A comparison of neural responses to appetitive and aversive stimuli in humans and other mammals

Dave J. Hayes, Niall W. Duncan, Jiameng Xu, Georg Northoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


Distinguishing potentially harmful or beneficial stimuli is necessary for the self-preservation and well-being of all organisms. This assessment requires the ongoing valuation of environmental stimuli. Despite much work on the processing of aversive- and appetitive-related brain signals, it is not clear to what degree these two processes interact across the brain. To help clarify this issue, this report used a cross-species comparative approach in humans (i.e. meta-analysis of imaging data) and other mammals (i.e. targeted review of functional neuroanatomy in rodents and non-human primates). Human meta-analysis results suggest network components that appear selective for appetitive (e.g. ventromedial prefrontal cortex, ventral tegmental area) or aversive (e.g. cingulate/supplementary motor cortex, periaqueductal grey) processing, or that reflect overlapping (e.g. anterior insula, amygdala) or asymmetrical, i.e. apparently lateralized, activity (e.g. orbitofrontal cortex, ventral striatum). However, a closer look at the known value-related mechanisms from the animal literature suggests that all of these macroanatomical regions are involved in the processing of both appetitive and aversive stimuli. Differential spatiotemporal network dynamics may help explain similarities and differences in appetitive- and aversion-related activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-368
Number of pages19
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014


  • Affective neuroscience
  • Aversion
  • Electrophysiology
  • Emotion
  • FMRI
  • Human
  • Meta-analysis
  • Monkey
  • Motivation
  • Mouse
  • Neuroimaging
  • Punishment
  • Rat
  • Reinforcement
  • Reward
  • Valence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Medicine(all)


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