Neural correlates of envisioning emotional events in the near and far future

Neuroimage. 2008 Mar 1;40(1):398-407. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.11.025. Epub 2007 Dec 3.


Being able to envision emotional events that might happen in the future has a clear adaptive value. This study addressed the functional neuroanatomy of this process and investigated whether it is modulated by temporal distance. Participants imagined positive and negative events pertaining to the near future or far future while their brain activity was measured with fMRI. The results demonstrate that the anterior part of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) was more active in envisioning emotional events in the far future than in the near future, whereas the caudate nucleus was engaged in envisioning emotional (especially positive) situations in the near future. We argue that the anterior part of the vmPFC might assign emotional values to mental representations of future events that pertain to long-term goals. On the other hand, the caudate might support more concrete simulations of action plans to achieve rewarding situations in the near future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Caudate Nucleus / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imagination / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Social Environment