Dynamic Networks in the Emotional Brain

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Abstract

Research on the emotional brain has often focused on a few structures thought to be central to this type of processing—hypothalamus, amygdala, insula, and so on. Conceptual thinking about emotion has viewed this mental faculty as linked to broader brain circuits, too, including early ideas by Papez and others. In this article, we discuss research that embraces a distributed view of emotion circuits and efforts to unravel the impact on emotional manipulations on the processing of several large-scale brain networks that are chiefly important for mental operations traditionally labeled with terms such as “perception,” “action,” and “cognition.” Furthermore, we describe networks as dynamic processes and how emotion-laden stimuli strongly affect network structure. As networks are not static entities, their organization unfolds temporally, such that specific brain regions affiliate with them in a time-varying fashion. Thus, at a specific moment, brain regions participate more strongly in some networks than others. In this dynamic view of brain function, emotion has broad, distributed effects on processing in a manner that transcends traditional boundaries and inflexible labels, such as “emotion” and “cognition.” What matters is the coordinated action that supports behaviors.

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