The ability to generate appropriate responses in social situations often requires the integration of emotional information conveyed through facial expressions with ongoing cognitive processes. Neuroimaging studies have begun to address how cognitive and emotional neural systems interact, but most of these studies have used emotional oddball stimuli as distractors in order to dissociate emotional from cognitive neural systems. Therefore, the manner in which these systems interact when behavioral responses must be directly guided by the emotional content of stimuli remains elusive. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural systems involved in response inhibition for faces conveying particular emotions. Participants performed go/no-go tasks involving either letters or happy and sad faces. The fMRI results indicated that inhibiting responses to emotional faces activated inferior frontal/insular cortex, whereas response inhibition during the letter task did not strongly engage this region. In addition, distinct regions of ventral anterior cingulate were preferentially activated for sad faces in the go and no-go conditions. These findings suggest that inhibition within an emotional context recruits a distinct set of brain regions that includes areas beyond those normally activated by response inhibition tasks and that can be modulated by emotional valence. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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