The integration of negative affect, pain and cognitive control in the cingulate cortex

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2011 Mar;12(3):154-67. doi: 10.1038/nrn2994.


It has been argued that emotion, pain and cognitive control are functionally segregated in distinct subdivisions of the cingulate cortex. However, recent observations encourage a fundamentally different view. Imaging studies demonstrate that negative affect, pain and cognitive control activate an overlapping region of the dorsal cingulate--the anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC). Anatomical studies reveal that the aMCC constitutes a hub where information about reinforcers can be linked to motor centres responsible for expressing affect and executing goal-directed behaviour. Computational modelling and other kinds of evidence suggest that this intimacy reflects control processes that are common to all three domains. These observations compel a reconsideration of the dorsal cingulate's contribution to negative affect and pain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*