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Neuron. 2018 Oct 24;100(2):436-452. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.10.001.

Neural Circuit Motifs in Valence Processing.

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Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, Dept of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA; Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA. Electronic address:


How do our brains determine whether something is good or bad? How is this computational goal implemented in biological systems? Given the critical importance of valence processing for survival, the brain has evolved multiple strategies to solve this problem at different levels. The psychological concept of "emotional valence" is now beginning to find grounding in neuroscience. This review aims to bridge the gap between psychology and neuroscience on the topic of emotional valence processing. Here, I highlight a subset of studies that exemplify circuit motifs that repeatedly appear as implementational systems in valence processing. The motifs I identify as being important in valence processing include (1) Labeled Lines, (2) Divergent Paths, (3) Opposing Components, and (4) Neuromodulatory Gain. Importantly, the functionality of neural substrates in valence processing is dynamic, context-dependent, and changing across short and long timescales due to synaptic plasticity, competing mechanisms, and homeostatic need.


BLA; Divergent Paths; Opposing Components; amygdala; circuits; emotion; lateral hypothalamus; motivation; neural; valence

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