Emotion speeds up conflict resolution: a new role for the ventral anterior cingulate cortex?

Cereb Cortex. 2011 Apr;21(4):911-9. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhq157. Epub 2010 Aug 23.


It has been hypothesized that processing of conflict is facilitated by emotion. Emotional stimuli signal significance in a situation. Thus, when an emotional stimulus is task relevant, more resources may be devoted to conflict processing to reduce the time that an organism is unable to act. In the present electroencephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, we employed a conflict task and manipulated the emotional content and prosody of auditory target stimuli. In line with our hypothesis, reaction times revealed faster conflict resolution for emotional stimuli. Early stages of event-related potential conflict processing were modulated by emotion as indexed in an enhanced frontocentral negativity at 420 ms. FMRI yielded conflict activation in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), a crucial part of the executive control network. The right ventral ACC (vACC) was activated for conflict processing in emotional stimuli, suggesting that it is additionally activated for conflict processing in emotional stimuli. The amygdala was also activated by emotion. Furthermore, emotion increased functional connectivity between the vACC and activity in the amygdala and the dACC. The results support the hypothesis that emotion speeds up conflict processing and suggest a new role for the vACC in processing conflict in particularly significant situations signaled by emotion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Negotiating*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Young Adult