The Neural Representations of Emotional Experiences Are More Similar Than Those of Neutral Experiences.
Society for Neuroscience
MetadataShow full item record
Riberto, M., Paz, R., Pobric, G., & Talmi, D. (2022). The Neural Representations of Emotional Experiences Are More Similar Than Those of Neutral Experiences.. J Neurosci, 42 (13), 2772-2785. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1490-21.2022
Stimuli that evoke the same feelings can nevertheless look different and have different semantic meanings. Although we know much about the neural representation of emotion, the neural underpinnings of emotional similarity are unknown. One possibility is that the same brain regions represent similarity between emotional and neutral stimuli, perhaps with different strengths. Alternatively, emotional similarity could be coded in separate regions, possibly those sensitive to emotional valence and arousal. In behavior, the extent to which people consider similarity along emotional dimensions when they evaluate the overall similarity between stimuli has never been investigated. Although the emotional features of stimuli may dominate explicit ratings of similarity, it is also possible that people neglect emotional dimensions as irrelevant to that judgment. We contrasted these hypotheses in (male and female) healthy controls using two measures of similarity and two picture databases of complex negative and neutral scenes, the second of which provided exquisite control over semantic and visual attributes. The similarity between emotional stimuli was greater than between neutral stimuli in the inferior temporal cortex, the fusiform face area, and the precuneus. Additionally, only the similarity between emotional stimuli was significantly represented in early visual cortex, anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. Intriguingly, despite the stronger neural similarity between emotional stimuli, the same participants did not rate them as more similar to each other than neutral stimuli. These results contribute to our understanding of how emotion is represented within a general conceptual workspace and of the overgeneralization bias in anxiety disorders.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT We tested differences in similarity between emotional and neutral scenes. Arousal and negative valence did not increase similarity ratings. When conditions were equated on semantic similarity, participants rated emotional stimuli as similar to each other as neutral ones. Despite this equivalence, the similarity among the neural representations of emotional compared with neutral stimuli was higher in regions, which also expressed similarity between neutral stimuli and in unique regions. We report a striking difference between behavioral and neural similarity; strong neural similarity between emotional pictures did not influence similarity judgements in the same participants in the behavioral rating task after the scan. These findings may have an impact on research about the neural representations of emotional categories and the overgeneralization bias in anxiety disorders.
emotions, multivoxels pattern analysis, neural representations, semantic knowledge, similarity judgments, Arousal, Brain, Emotions, Female, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Semantics
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1490-21.2022
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/345767
Publisher's own licence