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Separate neural circuits for primary emotions? Brain activity during self-induced sadness and happiness in professional actors.

Pelletier M, Bouthillier A, Lévesque J, Carrier S, Breault C, Paquette V, Mensour B, Leroux JM, Beaudoin G, Bourgouin P, Beauregard M


The question of whether distinct or similar neural substrates underlie primary emotions has not been resolved yet. To address this issue, we used fMRI to scan professional actors during self-induced states of sadness and happiness. Results demonstrated that, relative to an emotionally Neutral state, both the Sad and the Happy states were associated with significant loci of activation, bilaterally, in the orbitofrontal cortex, and in the left medial prefrontal cortex, left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, left anterior temporal pole, and right pons. These loci of activation were localized distinctly within these regions, that is, in different sub-regions. These results suggest that sadness and happiness may be associated with similar brain regions but distinct sub-regions and neural circuits.

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