Response inhibition results in the emotional devaluation of faces: neural correlates as revealed by fMRI

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Although it is well established that prior experience with faces determines their subsequent social–emotional evaluation, recent work shows that top-down inhibitory mechanisms, including response inhibition, can lead to social devaluation after even a single, brief exposure. These rapidly induced effects indicate interplay among perceptual, attentional, response-selection and social–emotional networks; yet, the brain mechanisms underlying this are not well understood. This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural mechanism mediating the relationship between inhibitory control and emotional devaluation. Participants performed two tasks: (i) a Go/No-Go task in response to faces and (ii) a trustworthiness rating task involving the previously seen faces. No-Go faces were rated as significantly less trustworthy than Go faces. By examining brain activations during Task 1, behavioral measures and brain activations obtained in Task 2 could be predicted. Specifically, activity in brain areas during Task 1 associated with (i) executive control and response suppression (i.e. lateral prefrontal cortex) and (ii) affective responses and value representation (i.e. orbitofrontal cortex), systematically covaried with behavioral ratings and amygdala activity obtained during Task 2. The present findings offer insights into the neural mechanisms linking inhibitory processes to affective responses.

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