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  Forming real-life attitudes via affective simulations: The contribution of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex

Benoit, R. G., & Schacter, D. L. (2017). Forming real-life attitudes via affective simulations: The contribution of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Poster presented at 13th International Conference for Cognitive Neuroscience, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

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Benoit, Roland G.1, Author              
Schacter, D. L.2, Author
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1Max Planck Research Group Adaptive Memory, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_2295691              
2External Organizations, ou_persistent22              

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 Abstract: Humans are capable of imagining virtually any hypothetical episode. For example, we can picture what it would be like to meet with a friend at a particular place for the first time. Such episodic simulation is based on a core network of brain regions that include the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Recent evidence indicates that this region supports simulations by co-activating affective representations of the individual elements (e.g., of the place and of the person) that make up the episode (Benoit, Szpunar, & Schacter, 2014). We hypothesized that such simulations, in turn, can also change our attitudes towards these very elements via a transfer of affective value between their respective representations within the vmPFC. To test this hypothesis, we scanned participants with fMRI while they imagined meeting liked or disliked people (UCS) at initially neutral, though familiar, places (CS). Following these simulations, participants' attitudes towards the places (CS) had changed with the affective value of the paired person (the respective UCS), demonstrating that mere imaginings can change real-life attitudes. The fMRI data further support the hypothesized contribution of the vmPFC in mediating this effect: First, using representational-similarity analysis, we observed that the activity pattern within this brain region coded for the identity of the individual elements and also reflected their respective affective value. The vmPFC thus indeed seems to code for affective representations of elements from our environment (such as familiar people and places). Secondly, activation in the vmPFC during the simulations not only reflected the affective value of the UCS (the person) but also predicted changes in attitude towards the CS (the place). The vmPFC may thus mediate simulation-induced attitude-change by transferring affective value between representations.

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 Dates: 2017-08-05
 Publication Status: Not specified
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Title: 13th International Conference for Cognitive Neuroscience
Place of Event: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Start-/End Date: 2017-08-05 - 2017-08-08

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