Shackman, A. J., Salomons, T. V., Slagter, H. A., Fox, A. S., Winter, J. J. & Davidson, R. J. (2011). The integration of negative affect, pain and cognitive control in the cingulate cortex. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 12, 154-167.
It has been argued that emotion, pain and cognitive control are functionally segregated in distinct subdivisions of the cingulate cortex. However, recent observations encourage a fundamentally different view. Imaging studies demonstrate that negative affect, pain and cognitive control activate an overlapping region of the dorsal cingulate — the anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC). Anatomical studies reveal that the aMCC constitutes a hub where information about reinforcers can be linked to motor centres responsible for expressing affect and executing goal-directed behaviour. Computational modelling and other kinds of evidence suggest that this intimacy reflects control processes that are common to all three domains.
These observations compel a reconsideration of the dorsal cingulate’s contribution to negative affect and pain.