Anticipation is a universal preparatory response essential to the survival of an organism. Although meta-analytic synthesis of the literature exists for the anticipation of reward, a neuroimaging-based meta-analysis of the neural mechanisms of aversive anticipation is lacking. To address this gap in the literature, we ran an activation likelihood estimate (ALE) meta-analysis of 63 fMRI studies of aversive anticipation across multiple sensory modalities. Results of the ALE meta-analysis provide evidence for a core circuit involved in aversive anticipation, including the anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex, mid-cingulate cortex, amygdala, thalamus, and caudate nucleus among other regions. Direct comparison of aversive anticipation studies using tactile versus visual stimuli identified additional regions involved in sensory specific aversive anticipation across these sensory modalities. Results from complementary multi-study voxel-wise and NeuroSynth analyses generally provide converging evidence for a core circuit involved in aversive anticipation. The multi-study voxel-wise analyses also implicate a more widespread preparatory response across sensory, motor, and cognitive control regions during more prolonged periods of aversive anticipation. The potential roles of these structures in anticipatory processing as well as avenues for future research are discussed.
Keywords: ALE meta-analysis; Anxiety; Aversive anticipation; GingerALE; fMRI.