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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Apr 2;7:101. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00101. eCollection 2013.

Anatomy and computational modeling of networks underlying cognitive-emotional interaction.

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  • 1Neural Systems Laboratory, Boston University Boston, MA, USA.


The classical dichotomy between cognition and emotion equated the first with rationality or logic and the second with irrational behaviors. The idea that cognition and emotion are separable, antagonistic forces competing for dominance of mind has been hard to displace despite abundant evidence to the contrary. For instance, it is now known that a pathological absence of emotion leads to profound impairment of decision making. Behavioral observations of this kind are corroborated at the mechanistic level: neuroanatomical studies reveal that brain areas typically described as underlying either cognitive or emotional processes are linked in ways that imply complex interactions that do not resemble a simple mutual antagonism. Instead, physiological studies and network simulations suggest that top-down signals from prefrontal cortex realize "cognitive control" in part by either suppressing or promoting emotional responses controlled by the amygdala, in a way that facilitates adaptation to changing task demands. Behavioral, anatomical, and physiological data suggest that emotion and cognition are equal partners in enabling a continuum or matrix of flexible behaviors that are subserved by multiple brain regions acting in concert. Here we focus on neuroanatomical data that highlight circuitry that structures cognitive-emotional interactions by directly or indirectly linking prefrontal areas with the amygdala. We also present an initial computational circuit model, based on anatomical, physiological, and behavioral data to explicitly frame the learning and performance mechanisms by which cognition and emotion interact to achieve flexible behavior.


amygdala; cognition; computational neuroscience; emotions; neural network; neuroanatomy; orbitofrontal cortex (OFC); thalamic reticular nucleus

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