Common representation of pain and negative emotion in the midbrain periaqueductal gray

Citation: Buhle, J.T., Kober, H., Ochsner K.N., Mende-Siedlecki, P., Weber, J., Hughes, B., Kross, E., Atlas, L.Y., McRae, K., Wager, T.D. (2012). Common representation of pain and negative emotion in the midbrain periaqueductal gray, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

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Abstract:

Human neuroimaging offers a powerful way to connect animal and human research on emotion, with profound implications for psychological science. However, the gulf between animal and human studies remains a formidable obstacle: Human studies typically focus on the cortex and a few subcortical regions such as the amygdala, whereas deeper structures such as the brainstem periaqueductal gray (PAG) play a key role in animal models. Here, we directly assessed the role of PAG in human affect by interleaving in a single fMRI session two conditions known to elicit strong emotional responses?physical pain and negative image viewing. Negative affect and PAG activity increased in both conditions. We next examined eight independent datasets, half featuring pain stimulation and half negative image viewing. In sum, these datasets comprised 198 additional participants. We found increased activity in PAG in all eight studies. Taken together, these findings suggest PAG is a key component of human affective responses.