A Network Model of the Emotional Brain

Trends Cogn Sci. 2017 May;21(5):357-371. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2017.03.002. Epub 2017 Mar 28.


Emotion is often understood in terms of a circumscribed set of cortical and subcortical brain regions. I propose, instead, that emotion should be understood in terms of large-scale network interactions spanning the entire neuroaxis. I describe multiple anatomical and functional principles of brain organization that lead to the concept of 'functionally integrated systems', cortical-subcortical systems that anchor the organization of emotion in the brain. The proposal is illustrated by describing the cortex-amygdala integrated system and how it intersects with systems involving the ventral striatum/accumbens, septum, hippocampus, hypothalamus, and brainstem. The important role of the thalamus is also highlighted. Overall, the model clarifies why the impact of emotion is wide-ranging, and how emotion is interlocked with perception, cognition, motivation, and action.

Keywords: amygdala; brain; brainstem; emotion; networks; thalamus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cognition
  • Comprehension
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways