Neural Systems Underlying Emotional and Non-emotional Interference Processing: An ALE Meta-Analysis of Functional Neuroimaging Studies

Front Behav Neurosci. 2016 Nov 15:10:220. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00220. eCollection 2016.


Understanding how the nature of interference might influence the recruitments of the neural systems is considered as the key to understanding cognitive control. Although, interference processing in the emotional domain has recently attracted great interest, the question of whether there are separable neural patterns for emotional and non-emotional interference processing remains open. Here, we performed an activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis of 78 neuroimaging experiments, and examined common and distinct neural systems for emotional and non-emotional interference processing. We examined brain activation in three domains of interference processing: emotional verbal interference in the face-word conflict task, non-emotional verbal interference in the color-word Stroop task, and non-emotional spatial interference in the Simon, SRC and Flanker tasks. Our results show that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) was recruited for both emotional and non-emotional interference. In addition, the right anterior insula, presupplementary motor area (pre-SMA), and right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) were activated by interference processing across both emotional and non-emotional domains. In light of these results, we propose that the anterior insular cortex may serve to integrate information from different dimensions and work together with the dorsal ACC to detect and monitor conflicts, whereas pre-SMA and right IFG may be recruited to inhibit inappropriate responses. In contrast, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and posterior parietal cortex (PPC) showed different degrees of activation and distinct lateralization patterns for different processing domains, which suggests that these regions may implement cognitive control based on the specific task requirements.

Keywords: activation likelihood estimation; emotional interference; fMRI; interference processing; meta-analysis; non-emotional interference.