The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been implicated in attending to one's own emotional states, but the role of emotional valence in this context is not understood. We examined valence-specific BOLD activity in a previously validated functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm. Ten healthy subjects viewed emotional pictures and categorized their experience as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. All three categories activated a common region within mPFC. Subtraction of neutral from pleasant or unpleasant conditions instead revealed ventromedial PFC (vmPFC), suggesting that this region represents emotional valence. During exteroceptive attention, greater mPFC responses were observed in response to emotional relative to neutral stimuli, consistent with studies implicating mPFC in the top-down modulation of emotion-biased attention. These findings may help to integrate the two proposed roles of mPFC in emotional representation and top-down modulation of subcortical structures.
- Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
- Medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology