Emotions and the Right Hemisphere: Can New Data Clarify Old Models?

Guido Gainotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Models advanced to explain hemispheric asymmetries in representation of emotions will be discussed following their historical progression. First, the clinical observations that have suggested a general dominance of the right hemisphere for all kinds of emotions will be reviewed. Then the experimental investigations that have led to proposal of a different hemispheric specialization for positive versus negative emotions (valence hypothesis) or, alternatively, for approach versus avoidance tendencies (motivational hypothesis) will be surveyed. The discussion of these general models will be followed by a review of recent studies which have documented laterality effects within specific brain structures, known to play a critical role in different components of emotions, namely the amygdata in the computation of emotionally laden stimuli, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in the integration between cognition and emotion and in the control of impulsive reactions and the anterior insula in the conscious experience of emotion. Results of these recent investigations support and provide an updated integrated version of early models assuming a general right hemisphere dominance for all kinds of emotions.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jul 1 2018


  • laterality of emotions
  • right anterior insular cortex and emotional experience
  • right hemisphere hypothesis
  • right ventromedial prefrontal cortex and emotional control
  • unconscious emotions and the right amygdala
  • valence hypothesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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