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Ventromedial prefrontal cortex supports affective future simulation by integrating distributed knowledge

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Citation

Benoit, R. G., Szpunar, K. K., & Schacter, D. L. (2014). Ventromedial prefrontal cortex supports affective future simulation by integrating distributed knowledge. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(46), 16550-16555. doi:10.1073/pnas.1419274111.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-7C84-A
Abstract
Although the future often seems intangible, we can make it more concrete by imagining prospective events. Here, using functional MRI, we demonstrate a mechanism by which the ventromedial prefrontal cortex supports such episodic simulations, and thereby contributes to affective foresight: This region supports processes that (i) integrate knowledge related to the elements that constitute an episode and (ii) represent the episode’s emergent affective quality. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex achieves such integration via interactions with distributed cortical regions that process the individual elements. Its activation then signals the affective quality of the ensuing episode, which goes beyond the combined affective quality of its constituting elements. The integrative process further augments long-term retention of the episode, making it available at later time points. This mechanism thus renders the future tangible, providing a basis for farsighted behavior.