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Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2010 Mar;10(1):94-106. doi: 10.3758/CABN.10.1.94.

Emotion affects action: Midcingulate cortex as a pivotal node of interaction between negative emotion and motor signals.

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  • 1Federal Fluminense University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Affective pictures drive the activity of brain networks and impact behavior. We showed previously that viewing unpleasant pictures interfered in the performance of a basic nonemotional visual detection task. In the present study, we employed functional magnetic resonance imaging to test the hypothesis that behavioral interference may result from the interaction between negatively valenced and motor-related signals in the brain. As in our previous study (Pereira et al., 2006), participants performed a simple target detection task that followed the presentation of unpleasant or neutral pictures. Our results revealed that an unpleasant emotional context modulated evoked responses in several regions engaged by the simple target detection task. In particular, the midcingulate cortex was recruited when participants performed target detection trials during the unpleasant context, and signal responses in this region closely mirrored the pattern of behavioral interference (as revealed via reaction time). Our findings suggest that the midcingulate cortex may be an important site for the interaction between negatively valenced signals and motor signals in the brain and that it may be involved in the implementation of defensive responses, such as freezing.

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