Ventromedial prefrontal-subcortical systems and the generation of affective meaning

Trends Cogn Sci. 2012 Mar;16(3):147-56. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2012.01.005. Epub 2012 Feb 5.


The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) comprises a set of interconnected regions that integrate information from affective sensory and social cues, long-term memory, and representations of the 'self'. Alhough the vmPFC is implicated in a variety of seemingly disparate processes, these processes are organized around a common theme. The vmPFC is not necessary for affective responses per se, but is critical when affective responses are shaped by conceptual information about specific outcomes. The vmPFC thus functions as a hub that links concepts with brainstem systems capable of coordinating organism-wide emotional behavior, a process we describe in terms of the generation of affective meaning, and which could explain the common role played by the vmPFC in a range of experimental paradigms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory, Long-Term / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*