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Intrinsic connectivity in the human brain does not reveal networks for “basic” emotions

Alexandra Touroutoglou, Kristen A. Lindquist, Bradford C. Dickerson and Lisa Feldman Barrett | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience | February 12, 2015


We tested two competing models for the brain basis of emotion, the basic emotion theory and the conceptual act theory of emotion, using resting-state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fcMRI). The basic emotion view hypothesizes that anger, sadness, fear, disgust and happiness each arise from a brain network that is innate, anatomically constrained, and homologous in other animals. The conceptual act theory of emotion hypothesizes that an instance of emotion is a brain state constructed from the interaction of domain-general, core systems within the brain such as the salience, default mode, and frontoparietal control networks. Using peak coordinates derived from a meta-analysis of task-related emotion fMRI studies, we generated a set of whole-brain rs-fcMRI “discovery” maps for each emotion category, and examined the spatial overlap in their conjunctions. Instead of discovering a specific network for each emotion category, variance in the discovery maps was accounted for by the known domain-general network. Furthermore, the salience network observed as part of every emotion category. These results indicate that specific networks for each emotion do not exist within the intrinsic architecture of the human brain, and instead support the conceptual act theory of emotion.

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