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Neural mechanisms of autonomic, affective, and cognitive integration

Authors

  • Hugo D. Critchley

    Corresponding author
    1. Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, University College London (UCL) Autonomic Unit, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, University College London Hospitals, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom
    • Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, UCL Autonomic Unit, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, UCLH, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK
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Abstract

Influential theoretical models propose a central role for afferent information from the body in the expression of emotional feeling states. Feedback representations of changing states of bodily arousal influence learning and facilitate concurrent and prospective decision-making. Functional neuroimaging studies have increased understanding of brain mechanisms that generate changes in autonomic arousal during behavior and those which respond to internal feedback signals to influence subjective feeling states. In particular, anterior cingulate cortex is implicated in generating autonomic changes, while insula and orbitofrontal cortices may be specialized in mapping visceral responses. Independently, ventromedial prefrontal cortex is recognized to support processes of internal (self-) reference that predominate in states of rest and disengagement and which putatively serve as a benchmark for dynamic interactions with the environment. Lesion data further highlight the integrated role of these cortical regions in autonomic and motivational control. In computational models of control, forward (efference copies) and inverse models are proposed to enable prediction and correction of action and, by extension, the interpretation of the behavior of others. It is hypothesized that the neural substrate for these processes during motivational and affective behavior lies within the interactions of anterior cingulate, insula, and orbitofrontal cortices. Generation of visceral autonomic correlates of control reinforce experiential engagement in simulatory models and underpin concepts such as somatic markers to bridge the dualistic divide. J. Comp. Neurol. 493:154–166, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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