Emotion-induced changes in human medial prefrontal cortex: I. During cognitive task performance

Joseph R. Simpson, Abraham Z. Snyder, Debra A. Gusnard, Marcus E. Raichle

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244 Scopus citations


Regional cerebral blood flow (BF) was examined in regions of the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) with positron-emission tomography while subjects performed two cognitive tasks, reading nouns aloud and generating appropriate verbs for the same nouns. The control task was passive viewing of the same words. BF was reduced in regions of the MPFC during word reading and naïve verb generation, relative to a control state in which the subjects passively viewed nouns. Practicing verb generation produced improved performance, as measured by response time, which was strongly correlated with further reductions in MPFC and hypothalamic BF. After practice, when verb generation was performed on a novel list of words, reaction times slowed and the pattern of MPFC BF reverted to that seen in the word reading and naïve conditions. A separate behavioral study of the verb-generation task indicated that anxiety, high during naïve use-generation as measured by heart rate and self-report, decreased with practice on the task but returned with the introduction of a novel list of words. Taken together, these results suggest that the MPFC is part of a network, including the hypothalamus and brainstem, whose activity reflects a dynamic interplay between cognitive task performance and emotion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)683-687
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 16 2001


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