The neural basis of emotions varies over time: different regions go with onset- and offset-bound processes underlying emotion intensity

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2017 Aug 1;12(8):1261-1271. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsx051.


According to theories of emotion dynamics, emotions unfold across two phases in which different types of processes come to the fore: emotion onset and emotion offset. Differences in onset-bound processes are reflected by the degree of explosiveness or steepness of the response at onset, and differences in offset-bound processes by the degree of accumulation or intensification of the subsequent response. Whether onset- and offset-bound processes have distinctive neural correlates and, hence, whether the neural basis of emotions varies over time, still remains unknown. In the present fMRI study, we address this question using a recently developed paradigm that allows to disentangle explosiveness and accumulation. Thirty-one participants were exposed to neutral and negative social feedback, and asked to reflect on its contents. Emotional intensity while reading and thinking about the feedback was measured with an intensity profile tracking approach. Using non-negative matrix factorization, the resulting profile data were decomposed in explosiveness and accumulation components, which were subsequently entered as continuous regressors of the BOLD response. It was found that the neural basis of emotion intensity shifts as emotions unfold over time with emotion explosiveness and accumulation having distinctive neural correlates.

Keywords: affective neuroscience; emotion dynamics; fMRI; intensity profiles.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / diagnostic imaging
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Feedback, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Reading*
  • Thinking / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult