Paying Attention to Emotion: Valence-Specific Differences in Medial Prefrontal Activations Associated with Attending to Internal Emotional States
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been implicated in attending to one's own emotional states. However, studies to date have yet to examine the differences in neural activity within this region associated with attention to specific emotional valences. We examined valence-specific differences in mPFC activity with a previously validated paradigm in which ten healthy subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while viewing emotional picture sets. Neural activity was subsequently examined within three distinct emotional valences. Each specific valence activated a common region within the mPFC, although cluster size varied considerably between valences. Further analyses suggested that these cluster extent differences might be explained by arousal differences between valence conditions. Direct comparisons revealed unique dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate activity associated with a neutral valence, as well as left insula activity unique to a pleasant valence. This study demonstrated overlapping as well as unique components of mPFC activation patterns in response to attending to specific emotional valences, as well as other region-specific activations to single valence conditions consistent with previous findings. These findings represent an increase in our understanding of the neural basis of emotional processing as well as suggest potentially novel interactions between attention, arousal, and emotional valence.
Degree ProgramHonors College