Human amygdala represents the complete spectrum of subjective valence

Jingwen Jin, Christina Zelano, Jay A. Gottfried, Aprajita Mohanty*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Although the amygdala is a major locus for hedonic processing, how it encodes valence information is poorly understood. Given the hedonic potency of odor stimuli and the amygdala’s anatomical proximity to the peripheral olfactory system, we combined highresolution fMRI with pattern-based multivariate techniques to examinehowvalence information is encoded in the amygdala. Tenhuman subjects underwent fMRI scanning while smelling 9 odorants that systematically varied in perceived valence. Representational similarity analyses showed that amygdala codes the entire dimension of valence, ranging from pleasantness to unpleasantness. This unidimensional representation significantly correlated with self-reported valence ratings but not with intensity ratings. Furthermore, within-trial valence representations evolved over time, prioritizing earlier differentiation of unpleasant stimuli. Together, these findings underscore the idea that both spatial and temporal features uniquely encode pleasant and unpleasant odor valence in the amygdala. The availability of a unidimensional valence code in the amygdala, distributed in both space and time, would create greater flexibility in determining the pleasantness or unpleasantness of stimuli, providing a mechanism by which expectation, context, attention, and learning could influence affective boundaries for guiding behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15145-15156
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 11 2015


  • Amygdala
  • Emotion
  • Multivoxel pattern analysis
  • Olfactory
  • Valence
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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