Functional neuroanatomy of emotions: a meta-analysis

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2003 Sep;3(3):207-33. doi: 10.3758/cabn.3.3.207.


The application of functional neuroimaging to the study of human emotion has yielded valuable data; however, the conclusions that may be drawn from any one study are limited. We applied novel statistical techniques to the meta-analysis of 106 PET and fMRI studies of human emotion and tested predictions made by key neuroscientific models. The results demonstrated partial support for asymmetry accounts. Greater left-sided activity was observed for approach emotions, whereas neural activity associated with negative/withdrawal emotions was symmetrical. Support was also found for affect program emotion accounts. The activation distributions associated with fear, disgust, and anger differed significantly. These emotions were most consistently associated in activity in regions associated with selective processing deficits when damaged: the amygdala, the insula and globus pallidus, and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, respectively. In contrast, the distributions for happiness and sadness did not differ. These findings are considered in the context of conceptualizations of the neural correlates of human emotion.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Dominance, Cerebral
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuroanatomy*
  • Oxygen Radioisotopes
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Oxygen Radioisotopes