Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The human brain is remarkably adept at integrating complex information to form unified psychological representations of agents, objects, and events in the environment. Two domains in which this ability is particularly salient are the processing of social and valence information and are supported by common cortical areas in the medial pFC (MPFC). Because social information is often embedded within valenced emotional contexts, it is possible that activation patterns within the MPFC may represent both of these types of cognitive processes when presented simultaneously. The current study tested this possibility by employing a large-scale automated meta-analysis tool, together with multivoxel pattern analysis to investigate the representational similarity of social and valence information in the MPFC during fMRI. Using a representational similarity analysis, we found a high degree of representational similarity both within social dimensions and within valence dimensions, but not across them (e.g., positive social information was highly dissimilar to negative nonsocial information), in a ventral portion of the MPFC. These results were significantly correlated with a behaviorally measured similarity structure of the same stimuli, suggesting that a psychologically meaningful representation of social and valence information is reflected by multivoxel activation patterns in the ventral MPFC.