A role for primate subgenual cingulate cortex in sustaining autonomic arousal

Peter H. Rudebeck, Philip T. Putnam, Teresa E. Daniels, Tianming Yang, Andrew R. Mitz, Sarah E.V. Rhodes, Elisabeth A. Murray

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103 Scopus citations


The subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (subgenual ACC) plays an important role in regulating emotion, and degeneration in this area correlates with depressed mood and anhedonia. Despite this understanding, it remains unknown how this part of the prefrontal cortex causally contributes to emotion, especially positive emotions. Using Pavlovian conditioning procedures in macaque monkeys, we examined the contribution of the subgenual ACC to autonomic arousal associated with positive emotional events. After such conditioning, autonomic arousal increases in response to cues that predict rewards, and monkeys maintain this heightened state of arousal during an interval before reward delivery. Here we show that although monkeys with lesions of the subgenual ACC show the initial, cue-evoked arousal, they fail to sustain a high level of arousal until the anticipated reward is delivered. Control procedures showed that this impairment did not result from differences in autonomic responses to reward delivery alone, an inability to learn the association between cues and rewards, or to alterations in the light reflex. Our data indicate that the subgenual ACC may contribute to positive affect by sustaining arousal in anticipation of positive emotional events. A failure to maintain positive affect for expected pleasurable events could provide insight into the pathophysiology of psychological disorders in which negative emotions dominate a patient's affective experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5391-5396
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2014


  • Anticipatory arousal
  • Area 25
  • Infralimbic
  • Pupil size


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