The neural bases of amusement and sadness: A comparison of block contrast and subject-specific emotion intensity regression approaches

Philip R Goldin, Cendri A C Hutcherson, Kevin N. Ochsner, Gary H. Glover, John D E Gabrieli, James J. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Neuroimaging studies have made substantial progress in elucidating the neural bases of emotion. However, few studies to date have directly addressed the subject-specific, time-varying nature of emotional responding. In the present study, we employed functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the neural bases of two common emotions-amusement and sadness-using both (a) a stimulus-based block contrast approach and (b) a subject-specific regression analysis using continuous ratings of emotional intensity. Thirteen women viewed a set of nine 2-min amusing, sad, or neutral film clips two times. During the first viewing, participants watched the film stimuli. During the second viewing, they made continuous ratings of the intensity of their own amusement and sadness during the first film viewing. For sad films, both block contrast and subject-specific regression approaches resulted in activations in medial prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, precuneus, lingual gyrus, amygdala, and thalamus. For amusing films, the subject-specific regression analysis demonstrated significant activations not detected by the block contrast in medial, inferior frontal gyrus, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate, temporal lobes, hippocampus, thalamus, and caudate. These results suggest a relationship between emotion-specific temporal dynamics and the sensitivity of different data analytic methods for identifying emotion-related neural responses. These findings shed light on the neural bases of amusement and sadness, and highlight the value of using emotional film stimuli and subject-specific continuous emotion ratings to characterize the dynamic, time-varying components of emotional responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-36
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Amusement
  • Emotion
  • Neural bases
  • Sadness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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