Selective functional integration between anterior temporal and distinct fronto-mesolimbic regions during guilt and indignation

Sophie Green, Matthew A. Lambon Ralph, Jorge Moll, Emmanuel A. Stamatakis, Jordan Grafman, Roland Zahn

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    It has been hypothesized that the experience of different moral sentiments such as guilt and indignation is underpinned by activation in temporal and fronto-mesolimbic regions and that functional integration between these regions is necessary for the differentiated experience of these moral sentiments. A recent fMRI study revealed that the right superior anterior temporal lobe (ATL) was activated irrespective of the context of moral feelings (guilt or indignation). This region has been associated with context-independent conceptual social knowledge which allows us to make fine-grained differentiations between qualities of social behaviours (e.g. "critical" and "faultfinding"). This knowledge is required to make emotional evaluations of social behaviour. In contrast to the context-independent activation of the ATL, there were context-dependent activations within different fronto-mesolimbic regions for guilt and indignation. However, it is unknown whether functional integration occurs between these regions and whether regional patterns of integration are distinctive for the experience of different moral sentiments. Here, we used fMRI and psychophysiological interaction analysis, an established measure of functional integration to investigate this issue. We found selective functional integration between the right superior ATL and a subgenual cingulate region during the experience of guilt and between the right superior ATL and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex for indignation. Our data provide the first evidence for functional integration of conceptual social knowledge representations in the right superior ATL with representations of different feeling contexts in fronto-mesolimbic regions. We speculate that this functional architecture allows for the conceptually differentiated experience of moral sentiments in healthy individuals. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1720-1726
    Number of pages6
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


    • Anger
    • Anterior temporal lobe
    • FMRI
    • Guilt
    • Indignation
    • Major depression
    • Moral emotions
    • Orbitofrontal cortex
    • Psychophysiological interaction
    • Semantics
    • Septal region
    • Subgenual cingulate cortex


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