Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience

Functional Anatomy of Human Emotion:

From Phan, Wager, Taylor & Liberzon, 2002

Beginning with PET activation studies, and then fMRI BOLD, I and my colleagues were one of the earliest groups to map brain circuits involved in processing emotional stimuli. We synthesized findings with influential meta-analytic work (Phan et al, 2002), and were one of the early groups to identify the role of the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (dMPFC) in emotion and personal salience (Taylor et al, 2003; Phan et al, 2004). We published one of the first accounts of the influence of simple rating on brain activation to emotional stimuli, demonstrating a basic, but important, form of cognitive-emotional interaction (Taylor et al, 2003). This work has formed the basis of my later work examining emotion dysregulation in neuropsychiatric conditions (Taylor & Liberzon, 2007).

From Wager, Phan, Liberzon, & Taylor, 2003
From Wager, Phan, Liberzon, & Taylor, 2003


K. Luan Phan, M.D.

Tor Wager, Ph.D.

Israel Liberzon, M.D.

Medial frontal cortex and neural systems for performance monitoring:

The control of behavior requires an executive function to monitor performance and adjust when actual behaviors do not match intended behaviors (Taylor et al, 2007). We published one of the earliest studies showing the involvement of the posterior medial prefrontal cortex/anterior cingulate cortex (pMFC) in an interference task, which recruits performance monitoring circuitry in the pMFC (Taylor et al, 1994). We have also demonstrated how ventral aspects of the MFC code value and motivational salience during task performance (Taylor et al 2006), and we have published work showing the importance of individual differences in the recruitment of MFC activity in task execution (Stern et al, 2009). These differences in the relationship between task execution and motivation are critical in psychiatric conditions, where the motivation to engage in a task may be reduced (e.g. in schizophrenia, Stern et al 2009), or pathologically enhanced (e.g. in OCD, Fitzgerald et al 2005; Stern et al 2011).

From Taylor, Stern & Gehring, 2007

Functional anatomy of obsessive-compulsive disorder:

OCD may be considered a condition in which people are overly concerned about making errors, and we have published data to support this claim, using the framework of performance monitoring (Fitzgerald et al 2005; Stern et al 2011). More generally, OCD patients fail to dissociate ventral MPFC (and other limbic regions) during task performance, which we interpret as a pathologic association between task-related brain activity and valuation activity, where valuation focuses on security-related concerns (Stern et al, 2013). We are currently testing these hypotheses in cognitive behavioral therapy with an R01, designed to identify circuits that may mediate treatment effects, which can then be enhanced through brain stimulation or cognitive training to boost the effect of CBT.

From Fitzgerald & Taylor, 2016

Recent Publications in OCD


Kate Fitzgerald, M.D., M.S.

James Abelson, M.D., Ph.D.

Emily Stern, Ph.D.

William Gehring, Ph.D.

Alessandro S. De Nadai, PhD

Joseph A. Himle, Ph.D.

Luke Norman, Ph.D.

Stefanie Russman Block, Ph.D.