Population coding of affect across stimuli, modalities and individuals

Nat Neurosci. 2014 Aug;17(8):1114-22. doi: 10.1038/nn.3749. Epub 2014 Jun 22.


It remains unclear how the brain represents external objective sensory events alongside our internal subjective impressions of them--affect. Representational mapping of population activity evoked by complex scenes and basic tastes in humans revealed a neural code supporting a continuous axis of pleasant-to-unpleasant valence. This valence code was distinct from low-level physical and high-level object properties. Although ventral temporal and anterior insular cortices supported valence codes specific to vision and taste, both the medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortices (OFC) maintained a valence code independent of sensory origin. Furthermore, only the OFC code could classify experienced affect across participants. The entire valence spectrum was represented as a collective pattern in regional neural activity as sensory-specific and abstract codes, whereby the subjective quality of affect can be objectively quantified across stimuli, modalities and people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / instrumentation
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Taste Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult