Subthalamic nucleus: A key structure for emotional component synchronization in humans

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★ The role of the basal ganglia (BG) has often been neglected in past neuroscientific models of emotion. ★ BG deep brain stimulation (DBS) opened new perspectives on neural emotional models. ★ BG DBS revealed the role of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) in emotion. ★ The STN would acts as an organizer of over-learned emotional neural patterns. ★ BG would (de)synchronize the different neuronal populations that subserve emotion.

Affective neuroscience is concerned with identifying the neural bases of emotion. For historical and methodological reasons, models describing the brain architecture that supports emotional processes in humans have tended to neglect the basal ganglia, focusing instead on cortical and amygdalar mechanisms. Now, however, deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN), a neurosurgical treatment for Parkinson's disease and obsessive–compulsive disorder, is helping researchers explore the possible functional role of this particular basal ganglion in emotional processes. After reviewing studies that have used DBS in this way, we propose a model in which the STN plays a crucial role in producing temporally organized neural co-activation patterns at the cortical and subcortical levels that are essential for generating emotions and related feelings.

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