One of the major problems in affective neuroscience of healthy subjects as well as of patients with emotional dysfunctions is to disentangle emotional core functions and non-emotional processes. Emotional valence is considered an emotional key process. The present study employed a parametric functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study to address this question. Thirteen healthy volunteers were scanned during emotional stimulus processing (International Affective Picture System). The presented pictures covered the entire range of emotional valences. The fMRI data were consecutively subjected to a preliminary categorical (valence-independent) and a detailed parametric analysis, the latter using individual valence ratings as regressor. The parametric analysis revealed a linear valence-dependent modulation of the BOLD signal in the orbito- and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (OMPFC, DMPFC), medial parietal cortex (MPC), and insula. In addition, we observed that emotional valence exerts its effects predominantly via modulation of signal decreases. We conclude that the psychological concept of emotional valence may be related to neural processing in cortical midline regions.
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