Our long-range goal is to contribute to a better understanding of the basic mechanisms by which emotional/motivational and cognitive brain systems interact in the generation of complex behavior. The objective of the present application is to understand the mechanisms of interaction between these systems during tasks that recruit """"""""top-down control"""""""", including inhibitory control and conflict processing. The project's central hypothesis is that affective significance confers a competitive advantage toward the processing of emotion-laden information (relative to neutral items) and that emotional stimuli are prioritized as a function of the stimuli's affective history and affective context. We will test our hypotheses by pursuing three specific aims, which will employ a combination of behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies:
Aim #1 : Determine how inhibition interacts with emotion;
Aim #2 : Determine how conflict processing interacts with emotion;
Aim #3 : Determine how executive function interacts with motivation. Affective significance will be manipulated in a number of ways, including aversive conditioning and reward/punishment (via monetary incentives). Throughout these aims, we will attempt to identify the brain networks underlying interactions between emotion and cognition. We anticipate that an item's affective history and context will bias processing in favor of emotion-laden information, and that such bias will be manifested in multiple ways across behavior, and, correspondingly, across multiple levels of the brain. Importantly, by providing a better understanding of cognitive-emotional interactions during normal behavior, our research can help understand the mechanisms that potentially go awry in many debilitating mental illnesses.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research will advance the knowledge database concerning the basic mechanisms of how cognition and emotion/motivation interact in the domains of inhibitory control and conflict processing in humans. Such knowledge is of importance because many neurological disorders and mental illnesses are characterized by profound deficits in cognitive and emotional interactions, including epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, autism, major depression, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Cognitive Neuroscience Study Section (COG)
Program Officer
Simmons, Janine M
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Maryland College Park
Schools of Arts and Sciences
College Park
United States
Zip Code
Pessoa, Luiz (2017) A Network Model of the Emotional Brain. Trends Cogn Sci 21:357-371
Padmala, Srikanth; Sirbu, Mihai; Pessoa, Luiz (2017) Potential reward reduces the adverse impact of negative distractor stimuli. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 12:1402-1413
Najafi, Mahshid; Kinnison, Joshua; Pessoa, Luiz (2017) Dynamics of Intersubject Brain Networks during Anxious Anticipation. Front Hum Neurosci 11:552
Pessoa, Luiz; McMenamin, Brenton (2016) Dynamic Networks in the Emotional Brain. Neuroscientist :
Najafi, Mahshid; McMenamin, Brenton W; Simon, Jonathan Z et al. (2016) Overlapping communities reveal rich structure in large-scale brain networks during rest and task conditions. Neuroimage 135:92-106
Gentry, Ronny N; Lee, Brian; Roesch, Matthew R (2016) Phasic dopamine release in the rat nucleus accumbens predicts approach and avoidance performance. Nat Commun 7:13154
Pessoa, Luiz; Najafi, Mahshid (2015) Complex-system causality in large-scale brain networks: Comment on ""Foundational perspectives on causality in large-scale brain networks"" by M. Mannino and S.L. Bressler. Phys Life Rev 15:124-7
Okon-Singer, Hadas; Hendler, Talma; Pessoa, Luiz et al. (2015) The neurobiology of emotion-cognition interactions: fundamental questions and strategies for future research. Front Hum Neurosci 9:58
Choi, Jong Moon; Padmala, Srikanth; Pessoa, Luiz (2015) Counteracting effect of threat on reward enhancements during working memory. Cogn Emot 29:1517-26
Pessoa, Luiz (2015) Multiple influences of reward on perception and attention. Vis cogn 23:272-290

Showing the most recent 10 out of 61 publications