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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Jun 17;7:284. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00284. eCollection 2013.

Hierarchical brain networks active in approach and avoidance goal pursuit.

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Institute for Personality and Social Research, University of California Berkeley , Berkeley, CA , USA ; Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , Champaign, IL , USA.


Effective approach/avoidance goal pursuit is critical for attaining long-term health and well-being. Research on the neural correlates of key goal-pursuit processes (e.g., motivation) has long been of interest, with lateralization in prefrontal cortex being a particularly fruitful target of investigation. However, this literature has often been limited by a lack of spatial specificity and has not delineated the precise aspects of approach/avoidance motivation involved. Additionally, the relationships among brain regions (i.e., network connectivity) vital to goal-pursuit remain largely unexplored. Specificity in location, process, and network relationship is vital for moving beyond gross characterizations of function and identifying the precise cortical mechanisms involved in motivation. The present paper integrates research using more spatially specific methodologies (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging) with the rich psychological literature on approach/avoidance to propose an integrative network model that takes advantage of the strengths of each of these literatures.


abstraction gradient; approach motivation; avoidance motivation; executive function; goal pursuit; laterality; prefrontal cortex

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