Neocortical substrates of feelings evoked with music in the ACC, insula, and somatosensory cortex
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionScientific Reports. 2021, 11, 10119. 10.1038/s41598-021-89405-y
Neurobiological models of emotion focus traditionally on limbic/paralimbic regions as neural substrates of emotion generation, and insular cortex (in conjunction with isocortical anterior cingulate cortex, ACC) as the neural substrate of feelings. An emerging view, however, highlights the importance of isocortical regions beyond insula and ACC for the subjective feeling of emotions. We used music to evoke feelings of joy and fear, and multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) to decode representations of feeling states in functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) data of n = 24 participants. Most of the brain regions providing information about feeling representations were neocortical regions. These included, in addition to granular insula and cingulate cortex, primary and secondary somatosensory cortex, premotor cortex, frontal operculum, and auditory cortex. The multivoxel activity patterns corresponding to feeling representations emerged within a few seconds, gained in strength with increasing stimulus duration, and replicated results of a hypothesis-generating decoding analysis from an independent experiment. Our results indicate that several neocortical regions (including insula, cingulate, somatosensory and premotor cortices) are important for the generation and modulation of feeling states. We propose that secondary somatosensory cortex, which covers the parietal operculum and encroaches on the posterior insula, is of particular importance for the encoding of emotion percepts, i.e., preverbal representations of subjective feeling.