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Bottom-Up and Top-Down Processes in Emotion Generation: Common and Distinct Neural Mechanisms

Kevin N. Ochsner, Rebecca R. Ray, Brent Hughes, Kateri McRae, Jeffrey C. Cooper, Jochen Weber, John D. E. Gabrieli and James J. Gross
Psychological Science
Vol. 20, No. 11 (November 2009), pp. 1322-1331
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40575189
Page Count: 10
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Bottom-Up and Top-Down Processes in Emotion Generation: Common and Distinct Neural Mechanisms
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Abstract

Emotions are generally thought to arise through the interaction of bottom-up and top-down processes. However, prior work has not delineated their relative contributions.In a sample of 20 females, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare the neural correlates of negative emotions generated by the bottom-up perception of aversive images and by the top-down interpretation of neutral images as aversive. We found that (a) both types of responses activated the amygdala, although bottom-up responses did so more strongly; (b) bottom-up responses activated systems for attending to and encoding perceptual and affective stimulus properties, whereas top-down responses activated prefrontal regions that represent highlevel cognitive interpretations; and (c) self-reported affect correlated with activity in the amygdala during bottom-up responding and with activity in the medial prefrontal cortex during top-down responding. These findings provide a neural foundation for emotion theories that posit multiple kinds of appraisal processes and help to clarify mechanisms underlying clinically relevant forms of emotion dysregulation.

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