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Localization of asymmetric brain function in emotion and depression


  • This research was supported by National Institute of Drug Abuse (R21 DA14111), the National Institute of Mental Health (P50 MH079485, R01 MH61358, T32 MH19554), and the University of Illinois Beckman Institute and Intercampus Research Initiative in Biotechnology.

Address reprint requests to: John D. Herrington, Ph.D., Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 3535 Market Street, Suite 800, Philadelphia, PA 19103. E-mail:


Although numerous EEG studies have shown that depression is associated with abnormal functional asymmetries in frontal cortex, fMRI and PET studies have largely failed to identify specific brain areas showing this effect. The present study tested the hypothesis that emotion processes are related to asymmetric patterns of fMRI activity, particularly within dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Eleven depressed and 18 control participants identified the color in which pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant words were printed. Both groups showed a leftward lateralization for pleasant words in DLPFC. In a neighboring DLPFC area, the depression group showed more right-lateralized activation than controls, replicating EEG findings. These data confirm that emotional stimulus processing and trait depression are associated with asymmetric brain functions in distinct subregions of the DLPFC that may go undetected unless appropriate analytic procedures are used.