In an event-related fMRI study, we scanned eighteen normal human subjects while they viewed three categories of pictures (events, objects and persons) which they classified according to desirability (desirable, indifferent or undesirable). Each category produced activity in a distinct part of the visual brain, thus reflecting its functional specialization. We used conjunction analysis to learn whether there is a brain area which is always active when a desirable picture is viewed, regardless of the category to which it belongs. The conjunction analysis of the contrast desirable > undesirable revealed activity in the superior orbito-frontal cortex. This activity bore a positive linear relationship to the declared level of desirability. The conjunction analysis of desirable > indifferent revealed activity in the mid-cingulate cortex and in the anterior cingulate cortex. In the former, activity was greater for desirable and undesirable stimuli than for stimuli classed as indifferent. Other conjunction analyses produced no significant effects. These results show that categorizing any stimulus according to its desirability activates three different brain areas: the superior orbito-frontal, the mid-cingulate, and the anterior cingulate cortices.
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