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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 Jan;36(1):153-82. doi: 10.1038/npp.2010.77. Epub 2010 Jun 23.

Affective cognition and its disruption in mood disorders.

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  • 1Neuroscience and Psychiatry Unit, School of Community-Based Medicine, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


In this review, we consider affective cognition, responses to emotional stimuli occurring in the context of cognitive evaluation. In particular, we discuss emotion categorization, biasing of memory and attention, as well as social/moral emotion. We discuss limited neuropsychological evidence suggesting that affective cognition depends critically on the amygdala, ventromedial frontal cortex, and the connections between them. We then consider neuroimaging studies of affective cognition in healthy volunteers, which have led to the development of more sophisticated neural models of these processes. Disturbances of affective cognition are a core and specific feature of mood disorders, and we discuss the evidence supporting this claim, both from behavioral and neuroimaging perspectives. Serotonin is considered to be a key neurotransmitter involved in depression, and there is a considerable body of research exploring whether serotonin may mediate disturbances of affective cognition. The final section presents an overview of this literature and considers implications for understanding the pathophysiology of mood disorder as well as developing and evaluating new treatment strategies.

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