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Role of the inferior frontal cortex in coping with distracting emotions

Dolcos, Florina; Kragel, Philipa; Wang, Lihonga; McCarthy, Gregorya b

doi: 10.1097/

The role of inferior frontal cortex in coping with emotional distracters presented concurrently with a working memory task was investigated using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. The study yielded two main findings: (i) processing of emotional distracters was associated with enhanced functional coupling between the amygdala and the inferior frontal cortex and (ii) the inferior frontal cortex showed a left-lateralized activation pattern discriminating successful from unsuccessful trials in the presence of emotional distraction. These findings provide evidence that coping with emotional distraction entails interactions between brain regions responsible for detection and inhibition of emotional distraction, and identified a hemispheric specialization in the inferior frontal cortex in controlling the impact of distracting emotions on cognitive performance (left hemisphere) vs. controlling the subjective feeling of being distracted (right hemisphere).

aDuke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Center, Duke University

bDurham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA

Correspondence and requests for reprints to Professor Gregory McCarthy, PhD, Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Center, 163 Bell Building, Durham, NC 27710, USA

Tel: +1 919 681 9337; fax: +1 919 681 7033; e-mail:

Sponsorship: This research was supported by the grants P01-NS41328, R01-MH05286, and P50-MH60451. G.M. was supported by a DVA Senior Research Career Scientist Award and by a DVA Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center. F.D. was supported by a Post-Doctoral Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Received 1 July 2006; accepted 17 July 2006

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.