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Neuroimage. 2012 Sep;62(3):2110-28. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.05.079. Epub 2012 Jun 5.

States of mind: emotions, body feelings, and thoughts share distributed neural networks.

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  • 1Northeastern University, Department of Psychology, Boston, MA 02115-5000, USA.


Scientists have traditionally assumed that different kinds of mental states (e.g., fear, disgust, love, memory, planning, concentration, etc.) correspond to different psychological faculties that have domain-specific correlates in the brain. Yet, growing evidence points to the constructionist hypothesis that mental states emerge from the combination of domain-general psychological processes that map to large-scale distributed brain networks. In this paper, we report a novel study testing a constructionist model of the mind in which participants generated three kinds of mental states (emotions, body feelings, or thoughts) while we measured activity within large-scale distributed brain networks using fMRI. We examined the similarity and differences in the pattern of network activity across these three classes of mental states. Consistent with a constructionist hypothesis, a combination of large-scale distributed networks contributed to emotions, thoughts, and body feelings, although these mental states differed in the relative contribution of those networks. Implications for a constructionist functional architecture of diverse mental states are discussed.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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