
Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 3Medical Research Council, Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK. Correspondence should
be addressed to J.C. ( or A.K.A. (
Received 19 January; accepted 23 May; published online 22 June 2014; doi:10.1038/nn.3749
Population coding of affect across stimuli, modalities
and individuals
Junichi Chikazoe1, Daniel H Lee2, Nikolaus Kriegeskorte3 & Adam K Anderson1,2
It remains unclear how the brain represents external objective sensory events alongside our internal subjective impressions of
them—affect. Representational mapping of population activity evoked by complex scenes and basic tastes in humans
revealed a neural code supporting a continuous axis of pleasant-to-unpleasant valence. This valence code was distinct from
low-level physical and high-level object properties. Although ventral temporal and anterior insular cortices supported valence
codes specific to vision and taste, both the medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortices (OFC) maintained a valence code independent
of sensory origin. Furthermore, only the OFC code could classify experienced affect across participants. The entire valence
spectrum was represented as a collective pattern in regional neural activity as sensory-specific and abstract codes, whereby the
subjective quality of affect can be objectively quantified across stimuli, modalities and people.
© 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
a r t I C l e S
studies of affective processes suggest a central role for the OFC25, with
evidence pointing to the lateral and medial OFC regions for affective
representations of visual26, gustatory24 and olfactory stimuli22,2 7,28.
Increasing activity in the medial OFC and adjacent ventromedial pre-
frontal cortices have been associated with goal value, reward expect-
ancy, outcome values and experienced positive valence23,29, and may
support ‘core affect’30. However, meta-analyses of neuroimaging stud-
ies have uncovered substantial regional overlap between positive and
negative valence31. In conjunction with evidence against distinct basic
emotions30, localizing distinct varieties of emotional experience has
been a great challenge31. Potentially undermining simple regional
distinctions in valence, recent monkey electrophysiological studies32
have reported that valence-coding neurons with different proper-
ties (that is, neurons coding positivity, negativity, and both positivity
and negativity) are anatomically interspersed in Walker’s area 13, the
homolog of human OFC. Thus, exploring distinct regions that code
for positive and negative valence may not be fruitful, as the inter-
spersed structure of the aversive and appetitive neurons, at the scale
of cortical regions, respond equivocally and confound traditional
univariate functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis
methods. With a voxel-level neuronal bias, multivoxel patterns can
reveal whether the representational geometry of valence is captured
by distance in high-dimensional neural space.
The notion that affect is largely represented outside the perceptual
cortices21–27 has also not been tested with rigor. Average regional
neural activity may miss the information contained in population
level response in the perceptual cortices themselves. Rather than
depending on distinct representations, affect may be manifest in the
same regions that support sensory and object processing. Although
posterior cortical regions are often modulated by affect, it remains
unclear whether valence is coded in the perceptual cortices or whether
perceptual representations are merely amplified by it33. Examining the
representational geometry of population codes can address whether
affect overlaps with other modality-specific stimulus representations
that support basic visual features or object category membership.
If population codes reveal that valence is embodied in modality-specific
neuronal activity33, then this would provide direct support for
Wundt’s observations that affect is a dimension central to perceptual
A modality-specific conception of affective experience may suggest
that affect is not commonly coded across events originating from
distinct modalities. This would allow valence from distinct stimuli
and modalities to be objectively quantified and then compared. It
is presently unknown whether the displeasure evoked by the sight
of a rotting carcass and the taste of spoiled wine are at some level
supported by a common neural code. Although fMRI studies have
shown overlapping neural responses in the OFC related to distinct
modalities34, overlapping average activity is not necessarily diagnostic
of engagement of the same representations. Fine-grained patterns
of activity with these regions may be distinct, indicating that the
underlying representations are modality specific, although appearing
colocalized given the spatial limits of fMRI. This leaves unanswered
whether there is a common neural affect code across stimuli origi-
nating from distinct modalities, whether evoked by distal photons
or proximal molecules. If valence is represented supramodally, then,
at an even more abstract level, we may ask whether the representa-
tion of affect demonstrates correspondence across people, affording a
common reference frame across brains. This would provide evidence
that even the most subjective aspect of an individual’s experience, its
internal affective coloring, can be predicted on the basis of the pat-
terns observed in other brains, similar to what has been found for
external object properties35,36.
To answer these questions of how affect is represented in the human
brain, we first examined whether population vectors in response to
complex visual scenes support a continuous representation of experi-
enced valence and their relation to objective low-level visual proper-
ties (for example, luminance, visual salience) and higher order object
properties (animacy) in the early visual cortex (EVC), VTC and OFC.
We then examined whether the representation of affect to complex
visual scenes was shared with basic gustatory stimuli, supporting a
valence coordinate space common to objects stimulating the eye or
the tongue. Lastly, we examined whether an individual’s subjective
affect codes corresponds to that observed in the brains of others.
Visual feature, object and affect representations of complex
visual scenes
To investigate how object information and affective experience of
complex visual stimuli are represented in the human brain, we pre-
sented 128 unique visual scenes to 16 participants during fMRI. After
each picture presentation (3 s), participants rated their subjective
affect on separate positivity and negativity scales (1–7, least to most).
We examined the similarity of activation patterns as related to three
distinct properties, each increasing in degree of abstraction: low-
level visual features, object animacy and subjective affect (Online
Methods and Supplementary Fig. 1). Consistent with their substantial
independence, visual feature, animacy and valence scores were
largely uncorrelated, sharing 0.2% (visual features and animacy, all
R2 = 0.002), 1.0% (visual features and valence, all R2 0.022) and 2.3%
(animacy and valence) of variance (all R2 0.057; n = 128 trials). This
orthogonality allowed us to examine whether distinct or similar codes
support visual feature, object and affect representations.
Prior to multivariate analyses, we conducted a univariate parametric
modulation analysis to test the monkey electrophysiological findings
x = –2
y = 50
Activity magnitude
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Figure 1 Parametric modulation analysis
(univariate) for independent ratings of
positive and negative valence. (a) Activation
map of sensitivity to positive valence, negative
valence and both. Yellow indicates voxels
sensitive to positive valence (P < 0.001 for
positive, P > 0.05 for negative), blue indicates
voxels sensitive to negative valence (P < 0.001
for negative, P > 0.05 for positive) and green
indicates the conjunction of positive and negative
valence (P < 0.031 for positive, P < 0.031 for negative). (b) Mean activity in vmPFC and medial OFC increased along with increases in both positive
and negative valence scores. Yellow lines indicate signals of the peak voxel (x = −8, y = 42, z = −12, t15 = 8.7, P = 0.0000003, FDR 0.05) maximally
sensitive to positive valence. Blue lines indicate signals of the peak voxel (x = −8, y = 52, z = −8, t15 = 6.8, P = 0.000006, FDR 0.05) maximally
sensitive to negative valence. Dotted lines indicate signal for opposite valence (that is, negative valence in the peak positive voxel, and positive valence
in the peak negative voxel). n = 16 participants. Error bars represent s.e.m.
© 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
a r t I C l e S
of bivalent neuronal coding32. When using positivity and negativity
ratings as independent parameters, a large majority of the valence-
sensitive regions in the medial and lateral OFC were responsive to
both positivity and negativity (75.7%; positivity only, 17.1%; negativity
only, 7.2%; Fig. 1a). Specifically, we found that the medial OFC and
more dorsal regions in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC),
areas typically associated with value coding and positive valence23,29,
exhibited parallel linear increases in activation with increasing rat-
ings of both negative and positive valence (Fig. 1b). The peak voxel
(x = −8, y = 42, z = −12, t15 = 8.7, false discovery rate (FDR) 0.05)
activity, which was maximally sensitive to positive valence also lin-
early increased with negative valence, whereas the peak voxel (x = −8,
y = 52, z = −8, t15 = 6.8, FDR 0.05) activity, which was maximally
sensitive to negative valence, also linearly increased with negative
valence. These responses may reflect a common underlying arousal
coding and therefore contain little diagnostic information about
experienced valence. Alternatively, this univariate activity may reflect
coding of both positive and negative valence37, which is equivocal
at voxel signal resolution, consistent with the interspersed structure
of the aversive and appetitive neurons, as obser ved in the monkey
OFC32. Representational mapping of population level responses10 may
address this ambiguity. Given that positive and negative valence were
experienced as experientially distant (average r = −0.53), if the brain
supports a valence code, then increasing dissimilarity in valence expe-
rience would be supported by increasing dissimilarity in population
activity patterns, despite their similarity in univariate magnitude.
We used representational similarity analysis6,10, a method for
uncovering representational properties underlying multivariate data.
We first modeled each trial as a separate event, and then examined
multivoxel brain activation patterns in broad, anatomically defined
regions of interest (ROIs) across different levels of the neural hierarchy,
including EVC, VTC and OFC (Fig. 2a). To assess how informa-
tion was represented in each region, we constructed representational
similarity matrices6 from the correlation coefficients of the activation
patterns between trials for all picture combinations (128 × 127 / 2)
separately in the EVC, VTC and OFC. To the degree that activity pat-
terns corresponded to specific property, relations among pictures pro-
vide a mapping of the representational contents of each region. These
similarity matrices were submitted to multidimensional scaling (MDS)
for visualization. This assessment revealed response patterns organized
maximally by gradations of low-level visual features in the EVC (r = 0.38,
P = 0.00001), object animacy in the VTC (r = 0.73, P = 7.7 × 10−23) and
valence in the OFC (r = 0.46, P = 0.00000005) (n = 128 trials; Fig. 2b and
Supplementary Fig. 2), with all MDS analyses reaching fair levels of fit
(Stress-I; EVC, 0.2043; VTC, 0.2230; OFC, 0.2912; stress values denote
how well the MDS fits the measured distances).
Property-region associations were further examined by converting
each regions representational similarity matrix, which relate trial rep-
resentations, into property representational similarity matrices, which
relate property representations of visual feature, animacy or valence.
For example, a valence representational similarity matrix was created by
sorting the trial-based representational similarity matrix (128 × 127 /2)
into 13 × 13 valence bins (Fig. 3 and Supplementary Figs. 3 and 4).
As such, representational similarity matrices were sorted according to
distinct stimulus properties, allowing us to visualize a representation
map of each region according to each property. As presented in an ideal
representational similarity matrix (Fig. 3a), if activity patterns across
pictures correspond to a property, then we would expect higher cor-
relations along the main diagonal. Higher correlations were observed
along the main diagonal for visual features in the EVC, animacy in the
VTC and valence in the OFC (Fig. 3b and Supplementary Fig. 5).
To statistically test the validity of these representational maps, we used
a general linear model (GLM) decomposition of the representational
similarity matrices (Online Methods and Supplementary Fig. 3) to
derive a distance correspondence index (DCI): a measure of how well
distance (dissimilarity) in neural activation pattern space corresponds
to distance in the distinct property spaces. The DCI for visual feature,
animacy and valence from each region were computed for each partici-
pant and submitted to one-sample t tests. This revealed representation
maps of distinct kinds of property distance, increasing in abstrac-
tion from physical features to object categories to subjective affect
along a posterior-to-anterior neural axis (Fig. 3b,c, Supplementary
Fig. 5 and Supplementary Table 1). Valence distance was maximally
coded in the OFC (t15 = 7.6, P = 0.000008), to a lesser degree in the
VTC (t15 = 5.0, P = 0.0008) and not reliably in the EVC (t15 = 2.5,
P = 0.11) (all Bonferroni corrected). A two-way repeated-measures
ANOVA revealed a highly significant interaction (F1.9, 28.8 = 69.5,
P = 4.5 × 10−9, Greenhouse-Geisser correction applied) between
regions (EVC, VTC, OFC) and property type (visual feature, animacy,
valence). These results indicate that visual scenes differing in objec-
tive visual features and object animacy, but evoking similar subjective
affect, resulted in similar representation in the OFC. In these activ-
ity pattern analyses, mean activity in a region was removed and the
activity magnitude of each voxel was normalized by subtracting mean
values across trials; thus, mean activity could not account for the
observed representation mapping. However, to further test whether
valence representations were driven by regions that only differed in
activity magnitude, we reran these analyses in each ROI after removing
voxels showing significant main effects of valence in activity under a
liberal threshold (P < 0.05, uncorrected). Even after this removal, very
similar results were obtained (Supplementary Table 1).
These results suggest that distributed activation patterns across
broad swaths of cortex can support affect coding distinct from
other object properties. To investigate whether distinct or over-
lapping subregions in the EVC, VTC and OFC support visual
aEVC Visual features
Low High
Inanimate Animate
OFC Valence
Negative Positive
ii iii iv v
iii iii iv v
iii iii iv v
ii iii iv v
i ii iii iv v
i ii iii iv v
Figure 2 Representational geometry of multi-voxel activity patterns in
EVC, VTC and OFC. (a) ROIs were determined on the basis of anatomical
gray matter masks. (b) The 128 visual scene stimuli were arranged using
MDS such that pairwise distances reflected neural response-pattern
similarity. Color code indicates feature magnitude scores for low-level
visual features in EVC (top), animacy in VTC (middle) and subjective
valence in OFC (bottom) for the same stimuli. Examples i, ii, iii, iv and
v traverse the primary dimension in each feature space, with pictures
illustrating visual features (for example, luminance) (top), animacy
(middle) and valence (bottom).
© 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
a r t I C l e S
feature, object and affect codes, as well as the contribution of
other brain regions, we conducted a cubic searchlight analysis38.
In a given cube, correlations across trials were calculated and were
subjected to the same GLM decomposition used above to compute
DCIs (Supplementary Fig. 3). This revealed a similar posterior-to-
anterior pattern of increasing affective subjectivity and abstraction
from physical features. Visual features were maximally represented
primarily in the EVC and moderately in the VTC, object animacy
was maximally represented in the VTC, and affect was maximally
represented in the vmPFC, including the medial OFC, and the lateral
OFC, and moderately represented in ventral and anterior temporal
regions including the temporal pole (Fig. 4a,b, Supplementary Fig. 6
and Supplementary Tables 2 and 3). These results indicate that object
and affect representations are not only represented as distributed acti-
vation patterns across large areas of cortex, but are also represented as
distinct region-specific population codes (that is, in a 1-cm3 cube).
To further examine what pattern-based affect coding uniquely
codes, we tested whether differences in mean activity magnitude
across trials could code valence information in the regions defined
by the above searchlight (that is, the medial OFC and vmPFC and
lateral OFC). To test whether mean activity magnitude is capable of
discrimination of valence representations, we applied the same GLM
decomposing procedure to mean activity magnitude instead of activa-
tion patterns. Here, similarity-dissimilarity of neural activation was
defined by difference in mean activity magnitude in the region. The
medial OFC and vmPFC showed a linear increase in activation, with
increases in both positive and negative valence from neutral (Fig. 4c).
The mean-based GLM decomposition analysis revealed a lack of
valence specificity in mean magnitude (t15 = 1.1, P = 0.13; Fig. 4d),
whereas a pattern-based approach showed a clear separation of valence,
with positive and negative valence lying on opposite ends of a con-
tinuum (t15 = 4.2, P = 0.0004; Fig. 4e). By contrast, the lateral OFC did
not demonstrate a relationship between mean activation and positive
or negative valence (Fig. 4f), confirmed by a mean activity–based
GLM decomposition analysis (t15 = 0.5, P = 0.30; Fig. 4g), whereas
a pattern-based approach still yielded a clear separation of valence
(t15 = 3.9, P = 0.0007; Fig. 4h). These results not only explain why
pattern analysis is required for representational mapping of affect,
but also further indicate importance of discriminating arousal and
valence coding39. That is, even when regional univariate activity
showed similar responses to both positive and negative valence, it
may not be diagnostic of arousal coding, but rather may reveal coding
of both positive and negative valence (Fig. 4d,e,g,h).
Common and distinct representations of affect in vision and taste
To test whether valence codes are modality specific or also support
an abstract, nonvisual representation of affect, we conducted a gusta-
tory experiment on the same participants. Affective appraisals40 of
complex scenes may also require deeper and more extensive process-
ing that is not required by simpler, chemical sensory stimuli such as
taste. As such, it is important to establish the generality of the affect
coding in response to visual scenes. In this experiment, four differ-
ent taste solutions matched for each participant in terms of inten-
sity (sour, sweet, bitter, salty) and a tasteless solution were delivered
20 times each across 100 trials during fMRI. Paralleling our analy-
sis of responses to scenes, representational similarity matrices were
constructed from correlations of activation patterns across trials
(100 × 99/2) for each region. To visualize the representation maps from
the gustatory experiment, we created a valence representational simi-
larity matrix of the OFC, which revealed higher correlations across taste
experiences of similar valence—along the main diagonal (Fig. 5a and
Supplementary Table 1). Valence DCIs in the OFC were computed for
each participant and submitted to one-sample t tests, which revealed a
significant relation between activation pattern similarity and valence
distance (t15 = 2.9, P = 0.018). Valence DCIs in the VTC also achieved
significance (t15 = 3.3, P = 0.007), but not the EVC (t15 = 1.5, P = 0.23).
Figure 3 Population coding of visual, object
and affect properties of visual scenes.
(a) Correlations of activation patterns across
trials were rank-ordered within a participant. In
the ideal representation similarity matrix (RSM),
trials with similar features (for example, matching
valence) demonstrate higher correlations along
the diagonal than those with dissimilar features
on the off-diagonal. (b) After regressing out
other properties and effects of no interest,
residual correlations were sorted on the basis of
visual features (13 × 13), animacy (13 × 13) or
valence (13 × 13) properties, and then separately
examined in the EVC, VTC and OFC. Correlation
ranks were averaged for each cell, providing visual
(13 × 13), animacy (13 × 13) and valence RSMs
(13 × 13). Higher correlations were observed
along the main diagonal in the visual RSM in the
EVC, animacy RSM in the VTC and valence RSM
in the OFC. (c) Correlation ranks in the EVC, VTC
and OFC were subject to GLM with differences in
visual (left), animacy (middle) and valence (right)
features as linear predictors. GLM coefficients
(DCI) represent to what extent correlations were
predicted by the property types. For visual-
features DCI, we used t test (EVC: t15 = 6.7, P = 0.00003; VTC: t15 = 8.5, P = 0.000002; OFC: t15 = 0.8, P = 1) and paired t test (EVC versus VTC: t15 = 0.8,
P = 1; EVC versus OFC: t15 = 4.2, P = 0.008; VTC versus OFC: t15 = 4.4, P = 0.005). For animacy DCI, we used t test (EVC: t15 = 3.6, P = 0.01; VTC: t15 = 10.3,
P = 1.5 × 10−7; OFC: t15 = 3.9, P = 0.006) and paired t test (EVC versus VTC: t15 = −9.0, P = 1.7 × 10−6; EVC versus OFC: t15 = −1.0, P = 1; VTC versus OFC:
t15 = 11.3, P = 9.2 × 10−8). For valence DCI, we used t test (EVC: t15 = 2.5, P = 0.11; VTC: t15 = 5.0, P = 0.0008; OFC: t15 = 7.6, P = 7.7 × 10−6) and
paired t test (EVC versus VTC: t15 = 1.8, P = 0.81; EVC versus OFC: t15 = −4.2, P = 0.007; VTC versus OFC: t15 = −4.8, P = 0.002). t tests in a region were
one-tailed and paired t tests were two-tailed. n = 16 participants. Error bars represent s.e.m. ***P < 0.001, **P < 0.01, *P < 0.05, Bonferroni corrected.
(averaged percentile of r)
b c
Low High
Rank-order correlations
1 (neg)
13 (pos)
7 (neu)
Valence RSM
1 (neg) 7 (neu) 13 (pos)
Averaged percentile of r
Dissimilar Similar
Percentile of r (residual)
0 100
Visual-features DCI
Animacy DCIValence DCI
© 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
a r t I C l e S
Thus, in addition to the OFC, the VTC represents affect information
even when evoked by taste. Similar results were found when excluding
regions that demonstrated a significant change (P < 0.05, uncorrected)
in mean activity to taste valence (Supplementary Table 1).
Evidence of affective coding for pictures and tastes is not singularly
diagnostic of an underlying common valence population code, as each
sensory modality coding may be independently represented in the
same regions. To directly examine a cross-modal commonality, we
examined the representations of valence in the OFC on the basis of
trials across visual and gustatory experiments. We first computed new
cross-modal representational similarity matrices correlating activa-
tion patterns across the 128 visual × 100 taste trials. Then, to visualize
the cross-modal representation map, we created a valence represen-
tational similarity matrix of the OFC, which revealed higher correla-
tions across visual and taste experiences of similar valence, along the
main diagonal (Fig. 5b and Supplementary Table 1). DCI revealed
increasing similarity of OFC activation patterns between visual and
gustatory trials, as affect was more similar (t15 = 3.0, P = 0.013; Fig. 5b
and Supplementary Table 1). Notably, the same analysis revealed
no such relation in the VTC (t15 = 0.5 P = 0.99). That is, although
we found modality-specific valence coding in the VTC (Figs. 3b,c
and 4a,b and Supplementary Table 1), we found modality-independ-
ent valence coding only in the OFC. Similar results were obtained
when excluding regions that demonstrated a significant change
(P < 0.05, uncorrected) in mean activity to taste or visual valence
(Supplementary Table 1).
To investigate whether specific subregions support modality-
specific versus supramodal affect, we performed three independent
cubic searchlight analyses on the basis of trials within visual,
within gustatory, and across visual and gustatory experiments.
In a given cube, correlation of activation patterns of each cross-trial
combination (128 × 127/2 for visual, 100 × 99/2 for gustatory, and
128 × 100 across visual and gustatory trials) were subject to the same
GLM decomposition procedure (Supplementary Fig. 3). We defined
a region as representing supramodal affect if it was discovered in all
three independent searchlights, whereas a region was defined as rep-
resenting visual-specific affect if it was discovered only in the visual
searchlight, but not the other two (analogously for gustatory-specific
affect). This revealed that the anteroventral insula and posterior
OFC (putative primary and secondary gustatory cortex41) repre-
sented gustatory valence, and adjacent, but distinct, regions in the
VTC represented gustatory and visual valence separately (Fig. 5c,d
and Supplementary Table 4). In contrast with this sensory specific
affect coding, the medial OFC and vmPFC, as well as the lateral OFC
and midcingulate cortex, contained supramodal representations of
valence (Fig. 5c,d). These searchlight results were not only explora-
tory, but also confirmatory, as they survived multiple comparison
correction (Online Methods).
Classification of affect brain states across participants
Lastly, we assessed whether valence in a specific individual corres-
ponded to affect representations in others’ brains. As previous work has
Figure 4 Region-specific population coding of
visual features, object animacy and valence in
visual scenes. (a) Multivariate searchlight
analysis revealed distinct areas represent
coding of visual features (green), animacy
(yellow) and valence (red) properties.
Activations were thresholded at P < 0.001,
uncorrected. (b) GLM coefficients
(DCI) represent the extent to which correlations
were predicted by the property types (visual
features, animacy and valence). For visual-
features DCI, we used t test (EVC: t15 = 8.4,
P = 0.000003; VTC: t15 = 4.3, P = 0.004;
temporal pole (TP): t15 = −0.1, P = 1; OFC:
t15 = 1.4, P = 1) and paired t test (EVC versus
VTC: t15 = 6.4, P = 0.0002; EVC versus
TP: t15 = 5.8, P = 0.0006; EVC versus OFC:
t15 = 4.5, P = 0.008; VTC versus TP: t15 = 2.6,
P = 0.36; VTC versus OFC: t15 = 1.2, P = 1;
TP versus OFC: t15 = −1.4, P = 1). For
animacy DCI, we used t test (EVC: t15 = 3.5,
P = 0.017; VTC: t15 = 7.8, P = 0.000007;
TP: t15 = 0.9, P = 1; OFC: t15 = 3.6,
P = 0.015) and paired t test (EVC versus
VTC: t15 = −6.4, P = 0.0002; EVC versus
TP: t15 = 2.4; P = 0.54; EVC versus OFC:
t15 = 1.1, P = 1; VTC versus TP: t15 = 6.8,
P = 0.0001; VTC versus OFC: t15 = 7.8,
P = 0.00002; TP versus OFC: t15 = −2.9,
P = 0.19). For valence DCI, we used t test
(EVC: t15 = 1.0, P = 1; VTC: t15 = 2.6,
P = 0.12; TP: t15 = 3.5, P = 0.019; OFC:
t15 = 6.0, P = 0.0001) and paired t test
(EVC versus VTC: t15 = −0.7, P = 1; EVC versus TP: t15 = −1.5, P = 1; EVC versus OFC: t15 = −3.4, P = 0.071; VTC versus TP: t15 = −1.6, P = 1;
VTC versus OFC: t15 = −5.0, P = 0.003; TP versus OFC: t15 = −5.2, P = 0.002). t tests in a region were one-tailed and paired t tests were two-tailed.
n = 16 participants. (ch) Difference in mean activity magnitude and pattern in the searchlight defined regions (ce: the medial OFC (mOFC) and
vmPFC; fh: the lateral OFC (lOFC)). (c,f) Relationship of activity magnitude and ratings for positivity and negativity (n = 16 participants). (d,g) Valence
representation similarity matrices based on the mean activity magnitude. (e,h) Valence representation similarity matrices based on pattern activation
(correlation). n = 16 participants. Error bars represent s.e.m. ***P < 0.001, **P < 0.01, *P < 0.05. Bonferroni corrected.
Activity magnitude
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
(2, 54, –4)
Mean activation
bVisual features
*** ***
z = –2z = –10
ValenceAnimacyVisual features
Activity magnitude
(30, 52, –2)
Mean activation
Mean activation
Similarity (averaged
percentile of r)
Activation pattern
Similarity (averaged
percentile of r)
Activation pattern
Similarity (averaged
percentile of r)
Mean activation
Similarity (averaged
percentile of r)
© 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
a r t I C l e S
demonstrated that representational geometry of object categories in the
VTC can be shared across participants35,36, we first examined whether
item-level (that is, by picture) classification is possible by comparing
each participant’s item-based representational similarity matrices to
that estimated from all other participants in a leave-one-out procedure.
We calculated the classification performance for each target picture as
the percentage that its representation was more similar to its estimate,
compared pairwise to all other picture representations (50% chance;
Online Methods and Supplementary Fig. 7). We found that item-
specific representations in the VTC were predicted very highly by
the other participants’ representational map (80.1 ± 1.4% accuracy,
t15 = 21.4, P = 2.4 × 1012; Fig. 6a). Cross-participant classification accu-
racy was also statistically significant in the OFC (54.7 ± 0.8% accuracy,
t15 = 5.7, P = 0.00008); however, it was substantially reduced compared
with the VTC (t15 = 15.9, P = 8.4 × 10−11), suggesting that item-specific
information is more robustly represented and translatable across
participants in the VTC compared with the OFC.
We next examined whether a persons affect representations toward
these visual items could be predicted by others’ affect representations.
After transforming representations of items into subjective affect
and conducting a similar leave-one-out procedure (Online Methods
and Supplementary Fig. 8), although overall much lower than item
Distance in valence
1 2 3 4 5
Similarity (percentile of r)
Visual DCI Gustatory DCI Visual × gustatory DCI
Valence DCI
mOFC (2, 60, –4)
*** *****
lOFC (40, 50, 0)
*** *****
MCC (6, –18, 42)
*** ******
VTC1 (54, –62, –2)
VTC2 (54, –48, –2)
TP (60, 12, 2)
aINS (–26, 20, –8)
0.008 ***
pOFC(–38, 20, –14)
STR (24, 14, –4)
0.008 ***
y = –14
Visual specific Gustatory specific Modality independent
y = 22
z = –2
z = –6
Distance in valence
Similarity (percentile of r)
Valence (gustatory)
Pos Neg Pos
Valence (gustatory)
(averaged percentile of r)
(averaged percentile of r)
Pos Neg Pos
Valence (gustatory)
Valence (visual)
Figure 5 Visual, gustatory and cross-modal affect codes. (a,b) OFC voxel activity pattern correlations across trials in the gustatory experiment (a) and
across visual and gustatory experiments (b) were rank-ordered in each participant and then averaged on the basis of valence combinations (13 × 13).
Correlations across trials were sorted into five bins of increasing distance in valence. OFC correlations corresponded to valence distance, both within
tastes and across tastes and visual scenes (n = 15 participants). (c) Multivariate searchlight results revealed subregions coding modality-specific
(visual = red, taste = yellow) and modality-independent (green) valence. (d) GLM coefficients (DCI) represent the extent to which correlations were
predicted by valence. Averaged DCI in the visual (top), taste (middle) and visual × gustatory (bottom) valence subregions. In TP, we used t test
(visual valence (V): t15 = 4.3, P = 0.0003; gustatory valence (G): t15 = 0.23, P = 0.41; visual × gustatory valence (V × G): t15 = 0.71, P = 0.24).
In VTC1, we used t test (V: t15 = 4.9, P = 0.00009; G: t15 = −0.43, P = 1; V × G: t15 = 0.10, P = 0.46). In striatum (STR), we used t test (V: t15 = 3.9,
P = 0.0007; G: t15 = 0.23, P = 0.41; V × G: t15 = 1.2, P = 0.12). In anterior insula (aINS), we used t test (V: t15 = 1.2, P = 0.12; G: t15 = 4.0,
P = 0.0006; V × G: t15 = −1.2, P = 1). In VTC2, we used t test (V: t15 = 0.62, P = 0.27; G: t15 = 4.8, P = 0.0001; V × G: t15 = −1.2, P = 1).
In posterior OFC (pOFC), we used t test (V: t15 = 0.40, P = 0.34; G: t15 = 3.7, P = 0.0010; V × G: t15 = 0.78, P = 0.22). In medial OFC, we used t test
(V: t15 = 6.3, P = 0.000007; G: t15 = 2.6, P = 0.010; V × G: t15 = 3.9, P = 0.0008). In lateral OFC, we used t test (V: t15 = 5.2, P = 0.00005; G: t15 = 2.8,
P = 0.007; V × G: t15 = 4.1, P = 0.0005). In midcingulate cortex (MCC), we used t test (V: t15 = 3.8, P = 0.0008; G: t15 = 3.8, P = 0.0009;
V × G: t15 = 4.0, P = 0.0005). P values were uncorrected. n = 16 participants. Error bars represent s.e.m. ***P < 0.001, **P < 0.01.
© 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
a r t I C l e S
representations in the VTC, we found cross-participant classification
of valence in the OFC (55.6 ± 0.9% accuracy, t15 = 6.4, P = 0.00002)
(Fig. 6a and Supplementary Table 5). Valence classification did not
achieve significance in the VTC (51.7 ± 0.8% accuracy, t15 = 2.0,
P = 0.13), with a paired t test between the OFC and VTC reveal-
ing greater classification accuracy in the OFC than in the VTC
(t15 = 4.2, P = 0.0007). A two-way repeated-measures ANOVA revealed
a highly significant interaction (F1,15 = 278.1, P = 4.3 × 10−11; Fig. 6a)
between region and representation type (item versus affect). This
interaction revealed that, although stimulus specific representations
were shared in the VTC, subjective affect representations are similarly
structured across people in the OFC, even when the specific stimuli
evoking affect may vary. Furthermore, the continuous representa-
tion of valence information was also revealed here, as increases in
valence distance decreased the confusability between two affect rep-
resentations, thereby increasing classification rates (F1.4, 20.3 = 37.4,
P = 5.6 × 10−6; Fig. 6b and Supplementary Table 5).
As an even stronger test of cross participant translation of affect,
we asked whether OFC affect representations toward pictures could
predict other participants’ affect representations in response to tastes
(visual × gustatory) and vice versa (gustatory × visual). These analyses
revealed classification accuracies that were significantly higher than
chance level (visual × gustatory, 54.2 ± 0.7%, t15 = 5.8, P < 0.001;
gustatory × visual, 54.6 ± 1.2%, t14 = 3.8, P < 0.001), with increases in
valence distance between stimuli again increasing classification accu-
racy (Fig. 6b). Even without an overlap in objective stimulus features
(that is, vision versus taste), the OFC supported classification of the
affective contents of subjective experience across individuals.
Representational mapping revealed that a complex scene is transformed
from basic perceptual features and higher level object categories into
affective population representations. Furthermore, rather than special-
ized regions designated to represent what is good or bad, population
activity in a region supported a continuous dimension of positive-to-
negative valence. Population codes also revealed that there are multiple
representations of valence to the same event, both sensory specific and
sensory independent. Posterior cortical representations in the tempo-
ral lobe and insular cortices were unique to the sensory modality of
origin, whereas more anterior cortical representations in the medial and
lateral OFC afforded a translation across distinct stimuli and modalities.
This shared affect population code demonstrated correspondence
across participants. Taken together, these data indicate that the neural
population vector in a region may represent the affective coloring of
experience, whether between objects, modalities or people.
Population coding of affect
As suggested by monkey electrophysiological studies32, positivity- and
negativity-sensitive neurons are likely interspersed in various sec-
tors of the human OFC and vmPFC. Consistent with these single-cell
recording data, our present univariate parametric modulation analysis
did not show clear separation of positivity- and negativity-sensitive
voxels in the OFC, with much greater overlap than separation. Prior
studies typically assume a mathematical inversion of affective coding
in the brain (for example, positivity is the inverse of negativity)30,42.
We were able to test this assumption directly as participants indicated
their experience of positive and negative valence independently on
each trial. Using these independent parameters, we found that regions
such as the medial OFC and vmPFC, which have been associated with
increasing positive value23,29, responded equally to negative valence
(Fig. 1). This bivalent association is often taken to indicate a coding
of arousal—the activating aspect of emotional experience20, rather
than separate coding of the opposing ends of valence22. However, our
results indicate that regional activity magnitude in the medial OFC
and vmPFC could not differentiate between opposing experiences
of positive and negative valence, whereas population coding of the
same voxels distinguished them as maximally distant (Fig. 4d,e,g,h),
suggesting the distinct coding of unique valence experiences.
Although pattern analysis may be able to capture the difference in
distribution of positivity- and negativity-sensitive neurons in the local
structure, what the patterns exactly reflect is still a matter of debate11.
With regard to its underlying physiological bases, the interdigitation of
single cell specialization for either positive or negative valence32 need
not suggest the utilization of a pattern code. Given the averaging of
many hundreds of thousands of neurons in a voxel in fMRI, it may be
that pattern analysis sensitive to voxel-level biases in valence tuned
neurons32 is required to reveal valence coding in BOLD imaging.
It remains to be determined whether the coding of valence is best captured
by a distributed population level code across cells with distinct valence
tuning properties. Evidence of colocalization of distinct valenced tuned
neurons32 may suggest the importance of rapid within-region computa-
tion of mixed valence responses, whereby the overall affective response
is derived from a population level code across individual neurons.
Sensory-specific affect codes in the perceptual cortices
Wundt’s proposal of affect as an additional dimension of perceptual
experience1 may suggest that these subjective qualia are represented
in posterior sensory cortices, binding affect to specific sensor y
events. Although altered mean activity in perceptual cortices associ-
ated with valence has been found, including reward-related activity
in the VTC in monkeys43 and humans42, it is unclear whether these
Figure 6 Cross-participant classification of items and affect.
(a) Classification accuracies of cross-participant multivoxel patterns for
specific items and subjective valence in the VTC (gray) and OFC (white).
Each target item or valence was estimated by all other participants
representation in a leave-one-out procedure. Performance was calculated by
the target’s similarity to its estimate compared with all other trials in pairwise
comparison (50% chance). For item classification, t test (OFC: t15 = 5.7,
P = 0.00008, VTC: t15 = 21.4, P = 2.4 × 10−12), paired t test (OFC versus
VTC: 15 = −15.9, P = 8.4 × 10−11). For valence classification, t test
(OFC: t15 = 6.4, P = 0.00002, VTC: t15 = 2.0, P = 0.13), paired t test
(OFC versus VTC: t15 = 4.2, P = 0.0007). Bonferroni correction was applied,
based on number of comparisons for each ROI (2 (ROI: OFC and VTC)). t tests in a region were one-tailed and paired t tests were two-tailed. n = 16
participants. (b) Relationship between classification accuracies and valence distance in the OFC. Accuracies increased monotonically as experienced
valence across trials became more clearly differentiated for all conditions. ANOVA (visual: F1.4, 20.3 = 37.4, P = 5.6 × 10−6; gustatory: F1.3, 18.9 = 4.7,
P = 0.033; visual × gustatory: F1.2, 18.6 = 9.7, P = 0.004; gustatory × visual: F1.4, 19.6 = 4.3, P = 0.04). Greenhouse-Geisser correction was applied, as
Mauchly’s test revealed violation of assumption of sphericity. For visual and visual by gustatory, n = 16 participants. For gustatory and gustatory × visual,
n = 15 participants. Error bars represent s.e.m. ***P < 0.001, **P < 0.01.
ValenceItem 50
0 1 2 3 4
Distance in valence
a b
accuracy (%)
Gustatory × visual
Visual × gustatory
*** ***
accuracy (%)
© 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
a r t I C l e S
regions contain valence information. Population-level activity
revealed modally bound affect codes, consistent with Wundt’s thesis,
and evidence of sensory-specific hedonic habituation44. Activity pat-
terns in the VTC not only represented visual features and object infor-
mation4,16,45, but also corresponded to the representational geometry
of an individual person’s subjective affect. Low-level visual, object
and affect properties, however, did not arise from the same activity
patterns, but were largely anatomically and functionally dissociated
in the VTC. In vision, posterior regions supported representations
that were descriptions of the external visual stimulus, whereas more
anterior association cortices, including the anterior ventral and tem-
poral polar cortices, the latter of which was densely interconnected
with the OFC46, supported the internal affective coloring of visual
scene perception. Consistent with the hedonic primacy of chemical
sensing47, taste-evoked affect codes were found in the anteroventral
insula and posterior OFC (putative primary and secondary gustatory
cortex41), suggesting that higher level appraisal processes may not be
as necessary for the extraction of their valence properties.
The lack of correspondence in activity patterns across modalities,
despite both coding valence, suggests that modality specific proc-
esses are involved in extracting valence information. The role of these
modality-specific valence representations may be to allow differential
weighting of distinct features in determining one’s overall judgment
of value42 or subjective valence experience. Fear conditioning renders
once indiscriminable odors perceptually discriminable, supported by
divergence of ensemble activity patterns in primary olfactory (piri-
form) cortex48. Rather than only the domain of specialized circuits
outside of perceptual systems, valence coding may also be central
to perceptual encoding, affording sensory-specific hedonic weight-
ings. It remains to be determined whether valance codes embodied
in a sensory system support distinct subjective qualia, as well as their
relation to sensory-independent affect representations.
Supramodal affect codes in the OFC
It has been proposed that a common scale is required for organisms to
assess the relative value of computationally and qualitatively different
events, such as drinking water, smelling food, scanning predators and
so forth29. To decide on an appropriate behavior, the nervous system
must convert the value of events into a common scale. By using food
or monetary reward, previous studies of monkey electrophysiology9,
neuroimaging23 and neuropsychology25 have found that the OFC is
critical for generating this kind of currency-like common scale. However,
without investigating its microstructure, overlap in mean activity in a
region is insufficient to reveal an underlying commonality in represen-
tation space. By examining multi-voxel patterns, a recent fMRI study
demonstrated that the vmPFC commonly represents the monetary
value (that is, how much one was willing to pay) of different visual goal
objects (pictures of food, money and trinkets)17. However, such studies
of ‘common currency’17,42 employ only visual cues denoting associ-
ated value of different types, rather than physical stimulus modalities.
By delivering pleasant and unpleasant gustatory stimuli (for example,
sweet and bitter liquids) instead of presenting visual stimuli that denote
gustatory reward in the future (goal value), as well as complex scenes
that varied across the entire valence spectrum, including highly nega-
tive valence, we found that, even when stimuli were delivered via vision
or taste, modality-independent codes were projected into the same
representation space whose coordinates were defined as subjective
positive-to-negative affective experience in the OFC. This provides
strong evidence that some part of affect representation space in the
OFC is not only stimulus, but also modality, independent.
The exploratory searchlight analysis revealed that affect representa-
tions across modality were found in the lateral OFC, the medial OFC
and the vmPFC. This finding is important, as most previous studies
of value representations17,29 have mainly focused on the medial OFC
and vmPFC, and not on the lateral OFC. Although both may support
supramodal valence codes, the processes that work on these represen-
tations are likely different49. The medial OFC may represent approach
tendencies, whereas the more inhibitory functions associated with the
lateral OFC sectors may use the same valence information to suppress
desire to approach a stimulus, such as consume an appetizing, yet
unhealthy, food.
Beyond examining valence representations across complex visual
scenes and its correspondence across pictures to tastes, we also exam-
ined commonality of representations across the brains of individuals.
To do so, we extended previous application of cross-participant MVPA
in representing object types35,36 to the domain of subjective affect.
Although item-specific population responses were highly similar in
the VTC, affording classification of what particular scene was being
viewed, these patterns captured experienced affect across people to
a much lesser degree. In contrast, population codes in the OFC were
less able to code the specific item being viewed, but demonstrated
similarity among people even if affective responses to individual
items varied. Cross-participant classification of affect across items was
lower in the OFC compared with item-specific coding in the VTC.
This cross-region difference may be a characteristic of the neural
representations of external items versus internal affective responses:
the need to abstract from physical appearance to invisible affect.
Notwithstanding, such cross-participant commonality may allow a
common scaling of value and valence experience across individuals.
In sum, these findings suggest that there exists a common affect code
across people, underlying a wide range of stimuli and object catego-
ries, and even when originating from the eye or tongue.
Methods and any associated references are available in the online
version of the paper.
Note: Any Supplementary Information and Source Data files are available in the
online version of the paper.
We thank T. Schmitz, M. Taylor, D. Hamilton and K. Gardhouse for technical
collaboration and discussion. This work was funded by Canadian Institutes of
Health Research grants to A.K.A. J.C. was supported by the Japan Society for the
Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellowships for Research Abroad (H23).
J.C. and A.K.A. designed the experiments. J.C. and D.H.L. built the experimental
apparatus and performed the experiments. J.C. analyzed the data. J.C., D.H.L., N.K.
and A.K.A. wrote the paper. N.K. and A.K.A. supervised the study.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Reprints and permissions information is available online at
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© 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
nature neurOSCIenCe doi:10.1038/nn.3749
Subjects and imaging procedures. 16 healthy adults (10 male, ages 26.1 ± 2.1) pro-
vided informed consent to participate in the visual (experiment 1) and gustatory
(experiment 2) experiments in the same session (that is, without leaving the MRI
scanner). Exclusion criteria included significant psychiatric or neurological his-
tory. This study was approved by University of Toronto Research Ethics Board and
Sick Kids hospital Research Ethics Board. No statistical test was run to determine
sample size a priori. The sample sizes that we chose are similar to those used in
previous publications17,35,36. The experiments were conducted using a 3.0-T fMRI
system (Siemens Trio) during daytime. Localizer images were first collected to
align the field of view centered on each participant’s brain. T1-weighted anatomical
images were obtained (1 mm3, 256 × 256 FOV; MPRAGE sequence) before the
experimental echo planar imaging (EPI) runs. For functional imaging, a gradient
echo-planar sequence was used (repetition time (TR) = 2,000 ms, echo time
(TE) = 27 ms, flip angle = 70 degrees). Each functional run consisted of 292 (experi-
ment 1) or 263 (experiment 2) whole brain acquisitions (40- × 3.5-mm slices,
interleaved acquisition, field of view = 192 mm, matrix size = 64 × 64, in-plane
resolution of 3 mm). The first four functional images in each run were excluded
from analysis to allow for the equilibration of longitudinal magnetization.
Experiment 1 (visual). Visual stimuli were delivered via goggles, using
CinemaVision AV system (Resonance Technology), displayed at a resolution
of 800 × 600, 60 Hz. Affect ratings were collected by magnet-compatible button
during scanning. All 128 pictures were selected from the International Affective
Picture System49. In each trial, a picture was presented for 3 s, then a blank screen
for 5 s, then separate scaling bars to rate positivity (3 s) and negativity (3 s) of the
picture. After a 4-s inter-trial interval, the next picture was presented. Trial order
was pseudorandomized within emotion category, balanced across four runs of
32 trials each. Four runs were administered to each subject.
Experiment 2 (gustatory). Gustatory stimuli were delivered by plastic tubes
converging at a plastic manifold, whose nozzle dripped the taste solutions into
the mouth. 100 taste solution trials were randomized and balanced across five
runs. In each trial, 0.5 ml of taste solution was delivered over 1,244 ms. When
liquid delivery ended, a screen instructed participants to swallow the liquid
(1 s). After 7,756 ms, the same scaling bars from experiment 1 appeared to rate
positivity (3 s) and then negativity (3 s) of the liquid. This was followed by 0.5 ml
of the tasteless liquid delivery during 1,244 ms for rinsing, followed by the 1-s
swallow instruction. After a 7,756 ms inter-trial-interval, the next trial began.
Five runs were administered to each subject. Both experiments 1 and 2 were
conducted in the same session, which took approximately 2 h. To decrease the
need for a bathroom break during scanning, participants were instructed not to
drink liquids before the experiment.
Pre-experimental session. To account for individual differences in their subjective
experiences of different tastes, participants were asked to taste a wider range of
intensities (as measured by molar concentrations) of the different taste solutions
(sour, salty, bitter, sweet). In this pre-experimental session, participants were tested
for one trial (2 ml) of each of the 16 taste solutions: sour/citric acid (1 × 10−1 M,
3.2 × 10−2 M, 1.8 × 10−2 M and 1.0 × 10−2 M), salty/table salt (5.6 × 10−1 M,
2.5 × 10−1 M, 1.8 × 10−1 M and 1.0 × 10−1 M), bitter/quinine sulfate (1.0 × 10−3 M,
1.8 × 10−4 M, 3.2 × 10−5 M and 7.8 × 10−5 M) and sweet/sucrose (1.0 M, 0.56 M,
0.32 M and 0.18 M). The order of presentation was randomized by taste and then
by concentration in each taste. After drinking each solution, participants rinsed and
swallowed 5 ml of water, then rated the intensity and pleasantness (valence) of the
solutions experience on separate scales of 1–9. The concentrations for each taste
that matched in intensity were selected. Previous work50 had shown that partici-
pants have different rating baselines and the concentrations most reliably selected
are above medium self-reported intensity. All solutions were mixed using pharma-
ceutical grade chemical compounds from Sigma-Aldrich, safe for consumption.
ROI definition. ROIs were determined on the basis of AAL template51 and
anatomy toolbox52. The EVC ROI was defined by bilateral BA 17 in the anatomy
toolbox. The VTC ROI consisted of lingual gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus, fusi-
form gyrus and inferior temporal cortices in the bilateral hemispheres. The OFC
ROI consisted of the superior, middle, inferior and medial OFC in the bilateral
hemispheres. White-matter voxels were excluded on the basis of the result of
segmentation implemented in SPM8 (, per-
formed on each participants imaging data.
Data analysis. Data were analyzed using SPM8 software. Functional images were
realigned, slice timing corrected, and normalized to the MNI template (ICBM
152) with interpolation to a 2- × 2- × 2-mm space. The registration was per-
formed by matching the whole of the individual’s T1 image to the template T1
image (ICBM152), using 12-parameter affine transformation. This was followed
by estimating nonlinear deformations, whereby, the deformations are defined
by a linear combination of three-dimensional discrete cosine transform basis
functions. The same transformation matrix was applied to EPI images. Data was
spatially smoothed (full width half maximum = 6 mm) for univariate parametric
modulation analysis, but not for MVPA, as it may impair MVPA performance12.
Each stimulus presentation was modeled as a separate event, using the canoni-
cal function in SPM8. For the first level GLM analyses, motion regressors were
included to regress out motion-related effects. For each voxel, t values of individ-
ual trials were demeaned by subtracting the mean value across trials. To visualize
the results, xjview software ( was used.
Representational similarity analysis. For each participant, a vector was cre-
ated containing the spatial pattern of BOLD-MRI signal related to a particular
event (normalized t values per voxel) in each ROI. These t values were further
normalized by subtracting mean values across trials. Pairwise Pearson correla-
tions were calculated between all vectors of all single trials, resulting in a RSM
containing correlations among all trials for each participant in each ROI for the
visual experiment.
Low-level visual features (local contrast, luminance, hue, number of edges and
visual salience) were computed using the Image Processing Toolbox packaged
with Matlab 7.0. Local contrast was defined as the s.d. of the pixel intensities.
Luminance was calculated as the average log luminance53. Hue was calculated
using Matlabs rgb2hsv function. Edges were detected using a Canny edge detector
with a threshold of 0.5. Lines were detected by using a Hough transform and the
number of detected lines was calculated for each image. Visual salience has been
defined as those basic visual properties, such as color, intensity and orientation,
that preferentially bias competition for rapid, bottom-up attentional selection54.
Visual saliency map for each image was computed using the Saliency Toolbox55.
Saliency maps were transformed into vectors and correlations of these vectors
across images were calculated. These correlations represent similarity of saliency
maps. Then, all the visual feature values were standardized and compressed into
a single representative score for each visual stimulus using principal component
analysis. Visual feature scores were sorted into 13 bins for symmetric comparison
to valence distance. Distance in visual feature space was estimated by Euclidian dis-
tance in five-dimensional visual feature space (local contrast, hue, number of edges,
luminance and saliency). Animacy scores were determined by a separate group of
participants (n = 16) who judged the stimuli as animate (0/16 to 16/16), which were
also sorted into 13 bins. We chose object animacy as a higher order object property
because the animate-inanimate dimension has been shown to be one of the most
discriminative features for object representation in the VTC16,45,56.
These RSMs were submitted to MDS for visualization. Stimulus arrangements
computed by MDS are data driven and serve an important exploratory function:
they can reveal the properties that dominate the representation of our stimuli in
the population code without any prior hypotheses. Correlation between projec-
tions on the best-fitting axis (line in each MDS plot) and property values (visual
feature, animacy and valence).
To compute the valence representational maps, we took the trial-based RSM
(of correlation ranks) and regressed out the other properties, distance in low-level
visual features and animacy, as well as regressors of no interest (differences in
basic emotions, auto-correlation and sessions). Note that we employed rank-
ordered correlations, instead of correlation coefficients, for all the analyses which
resulted in little assumptions for distribution of correlation coefficients. This left
an RSM of residual correlation ranks predicted by valence distance, which was
then sorted according to 13 × 13 bins (Supplementary Fig. 3b). To calculate the
value for each valence m and valence n (Valencem×n) cell of the representational
map, we computed the average of [Valencem–1 × n, Valencem+1 × n, Valencem × n–1,
Valencem × n+1 and Valencem×n]. Visual feature and animacy representational
maps were computed in an analogous manner. This decomposition approach
treats the RSM in each ROI as explained by the linear summation of multiple
© 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
nature neurOSCIenCe
contributing properties. We took this approach to take into consideration the
possibility that the same region may simultaneously represent qualitatively dif-
ferent features (for example, the VTC, which represents not only highly abstract
features such as animacy16,45,56, but also low-level visual features57).
For statistical analysis of the representational maps, we computed a DCI as a
measure of the relationship between activation similarity and distance in each
representational property. DCI was computed using a similar GLM regression of
the trial-based RSM that included all three predictors, corresponding to distance
in visual features, animacy and valence, and including regressors of no interest
(Supplementary Fig. 3a,b). These regression coefficients represent the extent
that RSMs were predicted by the distance in each of the three properties, and
were thus termed distance-similarity index (final DCIs were calculated by mul-
tiplying GLM regression coefficients by −1). DCIs for each property in each ROI
was computed for each participant, then submitted to statistical analysis. All the
DCI analyses used one-sided tests, since negative DCIs do not make sense while
other analyses used two-sided tests. This was validated retrospectively, as we did
not observe any significant voxels in the searchlight analysis.
To examine cross-modal commonality of OFC affect representation, similar
GLM regressions were performed using either trial correlations in the gusta-
tory experiment or trial correlations across visual and gustatory experiments
with responses and valence distance as predictor. Regressors of no interest
coded differences in basic emotions, tastes, auto-correlation and sessions. To
directly illustrate the decrease in similarity with valence distance, we sorted the
rank-ordered correlations into five bins of valence distance for each participant
(Fig. 6a,b). One participant was excluded from these gustatory and
gustatory × visual analyses due to the lack of data for the fifth bin of valence
distance in gustatory experiment. However, this participant was included in all
the other analyses including DCI analyses.
Searchlight analysis. For information-based searchlight analyses, we used a
(5 × 5 × 5 voxels) searchlight. In a given cube, correlation coefficients of activa-
tion patterns of each trial combination (128 × 127/2) were calculated and sub-
ject to GLM analysis with correlations as the responses and differences in visual
features, animacy and valence scores as predictors (Fig. 5a,b). Searchlight analysis
of individual visual features (for example, local contrast, hue, number of
edges) used distances of a single feature as predictors (Supplementary Table 3
and Supplementary Fig. 5). Individual participants’ data were spatially
smoothed (8-mm full width half maximum) and were subject to a random effects
group analysis.
Searchlight analyses examining modality-specific and supramodal valence infor-
mation was conducted on within-gustatory and across-visual-and-gustatory data.
In a given cube, correlation coefficients of activation patterns of each trial combina-
tion (128 × 127/2 for visual, 100 × 99/2 for gustatory, and 128 × 100 across visual
and gustatory) were calculated and subject to GLM analysis with correlations as the
responses and differences in valence as predictors. Based on these three searchlight
results (within visual, within gustatory, and across visual and gustatory), we explored
brain regions representing visual-specific (P < 0.001 uncorrected and FDR 0.05
for visual, P > 0.05 for gustatory and across visual and gustatory), gustatory-specific
(P < 0.001 uncorrected and FDR 0.05 for gustatory, P > 0.05 for visual and across
visual and gustatory) and modality-independent valence (P < 0.01 uncorrected for
all the three conditions and cleared a threshold of P < 0.05 (familywise error (FWE))
when assuming independence of these 3 conditions).
Cross-participant classification. We examined cross-participant commonality of
visual items by comparing each participant’s trial-based RSM to a trial-based RSM
estimated by averaging across all other participants’ RSM. Thus, each target picture
was represented by 127 values that related it to all other picture trials. We then com-
pared whether the target picture representation was more similar to its estimate than
all other picture representations (similarity was computed as the correlation of the
r values; Supplementary Fig. 6). Classification performance was calculated as the
percentage success of all pairwise comparisons (50% chance).
For cross-participant commonality of affect representations of visual
items, we used a similar leave-one-out procedure, except that a target picture’s
127-score relationship to other pictures was now treated as 127 scores related in
valence space. Taking an example, consider target picture j, which was rated as
positive = 5, negative = 1 for one participant. The first of picture js 127 scores,
r(j,1), relates it to picture 1, but because we are interested in valence, this score
cannot be directly compared to the same r(j,1) score in another participant, as
that participant’s valence ratings to the same two pictures are different. Thus,
to estimate the valence representation of picture j using other participants’ data
directly, we computed valence-based RSMs for both positivity and negativity, in
which effects of no interest were regressed out. That is, the remaining participants
trial-based RSMs were first submitted to GLM decomposition to regress out
effects of no interest, and then organized by their positive and negative valence
scores, then separately combined into 7 × 7 positive and 7 × 7 negative valence
RSMs, where each (m, n) cell was computed as the average of the cells: [(m 1, n),
(m + 1, n), (m, n − 1), (m, n + 1), and (m, n)]. The classification of picture j’s
valence was then tested by looking up the 127 scores in the valence RSMs cor-
responding to the valence mapping. If the correlation of these scores was higher
for picture js valence than another picture ks valence, the classification was suc-
cessful (Supplementary Fig. 7). Classification performance was calculated as
the percentage success of all pairwise comparisons (50% chance). Given that the
across-participant MVPA that we employed cannot discriminate trials with the
same valence, classification accuracies for the closest distance were always 50%.
For commonality of valence representations for the gustatory experiment (Fig. 6b),
we applied the same procedure as above on the gustatory × gustatory similar-
ity scores and their valence ratings. We further investigated the cross-modality
commonality of the OFC affective representations by testing whether affect repre-
sentations in the visual experiment can be predicted by other participants’ affect
representations in the gustatory experiment (visual × gustatory) or vice versa
(gustatory × visual) (Fig. 6b).
Calculation of arousal. Following previously described methods37, self-reported
and autonomic indices of arousal can be estimated through the addition of inde-
pendent unipolar positive and negative valence responses. Valence categories were
defined from the distribution in Supplementary Figure 1 (negative −6 to −2,
neutral −1 to 1, positive = 2 to 6). According to these definitions, positive
(mean = 5.1, s.d. = 1.4) and negative (mean = 4.8, s.d. = 1.4) stimuli were similarly
arousing compared to neutral (mean = 2.5, s.d. = 1.7) in experiment 1. Similar
arousal values were obtained in experiment 2 (positive (mean = 5.4, s.d. = 1.5),
negative (mean = 5.3, s.d. = 1.6) and neutral (mean = 2.5, s.d. = 1.5).
Statistics. We analyzed the data, assuming normal distribution. To examine
whether DCIs are significantly above zero, we used one sample t test. To exam-
ine difference in DCIs, we used paired t test. A Shapiro-Wilk test was applied to
examine whether samples had a normal distribution. In case of a non-normal
distribution, a nonparametric test (Wilcoxon signed-rank test) was applied to
confirm whether similar results were obtained. For ANOVA, we also examined
sphericity by Mauchly’s test. Where the assumption of sphericity was violated, we
applied Greenhouse-Geisser correction. Multiple comparison corrections were
applied to within-ROI and between-ROIs analyses, using Bonferroni correc-
tion. For Figure 3c, multiple comparison correction was applied to within-ROI
(3 (feature) × 3 (ROI) = 9) and between-ROI (3 (feature) × 3 (ROI-pair) = 9)
comparisons. For Figure 4b, multiple comparison correction was applied based
on within-ROI (3 (feature) × 4 (ROI) = 12) and between-ROIs (3 (feature) × 6
(ROI-pair) = 18) comparisons. For Figure 5d, further multiple comparison cor-
rection was not applied, as the data survived whole brain multiple comparison.
A Supplementary Methods Checklist is available.
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... Studies using multivariate analysis methods, which generally do not average signal over neighbouring voxels but rather assess whether spatial patterns across a region of cortex can be related to a psychological state, have also identified the mOFC and vMPFC as important for a variety of sensory valuations. Multivoxel patterns across the OFC and vMPFC were able to predict valence judgments (pleasant-tounpleasant) for both visual and gustatory stimuli, whereas other regions (ventral temporal cortex and anterior insula) contained patterns that were specific to either vision or taste, respectively (Chikazoe et al., 2014). A study of faces and natural landscapes found that a multivoxel spatial correlation measure across the vMPFC was predictive of attractiveness ratings for both domains (though there was also a degree of domain specificity; Pegors et al., 2015), and a study of natural landscapes, architecture, and visual artworks also found that multivoxel patterns in parts of the aMPFC and dMPFC (belonging to the default-mode network; see the following) represented aesthetic appeal in a domain-general manner . ...
... Together, this breadth of research links many diverse and highly subjective experiences of feeling beauty, pleasure, and being moved to activity in the mOFC/vMPFC and suggests that this part of the brain contains a representation that can function as a "common currency" in hedonic appraisals independently of the source (Bartra et al., 2013;Chikazoe et al., 2014;Levy & Glimcher, 2011;O'Doherty, 2004;Pegors et al., 2015). This common neurological basis for valuations may allow for comparison of all manner of experiences derived from different sources. ...
As one of the earliest domains of aesthetic experience to be studied systematically, there now exists a sizeable body of work on the behavioral basis and neural correlates of visual aesthetic appeal. Synthesizing work across approaches that seek to explain aesthetic preferences based on objectively measurable stimulus features or that emphasize individual differences and the importance of subjective factors, we adopt the view that aesthetic appeal arises from the interaction of a specific stimulus with the characteristics of a specific observer. Neuroscience research across a number of visual aesthetic domains, including faces, landscapes, architecture, artwork and dance reveals that several large-scale brain systems contribute to visual aesthetic appreciation. In the visual system, judgments of visual appeal are determined more by higher-level visual processing than low-level processing. Subcortically, both ventral and dorsal striatum, as well as the amygdala have been implicated in judgments of aesthetic appeal. A large number of studies using a variety of methods have found correlates of aesthetic appeal in prefrontal cortex, most prominently in medial prefrontal and orbital cortex. Other regions, including inferior frontal gyrus and the insula may also play a role for at least some domains, and there is evidence that the default-mode network, a brain system thought to support aspects of internally directed mentation, is engaged for highly moving artworks. While the question of ‘why’ particular individuals like particular images remains largely unanswered, we argue for a perspective that deemphasizes the role of specific visual features and focuses instead on the potential for aesthetic appeal to signal the presence of learnable information, linking visual aesthetic appeal to the intrinsic motivation to make sense of our visual world.
... For example, Chang et al. (33) reported that a whole-brain pattern-based marker could predict negative emotion ratings induced by pictures with high prediction performance. Other studies also reported that regional brain activity patterns could classify the positive versus negative valence with significant classification accuracy (34,35). However, unlike the previous studies, which used exogenous stimuli to evoke emotions, such as pictures (33), movies (34), or tastants (35), the current study used selfgenerated, endogenous stimuli, which could have a potential impact on the semantic representations of emotional valence in the brain. ...
Self-relevant concepts are major building blocks of spontaneous thought, and their dynamics in a natural stream of thought are likely to reveal one's internal states that are important for mental health. Here, we conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment (n = 62) to examine brain representations and dynamics of self-generated concepts in the context of spontaneous thought using a newly developed free association-based thought sampling task. The dynamics of conceptual associations were predictive of individual differences in general negative affectivity, replicating across multiple datasets (n = 196). Reflecting on self-generated concepts strongly engaged brain regions linked to autobiographical memory, conceptual processes, emotion, and autonomic regulation, including the medial prefrontal and medial temporal subcortical structures. Multivariate pattern-based predictive modeling revealed that the neural representations of valence became more person-specific as the level of perceived self-relevance increased. Overall, this study sheds light on how self-generated concepts in spontaneous thought construct inner affective states and idiosyncrasies.
... Taken together, the results of the mass-univariate analyses of the current study are in line with theories stating that the level of brain activity in response to food stimuli reflects the motivational salience (either positive or negative) rather than the reward value of these food stimuli (Chikazoe et al., 2014b;Roefs et al., 2015Roefs et al., , 2018Suzuki et al., 2017). More specifically, brain activity in the dopaminergic mesocorticolimbic system is considered to reflect motivational salience (Salamone & Correa, 2012). ...
Full-text available
Obesity reached pandemic proportions and weight-loss treatments are mostly ineffective. The level of brain activity in the reward circuitry is proposed to be proportionate to the reward value of food stimuli, and stronger in people with obesity. However, empirical evidence is inconsistent. This may be due to the double-sided nature of high caloric palatable foods: at once highly palatable and high in calories (unhealthy). This study hypothesizes that, viewing high caloric palatable foods, a hedonic attentional focus compared to a health and a neutral attentional focus elicits more activity in reward-related brain regions, mostly in people with obesity. Moreover, caloric content and food palatability can be decoded from multivoxel patterns of activity most accurately in people with obesity and in the corresponding attentional focus. During one fMRI-session, attentional focus (hedonic, health, neutral) was manipulated using a one-back task with individually tailored food stimuli in 32 healthy-weight people and 29 people with obesity. Univariate analyses (p < 0.05, FWE-corrected) showed that brain activity was not different for palatable vs. unpalatable foods, nor for high vs. low caloric foods. Instead, this was higher in the hedonic compared to the health and neutral attentional focus. Multivariate analyses (MVPA) (p < 0.05, FDR-corrected) showed that palatability and caloric content could be decoded above chance level, independently of either BMI or attentional focus. Thus, brain activity to visual food stimuli is neither proportionate to the reward value (palatability and/or caloric content), nor significantly moderated by BMI. Instead, it depends on people's attentional focus, and may reflect motivational salience. Furthermore, food palatability and caloric content are represented as patterns of brain activity, independently of BMI and attentional focus. So, food reward value is reflected in patterns, not levels, of brain activity.
... To test whether the processing of judges' feedback positivity involved activating neural correlates of reward and self-evaluation, we performed a searchlight representational similarity analysis (RSA) between the social feedback task and auxiliary fMRI tasks that probed each of these processes. RSA is suitable for revealing similarities in multivoxel encoding of affective and cognitive processes across tasks and mental states 45,68 . ...
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Forming positive beliefs about one’s ability to perform challenging tasks, often termed self-efficacy, is fundamental to motivation and emotional well-being. Self-efficacy crucially depends on positive social feedback, yet people differ in the degree to which they integrate such feedback into self-beliefs (i.e., positive bias). While diminished positive bias of this sort is linked to mood and anxiety, the neural processes by which positive feedback on public performance enhances self-efficacy remain unclear. To address this, we conducted a behavioral and fMRI study wherein participants delivered a public speech and received fictitious positive and neutral feedback on their performance in the MRI scanner. Before and after receiving feedback, participants evaluated their actual and expected performance. We found that reduced positive bias in updating self-efficacy based on positive social feedback associated with a psychopathological dimension reflecting symptoms of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Analysis of brain encoding of social feedback showed that a positive self-efficacy update bias associated with a stronger reward-related response in the ventral striatum (VS) and stronger coupling of the VS with a temporoparietal region involved in self-processing. Together, our findings demarcate a corticostriatal circuit that promotes positive bias in self-efficacy updating based on social feedback, and highlight the centrality of such bias to emotional well-being.
... Ya no se recurre a la frecuencia cardiaca como índice del placer experimentado, pero sí a la observación de otros cambios fisiológicos: los que se observan en el cerebro mediante tomografías computarizadas (TAC). Desde esta perspectiva es corriente proponer o sencillamente dar por supuesto que se puede dar cuenta de los placeres o dolores (o lo que se mida en los experimentos) de modo monista, tal como sostenía el hedonismo benthamiano, proponiendo para esto, por ejemplo, la existencia de un código que abarca desde los sentimientos agradables a los desagradables y que se puede medir como una "valencia neuronal" (Chikazoe et al. 2014). Y la referencia al dinero como índice de los estados placenteros de un agente ha sido ampliamente utilizada en la economía después de la revolución marginalista. ...
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Resumen El artículo analiza y critica el uso político de la psicología de colmena propuesto por Jonathan Haidt que recurre a los "empujoncitos" del paternalismo libertario. El artícu-lo presenta el paternalismo y discute la teoría de los empujoncitos, y en base base a esa discusión examina el uso político de la psicología de la colmena y sostiene que (i) los empujoncitos no respetan a las personas como seres autónomos, y (ii) las políticas de la colmena son peligrosas. En su lugar, bien valdría asumir una perspectiva cosmopolita. Palabras clave: Jonathan Haidt, paternalismo libertario, ciencia de la felicidad, utilita-rismo, uso político de la felicidad. Abstract The article analyzes and criticizes the political use of hive psychology proposed by Jon-athan Haidt who appeals to the "nudges" of libertarian paternalism. The article introduces paternalism and discusses the nudge theory, and on the basis of that discussion examines the political use of hive psychology and holds that (i) nudges do not respect people as autonomous beings, and that (ii) hive politics are dangerous. Instead, a cosmopolitan perspective would be well worth pursuing.
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Pleasure is a fundamental driver of human behavior, yet its neural basis remains largely unknown. Rodent studies highlight opioidergic neural circuits connecting the nucleus accumbens, ventral pallidum, insula, and orbitofrontal cortex as critical for the initiation and regulation of pleasure, and human neuroimaging studies exhibit some translational parity. However, whether activation observed across these regions reflects a common, generalizable code for pleasure driven by opioidergic mechanisms remains unclear. Here we use pattern recognition techniques to develop a human functional magnetic resonance imaging signature of mesocorticolimbic activity unique to states of pleasure. In independent validation tests, we find this signature has high sensitivity to pleasant tastes and positive affect evoked by humor. The signature is spatially coextensive with mu-opioid receptor gene expression, and its response is attenuated by the opioid antagonist naloxone. These findings provide evidence of a basis for pleasure derived from primary and secondary rewards in humans that is distributed across brain systems, and suggest that similar mechanisms underlie hedonic impact across mammalian species.
Based on the recent findings in human decision sciences, we propose a neurocomputational mechanism for the construction of a value signal for a food reward. In dietary choice, an individual computes the subjective value of a food by integrating its nutritive attributes (e.g. carbohydrate, fat, and protein content) that are inferred from low-level visual information (e.g. colour). This process is implemented in a hierarchically organised brain structure, including the early visual, parietal, and prefrontal cortices. We also discuss the effects of other factors such as perceived tastiness and healthiness and how the value evolves through experience. The proposed architecture for food valuation would provide a stimulating hypothesis for future studies in diverse research fields.
How and where negative affect is represented in the brain is a central neuroscientific question. A new study identifies neural correlates of both general negative affect and those specific to stimulus type by conducting multimodal functional MRI experiments.
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The orientation of a large grating can be decoded from V1 functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data, even at low resolution (3-mm isotropic voxels). This finding has suggested that columnar-level neuronal information might be accessible to fMRI at 3T. However, orientation decodability might alternatively arise from global orientation-bias maps. Such global maps across V1 could result from bottom-up processing, if the preferences of V1 neurons were biased toward particular orientations (e.g. radial from fixation, or cardinal, i.e. vertical or horizontal). Global maps could also arise from local recurrent or top-down processing, reflecting pre-attentive perceptual grouping, attention spreading, or predictive coding of global form. Here we investigate whether fMRI orientation decoding with 2-mm voxels requires (a) globally coherent orientation stimuli and/or (b) global-scale patterns of V1 activity. We used opposite-orientation gratings (balanced about the cardinal orientations) and spirals (balanced about the radial orientation), along with novel patch-swapped variants of these stimuli. The two stimuli of a patch-swapped pair have opposite orientations everywhere (like their globally coherent parent stimuli). However, the two stimuli appear globally similar, a patchwork of opposite orientations. We find that all stimulus pairs are robustly decodable, demonstrating that fMRI orientation decoding does not require globally coherent orientation stimuli. Furthermore, decoding remained robust after spatial high-pass filtering for all stimuli, showing that fine-grained components of the fMRI patterns reflect visual orientations. Consistent with previous studies, we found evidence for global radial and vertical bias maps in V1. However, these were weak or absent for patch-swapped stimuli, suggesting that global bias maps depend on globally coherent orientations and might arise through recurrent or top-down processes related to the perception of global form.
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The cognitive concept of representation plays a key role in theories of brain information processing. However, linking neuronal activity to representational content and cognitive theory remains challenging. Recent studies have characterized the representational geometry of neural population codes by means of representational distance matrices, enabling researchers to compare representations across stages of processing and to test cognitive and computational theories. Representational geometry provides a useful intermediate level of description, capturing both the information represented in a neuronal population code and the format in which it is represented. We review recent insights gained with this approach in perception, memory, cognition, and action. Analyses of representational geometry can compare representations between models and the brain, and promise to explain brain computation as transformation of representational similarity structure.
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Numerous emotion researchers have asked their study participants to attend to the distinct feelings of arousal and valence, and self-report and physiological data have supported the independence of the two. We examined whether this dissociation reflects introspection about distinct emotional qualia or the way in which valence is measured. With either valence (Experiment 1) or arousal (Experiment 2) as the primary focus, when valence was measured using a bipolar scale (ranging from negative to positive), it was largely dissociable from arousal. By contrast, when two separate unipolar scales of pleasant and unpleasant valence were used, their sum was equivalent to feelings of arousal and its autonomic correlates. The association (or dissociation) of valence and arousal was related to the estimation (or nonestimation) of mixed-valence experiences, which suggests that the distinction between valence and arousal may reflect less the nature of emotional experience and more how it is measured. These findings further encourage use of unipolar valence scales in psychological measurement.
IN an effort to define human cortical gustatory areas we reviewed functional neuroimaging data for which coordinates standardized in Talairach proportional space were available. We observed a wide distribution of peaks within the insula and parietal and frontal opercula, suggesting multiple gustatory regions within this cortical area. Multiple peaks also emerged in the orbitofrontal cortex. However, only two peaks, both in the right hemisphere, were observed in the caudolateral orbitofrontal cortex, the region likely homologous to the secondary taste area described in monkeys. Overall significantly more peaks originated from the right hemisphere suggesting asymmetrical cortical representation of taste favoring the right hemisphere
We often have to make choices among multiattribute stimuli (e.g., a food that differs on its taste and health). Behavioral data suggest that choices are made by computing the value of the different attributes and then integrating them into an overall stimulus value signal. However, it is not known whether this theory describes the way the brain computes the stimulus value signals, or how the underlying computations might be implemented. We investigated these questions using a human fMRI task in which individuals had to evaluate T-shirts that varied in their visual esthetic (e.g., color) and semantic (e.g., meaning of logo printed in T-shirt) components. We found that activity in the fusiform gyrus, an area associated with the processing of visual features, correlated with the value of the visual esthetic attributes, but not with the value of the semantic attributes. In contrast, activity in posterior superior temporal gyrus, an area associated with the processing of semantic meaning, exhibited the opposite pattern. Furthermore, both areas exhibited functional connectivity with an area of ventromedial prefrontal cortex that reflects the computation of overall stimulus values at the time of decision. The results provide supporting evidence for the hypothesis that some attribute values are computed in cortical areas specialized in the processing of such features, and that those attribute-specific values are then passed to the vmPFC to be integrated into an overall stimulus value signal to guide the decision.