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Description: Humans use emotions to decipher complex cascades of internal events. However, which mechanisms link descriptions of affective states to brain activity is unclear, with evidence supporting either local or distributed processing. A biologically favorable alternative is provided by the notion of gradient, which postulates the isomorphism between functional representations of stimulus features and cortical distance. Here, we use fMRI activity evoked by an emotionally charged movie and continuous ratings of the perceived emotion intensity to reveal the topographic organization of affective states. Results show that three orthogonal and spatially overlapping gradients encode the polarity, complexity and intensity of emotional experiences in right temporo- parietal territories. The spatial arrangement of these gradients allows the brain to map a variety of affective states within a single patch of cortex. As this organization resembles how sensory regions represent psychophysical properties (e.g., retinotopy), we propose emotionotopy as a principle of emotion coding.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International

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