Emotion triggers executive attention: Anterior cingulate cortex and amygdala responses to emotional words in a conflict task

  • Kanske P
  • Kotz S
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Abstract

Coherent behavior depends on attentional control that detects and resolves conflict between opposing actions. The current functional magnetic resonance imaging study tested the hypothesis that emotion triggers attentional control to speed up conflict processing in particularly salient situations. Therefore, we presented emotionally negative and neutral words in a version of the flanker task. In response to conflict, we found activation of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and of the amygdala for emotional stimuli. When emotion and conflict coincided, a region in the ventral ACC was activated, which resulted in faster conflict processing in reaction times. Emotion also increased functional connectivity between the ventral ACC and activation of the dorsal ACC and the amygdala in conflict trials. These data suggest that the ventral ACC integrates emotion and conflict and prioritizes the processing of conflict in emotional trials. This adaptive mechanism ensures rapid detection and resolution of conflict in potentially threatening situations signaled by emotional stimuli.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Affect
  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Control
  • FMRI
  • Flanker task

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