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Behav Brain Res. 2011 Feb 2;217(1):215-31. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2010.10.030. Epub 2010 Nov 3.

The nexus between decision making and emotion regulation: a review of convergent neurocognitive substrates.

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Department of Psychiatry and Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, Canada.


Emotional information, such as reward or punishment, gains rapid and often preferential access to neurocognitive resources. This ability to quickly evaluate and integrate emotion-related information is thought to benefit a range of behaviours critical for survival. Conversely, the improper use of, or preoccupation with, emotional information is associated with disruptions in functioning and psychiatric disorders. Optimally, an organism utilizes emotional information when it is significant, and minimizes its influence when it is not. Recently, similar regions of prefrontal cortex have been identified that are associated with regulating both behavioural conflict (motor response selection or inhibition) and affective conflict (emotional representation and awareness). In this review, data will be examined that concerns this convergence between decision making (modulating what we do) and emotion regulation (modulating how we feel) and an informal model will be proposed linking these processes at a neurocognitive level. The studies reviewed collectively support the conclusion that overlapping areas of prefrontal cortex perform similar computations whether the functional objective is to modulate an operant response, or an emotional one. Specifically, the idea is raised that key aspects of decision making and emotion regulation are bound by a common functional objective in which internal representations of conditioned stimuli and reinforcers are modulated to facilitate optimal behaviour or states. Emphasis is placed on dorsomedial, dorsolateral, ventrolateral, and ventromedial regions of prefrontal cortex.

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