What Is in a Word? No Versus Yes Differentially Engage the Lateral Orbitofrontal Cortex

Nelly Alia-Klein, Rita Z. Goldstein, Dardo Tomasi, Lei Zhang, Stephanie Fagin-Jones, Frank Telang, Gene Jack Wang, Joanna S. Fowler, Nora D. Volkow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The words "No" and "Yes" are involved in conditioning to prohibit or encourage behavior, respectively. The authors, therefore, hypothesized that these words would be attributed to endogenous valence, activating neuronal circuits involved with valence and emotional control. Functional MRI (fMRI) at 4 Tesla was used to record regional brain activity while participants were exposed to emphatic vocalizations of the words. Results showed that No and Yes were associated with opposite brain-behavior responses; while No was negatively valenced, produced slower response times, and evoked a negative signal in the right lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), Yes was positively valenced, produced faster response times, and evoked a positive signal in a contiguous region of the OFC. Attribution of negative valence to No and trait anger control were associated with increased responsivity of the OFC to No. Inasmuch as sensitivity to the prohibitive command No develops during childhood through interaction with primary caregivers as the first social objects, our findings may implicate the lateral OFC in the neurobiology of emotion regulation and subsequent social development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-659
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • "yes," "no"
  • OFC
  • anger
  • emotional control
  • fMRI
  • inferior frontal gyrus
  • valence


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