Effects of aversive stimuli on prospective memory. An event-related fMRI study

Massimiliano Rea, Stephanie Kullmann, Ralf Veit, Antonino Casile, Christoph Braun, Marta Olivetti Belardinelli, Niels Birbaumer, Andrea Caria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prospective memory (PM) describes the ability to execute a previously planned action at the appropriate point in time. Although behavioral studies clearly showed that prospective memory performance is affected by the emotional significance attributed to the intended action, no study so far investigated the brain mechanisms subserving the modulatory effect of emotional salience on PM performance. The general aim of the present study was to explore brain regions involved in prospective memory processes when PM cues are associated with emotional stimuli. In particular, based on the hypothesised critical role of the prefrontal cortex in prospective memory in the presence of emotionally salient stimuli, we expected a stronger involvement of aPFC when the retrieval and execution of the intended action is cued by an aversive stimulus. To this aim BOLD responses of PM trials cued by aversive facial expressions were compared to PM trials cued by neutral facial expressions. Whole brain analysis showed that PM task cued by aversive stimuli is differentially associated with activity in the right lateral prefrontal area (BA 10) and in the left caudate nucleus. Moreover a temporal shift between the response of the caudate nucleus that preceded that of aPFC was observed. These findings suggest that the caudate nucleus might provide an early analysis of the affective properties of the stimuli, whereas the anterior lateral prefrontal cortex (BA10) would be involved in a slower and more deliberative analysis to guide goal-directed behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere26290
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 17 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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