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Prog Brain Res. 2006;156:3-29.

Emotion, motivation, and the brain: reflex foundations in animal and human research.

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NIMH Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Florida, FL 32610-0165, USA.


This review will focus on a motivational circuit in the brain, centered on the amygdala, that underlies human emotion. This neural circuitry of appetitive/approach and defensive/avoidance was laid down early in our evolutionary history in primitive cortex, sub-cortex, and mid-brain, to mediate behaviors basic to the survival of individuals and the propagation of genes to coming generations. Thus, events associated with appetitive rewards, or that threaten danger or pain, engage attention and prompt information gathering more so than other input. Motive cues also occasion metabolic arousal, anticipatory responses, and mobilize the organism to prepare for action. Findings are presented from research with animals, elucidating these psychophysiological (e.g., cardiovascular, neuro-humoral) and behavioral (e.g., startle potentiation, "freezing") patterns in emotion, and defining their mediating brain circuits. Parallel results are described from experiments with humans, showing similar activation patterns in brain and body in response to emotion cues, co-varying with participants' reports of affective valence and increasing emotional arousal.

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