Functional dissociation between medial and lateral prefrontal cortical spatiotemporal activation in negative and positive emotions: A combined fMRI/MEG study

Georg Northoff, Andre Richter, Matthias Gessner, Florian Schlagenhauf, Jürgen Fell, Frank Baumgart, Thomas Kaulisch, Rolf Kötter, Klaas E. Stephan, Andreas Leschinger, Tilman Hagner, Bela Bargel, Thomas Witzel, Hermann Hinrichs, Bernhard Bogerts, Henning Scheich, Hans Jochen Heinze

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209 Citations (Scopus)


The orbitofrontal cortex has been cytoarchitectonically and connectionally subdivided into a medial and a lateral part which are assumed to subserve distinct functions in emotional processing. However the exact spatiotemporal mechanisms of negative and positive emotional processing in medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortex remain unclear. We therefore investigated spatiotemporal orbitofrontal and prefrontal cortical activation patterns during emotional stimulation in a combined fMRI/MEG study. We investigated 10 healthy subjects, 5 women and 5 men. Positive and negative pictures from the International Affective Picture system (IAPS) were used for emotional stimulation, whereas neutral and gray pictures were taken as control conditions. fMRI/MEG measurements covered the whole frontal lobe and a time window between -2000 and +200 ms around motor responses (right index finger extension) associated with each picture. Positively and negatively correlated activities were determined in various prefrontal/frontal cortical regions in fMRI. Isocontour maps and single dipoles in MEG were analyzed in 50 ms time windows ranging from -2000 to +200 ms. Dipoles and fMR images were mapped on three-dimensional anatomical MRI so that anatomical localization of single dipoles and regional fMRI activity could be compared. Both negative and positive emotional conditions differed from non-emotional control conditions by strong orbitofrontal and lateral prefrontal activation as well as by the presence of early magnetic fields (-1700 to +1100 ms). Negative emotional processing was characterized by strong medial orbitofrontal activation and earlier (-1700 ms), stronger and more medially oriented orbitofrontal dipoles. In contrast positive emotional processing showed a rather strong activation in lateral prefrontal cortex with later (-1500 ms), weaker and more laterally oriented orbito- and prefrontal dipoles. Negative emotional processing can be characterized by strong and early medial orbitofrontal cortical activation, whereas positive emotional processing showed rather later and weaker activation in lateral orbitofrontal/prefrontal cortex. Such a functional dissociation between medial and lateral orbitofrontal/prefrontal cortex during negative and positive emotional processing lends further support to the assumption of a functional subdivision in the orbitofrontal cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-107
Number of pages15
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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