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Open Journal of Neuroscience

ISSN: 2075-9088
Volume 5, 2017

Open Journal of Neuroscience, 2012, 2-3 [Research Article]

Neural processing of emotional valence of facial expressions

Mikko Viinikainen1*, Iiro P. Jääskeläinen1, Marja H. Balk1,2, Taina Autti2, Mikko Sams1
1 Brain and Mind Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science (BECS), School of Science, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland
2 Department of Radiology, University of Helsinki and HUS Radiology (Medical Imaging Center), Helsinki, Finland

Corresponding Author & Address:

Mikko Viinikainen
Brain and Mind Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science, School of Science, Aalto University, P.O. Box 12200, 00076 AALTO, Finland. Email: mikko.viinikainen@aalto.fi Tel: +358 40 7562053.

Article History:
Published: 11th June, 2012   Accepted: 11th June, 2012
Received: 26th April, 2012      

© Viinikainen et al.; licensee Ross Science Publishers

ROSS Open Access articles will be distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original work will always be cited properly.

Keywords: Emotion, Valence, Arousal, Face, fMRI, Correlation


Degree of emotional valence and arousal have been shown to covary with blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal levels in several brain structures. Here we studied brain activity in 17 healthy subjects during perception of facial expressions varying in valence and arousal using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Our results revealed correlations with the perceived valence in dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, and anterior insula. These findings corroborate results of our previous study where we used pictures of varying valence taken from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). Together, the results of these two studies suggest existence of common brain areas processing valence of both emotional pictures and facial expressions. Additionally, BOLD signal exhibited distinctive dependency on perceived valence in intraparietal sulcus and supramarginal gyrus in the present study. BOLD activity correlated with negative and positive valence in separate cortical areas, and some areas demonstrated either a U-shaped or an inverted U-shaped relationship with valence (i.e., either minimal or maximal activation was observed to neutral expressions). This nonlinear dependency suggests that brain mechanisms underlying perception of negative and positive valence are at least to some extent independent. Perceived arousal correlated positively with the strength of the BOLD signal only in the left inferior frontal gyrus, which is an important node of the mirror neuron system.

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