The Brain Basis of Emotion
Researchers have wondered how the brain creates emotions since the early days of psychological science. With the advent of neuroimaging techniques in the early 1990's and a surge of studies in affective neuroscience in recent years, scientists are now poised to answer this question. In this paper, I present the most up-to-date and statistically advanced meta-analytic summary of the human neuroimaging literature on emotion. I compare the locationist approach (i.e., that emotion categories consistently and specifically correspond to distinct brain regions) with the psychological construction approach (i.e., that emotions are constructed of more general brain networks not specific to emotions) to better understand the brain basis of emotion. I begin by outlining the set of brain regions consistently activated across all studies of emotion experience and perception. I next report findings from two sets of analyses probing the brain basis of discrete emotion categories. The first types of analysis demonstrates the brain regions that are consistently associated with the experience and perception of anger, disgust, fear, happiness and sadness across studies. The second type of analysis demonstrates the mental states (e.g., emotion experience or perception, cognitive load, locus of attention, mental response to methods, etc.) that are consistently associated with activity in given brain locations across studies. Overall, there was little evidence that discrete emotion categories can be localized consistently and specifically to individual brain regions. Instead, I found evidence that is consistent with a psychological construction approach to the mind: a set of common processes corresponding to interacting brain networks constitute emotion experience and perception across a range of emotion categories.