Functional networks in emotional moral and nonmoral social judgments

Neuroimage. 2002 Jul;16(3 Pt 1):696-703. doi: 10.1006/nimg.2002.1118.


Reading daily newspaper articles often evokes opinions and social judgments about the characters and stories. Social and moral judgments rely on the proper functioning of neural circuits concerned with complex cognitive and emotional processes. To examine whether dissociable neural systems mediate emotionally charged moral and nonmoral social judgments, we used a visual sentence verification task in conjunction with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We found that a network comprising the medial orbitofrontal cortex, the temporal pole and the superior temporal sulcus of the left hemisphere was specifically activated by moral judgments. In contrast, judgment of emotionally evocative, but non-moral statements activated the left amygdala, lingual gyri, and the lateral orbital gyrus. These findings provide new evidence that the orbitofrontal cortex has dedicated subregions specialized in processing specific forms of social behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Morals*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*