The influence of emotional interference on cognitive control: A meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies using the emotional Stroop task

Sci Rep. 2017 May 18;7(1):2088. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-02266-2.


The neural correlates underlying the influence of emotional interference on cognitive control remain a topic of discussion. Here, we assessed 16 neuroimaging studies that used an emotional Stroop task and that reported a significant interaction effect between emotion (stimulus type) and cognitive conflict. There were a total of 330 participants, equaling 132 foci for an activation likelihood estimation (ALE) analysis. Results revealed consistent brain activation patterns related to emotionally-salient stimuli (as compared to emotionally-neutral trials) during cognitive conflict trials [incongruent trials (with task-irrelevant information interfering), versus congruent/baseline trials (less disturbance from task-irrelevant information)], that span the lateral prefrontal cortex (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and inferior frontal gyrus), the medial prefrontal cortex, and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. Comparing mild emotional interference trials (without semantic conflict) versus intense emotional interference trials (with semantic conflict), revealed that while concurrent activation in similar brain regions as mentioned above was found for intense emotional interference trials, activation for mild emotional interference trials was only found in the precentral/postcentral gyrus. These data provide evidence for the potential neural mechanisms underlying emotional interference on cognitive control, and further elucidate an important distinction in brain activation patterns for different levels of emotional conflict across emotional Stroop tasks.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Semantics
  • Stroop Test