A domain-general brain network underlying emotional and cognitive interference processing: evidence from coordinate-based and functional connectivity meta-analyses

Brain Struct Funct. 2018 Nov;223(8):3813-3840. doi: 10.1007/s00429-018-1727-9. Epub 2018 Aug 6.


The inability to control or inhibit emotional distractors characterizes a range of psychiatric disorders. Despite the use of a variety of task paradigms to determine the mechanisms underlying the control of emotional interference, a precise characterization of the brain regions and networks that support emotional interference processing remains elusive. Here, we performed coordinate-based and functional connectivity meta-analyses to determine the brain networks underlying emotional interference. Paradigms addressing interference processing in the cognitive or emotional domain were included in the meta-analyses, particularly the Stroop, Flanker, and Simon tasks. Our results revealed a consistent involvement of the bilateral dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula, left inferior frontal gyrus, and superior parietal lobule during emotional interference. Follow-up conjunction analyses identified correspondence in these regions between emotional and cognitive interference processing. Finally, the patterns of functional connectivity of these regions were examined using resting-state functional connectivity and meta-analytic connectivity modeling. These regions were strongly connected as a distributed system, primarily mapping onto fronto-parietal control, ventral attention, and dorsal attention networks. Together, the present findings indicate that a domain-general neural system is engaged across multiple types of interference processing and that regulating emotional and cognitive interference depends on interactions between large-scale distributed brain networks.

Keywords: Activation likelihood estimation (ALE); Cognitive control; Emotional interference; Functional decoding; Large-scale network; Meta-analysis; Meta-analytic connectivity modeling (MACM); Resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC).

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Stroop Test