The neurobiology of emotional experience

Academic Article


  • The author discusses a neurological model of a modular network that mediates emotional experience. According to this theory, emotional experience has three components: valence (positive and negative), arousal, and motor activation (approach, avoid, neither). In this model, the cortex is critical in regulating activities of the limbic system, basal ganglia, and reticular system. The frontal lobes are important for valence: the left mediates positive emotions, the right negative emotions. The right hemisphere, especially the parietal lobe, is important in activating arousal systems, and the left hemisphere modulates inhibition of these systems. The right hemisphere is also critical in motor activation. The frontal lobes, especially the orbitofrontal portions, mediate avoidance behaviors, and the parietal lobes mediate approach behaviors. The cortical areas discussed have rich interconnections and are also closely connected with the limbic system, basal ganglia, and the reticular systems. Emotional experience may depend on the patterns of neural activation in this modular network.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Heilman KM
  • Start Page

  • 439
  • End Page

  • 448
  • Volume

  • 9
  • Issue

  • 3